Panic attacks strike quickly and can be a terrifying experience. While symptoms can vary from person to person, they may include feeling light-headed and dizzy, a racing heartbeat, shaking, sweating, and nausea.

Even if you know the signs, it’s hard to stave off your body’s fear response to stress, danger, or even too much excitement. Because panic attacks are so overwhelming, it’s great to have some strategies that prepare you to cope with those dreaded moments. When a panic attack strikes, these are the apps that'll provide you with instant help.

1. Rootd

Rootd can help you manage anxiety and panic attacks using a combination of breathing exercises, meditations, journaling, and lessons. Rootd’s chief feature—a large red Rootr button at the foot of every screen—makes it ideal for those moments of desperation. Just tap this button to get instant assistance.

Pressing the red button will give you two options. You can get a series of positive statements to help you calm down if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Or, if you’re feeling a little stronger, you can choose the second option that provides reassuring support. This reminds you that you’ve done all this before, and it’s not beating you today.

Even if you don’t pay for a subscription to get full access to the app’s content, Rootd is worth downloading for the instant relief it can provide just with that red button.

Download: Rootd for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)

2. Dare

Based on the best-selling book Dare, this app provides a training program to help to relieve anxiety and panic attacks. It’s a fully-featured, evidence-based app that offers a huge bank of resources to help you deal with mental health issues. If you’re on the verge of a panic attack, however, you’ll head straight to the SOS button, where you get instant help for these situations:

  • I’m having a panic attack.
  • Calm me down.
  • My mind is racing.
  • I’m feeling trapped.
  • In a setback.
  • Overcome bodily sensations.
  • I’m frustrated.
  • Motivate me.

Every section takes you to an audio track that talks you through your issue and calms you down instantly. Have your headphones ready and fire up the most relevant one whenever you need it. You can easily download the audio guides, so they’re there if you need to access them offline.

Download: Dare for iOS | Android (Free, subscription available)

3. Be Okay

Be Okay is a free app that's beautifully designed by people who clearly understand precisely what helps in those moments of panic. It's a simple free app that provides a personal comfort zone based on breathing techniques and nature sounds.

Be Okay couldn’t be easier to use. As soon as you open the app, there’s a large Start button in the center of the screen, and nature sounds begin. You can choose from waves, rainforest, cicadas, or a lake, and switch off the sounds if they don’t help you. The colors are muted and soothing, and you can easily change the color scheme within the app’s settings to suit your preferences.

All you need to do when you feel that panic attack setting in is follow the on-screen guide and breathe. But there’s also a brilliant Phone icon at the bottom of the screen, which you can use to call a loved one who can help. There’s even an option to import some of your favorite pictures, so you can look at your favorite places, people, and pets to help you get through the moment.

Download: Be Okay for iOS | Android (Free)

4. Pause

Pause is one of the simplest mindfulness apps you can download. And in moments of crisis, simple is exactly what you need. Pause helps you relax instantly through its unique visual display.

You place your finger on the dot and move it slowly and continuously around the shimmering screen while a nature-based ambient soundtrack further immerses you in the calming experience. The effect is like moving blobs around within a lava lamp, and it’s strangely mesmeric.

Based on ancient Tai Chi practice, focusing on this one simple action brings you into the present moment, helping you release your stress and fend off those impending waves of panic. Another way to achieve relief might be to play serene games. Winner of several awards and named as an app of the year by Apple and Time magazine, this writer has been using Pause for many years and can vouch for its effectiveness.

Download: Pause for iOS (Free, subscription available)

5. PanicShield

PanicShield provides four tools to protect you from panic attacks. There’s a guide to help you learn about anxiety, while two sets of programs—Internal and External Exposure—train your mind not to fear the situations and sensations that may lead to your panic attacks.

The fourth tool is the one you’ll reach for in an emergency. Hit the Breathe section to get a simple interface that will help you to breathe in and out as the shape grows and shrinks on the screen. You can change the shape, color scheme, and timings from within this app section at your leisure. But in an emergency, you can fire it up and get free help with just a couple of taps.

Download: PanicShield for iOS | Android (Free)

6. Calm Harm

Calm Harm is an award-winning app developed by clinical psychologists for a teenage mental health charity. It’s a tool to help users to establish a safety net of helpful thoughts and behaviors to help them resist the urge to self-harm.

If you ever experience panic attacks that cause these urges, you must seek professional help. But it’s good to know that you'll also have a toolkit like Calm Harm in your pocket to help you with simple activities that can distract you from the feelings, calm you down, and help you to breathe more deeply.

Download: Calm Harm for iOS | Android (Free)

7. notOK

The notOK app is a free digital panic button, and it’s your source of instant support wherever you are. When you feel panicky and need immediate help, just hit the notOK red button to reach out for support via text, phone call, or GPS location.

You can nominate up to five trusted contacts in advance to be your emergency support. If they cannot respond, you’ll be given the option of contacting a crisis text line or phone number. The options available will vary depending on geographical region.

Developers Bug & Bee call notOK a “pre-crisis tool.” While this is not a substitute for calling 911, it’s a simple way to get help from your trusted network when you’re too panicky to call or text them. There’s a green button as well, so when you feel better, you can press it to reassure everyone that the crisis has passed.

Download: notOK for iOS | Android (Free)

Help Is Available for Your Panic and Anxiety Attacks

Download at least one of these free tools at a time when you feel calm and relaxed. That way, the next time you think those impending waves of panic are approaching, you’ll be able to reach for your phone or device and get instant support.

With so many brilliant tools at your disposal, there are many ways to get instant relief and support for anxiety and panic attacks. You never need to feel alone.

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