Panic Attacks
Fact Checked

Can a Panic Attack Cause Fainting

Sally-Anne Soameson, Psychiatrist
Can a Panic Attack Cause Fainting

Anxiety and panic cause a lot of frightening symptoms. Some of those symptoms cause people to fear that it's not anxiety at all – that it's something more serious that may require medical attention. It's not uncommon during a panic attack to experience feeling faint, and if they get too severe it may even lead to severe health fears.

Can panic attacks cause fainting? And why does this occur? We explore these questions in this article.

The Effects of Panic

The unfortunate reality is that only a doctor can actually diagnose the cause of your fainting, and diagnosing yourself online is risky. Talk to your doctor, but note that anxiety and panic absolutely are a common cause of feeling faint. 

It is very, very rare for panic attacks to cause true fainting. Panic attack fainting does occur, and there are stories of it happening to some people that experience a truly severe panic attack, but the likelihood is very slim. If you are truly fainting and blacking out, make sure you talk to a doctor.

Again, panic attacks can cause fainting. Extreme stress has been known to cause fainting in some people. Panic attacks caused by phobias absolutely can cause fainting, though these are slightly different than traditional panic attacks that affect those with panic disorder. There are issues that can lead to fainting. It's just very rare for those that have panic attacks to reach that point.

What Causes Fainting – or Feelings of Faint

With that in mind, let's discuss many of the issues that can lead to either fainting or more realistically, feeling you're going to faint. While fainting may be rare, feeling like you're about to faint is incredibly common. In fact, lightheadedness, dizziness, and weakness (all what you feel when you're about to faint) are extremely common symptoms of panic attacks, so much so that those that don't know they're having a panic attack may think that they're in the process of a heart attack, or worse, feeling as though fainting is imminent. What causes this feeling can be complicated, but the most common causes are:

These are the reasons that it often feels like you're about to faint during a panic attack, and in rare cases these are the issues that could actually lead to faint. But in general, they simply cause severe physical symptoms that mimic near-fainting, which is why so many people worry about whether or not they are going to faint in the future.

How to Stop the Fainting

Once a panic attack has started, it does become much harder to control. The best thing you can do is make sure that you're breathing correctly to reduce the symptoms of hyperventilation. Remember, hyperventilation is too little CO2, not too little oxygen as it sometimes feels, so fight the urge to take fast deep breaths. At the same time, don't hold your breath as this can lead to a rapid change in blood pressure that may contribute to further symptoms. Instead, slow down your breathing dramatically:

Slowing down your breathing ensures that you get both enough oxygen and enough carbon dioxide. It won't stop all of the symptoms of hyperventilation – once they've started they don't clear right away – but it will give you an opportunity to at least cut back on some of those symptoms so that they do not get worse.

You'll also want to take steps towards decreasing the severity and frequency of your anxiety attacks, since panic attack fainting is easier to prevent than it is to stop once it's started.  

See our articles on how to deal and cope with anxiety, alongside CBT techniques on stopping panic attacks before they start.

Share Rate this article:
We’d like your feedback
Was this article helpful?
Yes No