One of the most effective ways for a person experiencing a panic attack to minimize its symptoms is to focus on taking deep, slow breaths. This can be difficult for those who feel shortness of breath during an attack, but deep breathing can combat hyperventilation — a common symptom of panic.

If you are with a loved one during an attack, you can help by encouraging them to breathe in deeply through their nose, and then exhale slowly through their mouth. To keep the focus on their breath, you can also begin counting to five as they inhale and count to five each time they exhale. If you happen to be in a noisy or busy area, help your loved one find a quiet place where they can maintain their focus on breathing until symptoms subside. It's a common misperception that breathing into a paper bag while hyperventilating can help the situation. In fact, doing so is not generally recommended and can be dangerous, depending on the situation and underlying medical conditions.

If the panic attack is accompanied by arm or shoulder pain, chest pain, or continues for hours, do not hesitate to seek emergency medical care — these could be signs of a heart attack.

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