Ambulance - how to manage stress and anxiety

Explains how to manage stress and anxiety if you work in the ambulance service, including information on panic attacks and where to go for support.

Your stories

What is mental health and mental wellbeing?

Taryn blogs about mental health and wellbeing. What do they mean to you?

Taryn Ozorio
Posted on 24/01/2011

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. It is the rapid build-up of overwhelming physical sensations, such as:

  • a pounding heartbeat
  • feeling faint
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • chest pains
  • feeling unable to breathe
  • shaky limbs, or feeling like your legs are turning to jelly
  • feeling like you’re not connected to your body

During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you're:

  • losing control
  • going to faint
  • having a heart attack
  • going to die

My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my whole body [would] tremble, I’d hyperventilate and cry with panic as the feeling that I was going to fall unconscious was so convincing.

How long do panic attacks last?

Panic attacks are different for different people. Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes, but sometimes symptoms can last for up to an hour. If this happens you are probably experiencing one attack after another, or a high level of anxiety after the initial panic attack.

How often might I have panic attacks?

Again, it’s different for different people. You might have one panic attack and never experience another, or you might have attacks once a month or even several times each week.

This information was published in July 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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