How To Handle A Panic Attack At School

Experiencing a panic attack on its own is a troublesome task, but add on the pressure of being surrounded by your classmates, and you’ve got yourself a Molotov cocktail.


Dealing with any mental health issue as a student faces the scrutiny of your teachers and peers and can make you feel like an outsider.


In a society where mental health still carries so much stigma, it’s crucial not only to recognize that it’s not your fault that you struggle with these things and to equip yourself with the tools to know what to do when one of these conditions starts impacting your daily life. 

Specifically, we’ll address panic attacks—what they are, why we get them, and what to do if we’re even in the midst of one. Not because of what anyone else thinks, but to give you peace of mind knowing everything will be ok.


Panic attacks are scary, even if you’ve had them before. Visit our Panic Attacks Page to read more about the impact panic attacks can have on our day-to-day. 


What Is A Panic Attack? 



A panic attack is a sudden rush of anxiety or fear that can completely overwhelm you at just a moments’ notice. At times, the symptoms may happen gradually, or you may experience them all at once.


It’s accompanied by the sensation that you’re not in control of yourself or of anything besides you.


It’s essentially one the most intense feeling of fight or flight ever and can even make some individuals feel like they’re having a heart attack.


In fact, there are many instances where panic attacks are mistaken for heart attacks, and people end up calling 911, only to be told it was anxiety. 

Even though it feels like your body’s in danger, this isn’t the case at all, so you must keep this in mind so that you feel more in control the next time you feel one coming on. 

Some of the symptoms you may experience during a panic attack are:



  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilating
  • Feeling nauseous 
  • Feeling paralyzed, like you can’t move no matter how hard you try
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Feeling shaky or wobbly, maybe even like you can’t maintain your balance
  • Stomach cramps or feeling like you have to rush to the bathroom
  • Chest pains
  • Sweating more than usual 
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Sensitivity to lights


What Causes A Panic Attack? 



Panic attacks may seem like they’re coming out of nowhere, but even it looks that way at the moment, the likelihood is that you’re currently encountering or have encountered something pretty stressful in your life.


You could be experiencing:



  • Abuse or neglect from your caregivers
  • Bullying at school
  • The loss of a loved one
  • Stress and anxiety around school, such as relationships, exams, or work



Here’s what you should do if you feel one coming on while you’re at school:


Practice Breathing Exercises



When you feel in control of your breath, it can be easier to let everything else just fall into place during a panic attack.


Try counting to three while you breathe in and again when you breathe out. As you calm down, extend the amount of time on both your inhale and exhale by a couple of seconds until you feel better. 


Find Your Happy Place



Sometimes it does a world of help if you can leave your current location and find someplace where you can be alone to recollect yourself and breathe, like the bathroom or out in the hallway.


However, this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re at school. If this is the case, visualize yourself being somewhere that makes you feel happy or at ease. 


Find Things That Engage Your Senses



One of the telltale signs that you’re having a panic attack is the sudden feeling that you have no control over your surroundings.


An excellent way to combat this sensation is to ground yourself by selecting things in the room that engage your senses, in other words, smelling the pages of your book, tasting the bubblegum in your mouth, or hearing the white noise of the air conditioning.


Doing this exercise will make you feel more connected to your environment. 



Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.