Coping with panic attack at work: Strategies for overcoming workplace anxiety

by | Jun 23, 2023

Experiencing a panic attack at work can be an overwhelming and distressing ordeal. The intense anxiety, coupled with the demands of the workplace, can significantly impact one’s well-being and overall job performance. However, by understanding the nature of panic attacks, it is possible to navigate through these challenges and create a more supportive work environment. We will explore the causes, symptoms, and practical techniques for managing panic attacks at work. From stress reduction strategies to fostering open communication, we will delve into actionable steps that can help individuals cope with panic attacks. So, if you find yourself grappling with panic attacks at work, take a deep breath and let’s explore how to regain control and build resilience in the face of this challenging experience.

Table of Contents

Understanding Panic Attack at Work

What is a Panic Attack at Work?

A panic attack at work is a sudden and intense episode of extreme anxiety that often comes without any apparent trigger. It typically lasts for a few minutes but can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed and physically exhausted. Moreover, common symptoms of a panic attack at work include a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, dizziness, profuse sweating, and a sense of impending doom.

Recognizing Panic Attack at Work

Panic attacks can occur in any setting, and the workplace is no exception. In fact, recognizing the signs of panic attacks at work is crucial in order to provide timely support to affected individuals. By being aware of the common signs, we can offer the necessary assistance and create a supportive environment. Some typical signs of panic attacks at work may include the following:

  • Sudden onset of intense fear or anxiety
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Experiencing chest pain or tightness
  • Sweating excessively
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or stomach discomfort
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Fear of dying

Common Triggers of Workplace Panic Attacks

Work-related stress and specific triggers play a significant role in the occurrence of panic attacks in the workplace. By understanding these triggers, individuals and organizations can take appropriate measures to minimize their impact. Being aware of the common triggers can help create a more supportive and anxiety-free work environment. Some common triggers of panic attacks at work include:

  • High-pressure deadlines and workloads
  • Conflict or difficult relationships with colleagues or supervisors
  • Public speaking or presentations
  • Performance evaluations or reviews
  • Fear of failure or making mistakes
  • Work-related travel or unfamiliar environments
  • Excessive noise or overcrowded workspaces
  • Lack of control or autonomy in tasks
  • Prior negative experiences or traumas

Effects of Panic Attack on Work Performance

Impact on Productivity

Panic attacks can have a profound impact on work productivity. When an episode occurs, individuals often struggle to maintain focus, make decisions, and carry out tasks effectively. The overwhelming anxiety and physical symptoms can impair cognitive functioning and hinder performance. Moreover, the fear of experiencing another panic attack can lead to avoidance behaviors in the workplace. Individuals may shy away from taking on challenging assignments or responsibilities, seeking constant reassurance, or requesting frequent breaks to cope with the anxiety. These avoidance behaviors further impede productivity and limit professional growth. Recognizing the detrimental effects of panic attack at work performance is crucial in order to implement supportive measures and create an environment that fosters understanding and accommodation.

Strained Relationships

Workplace panic attacks not only impact individual well-being but also strain relationships with colleagues and supervisors. Furthermore, coworkers may lack a comprehensive understanding of panic attacks at work, resulting in misunderstandings or judgment. This lack of awareness may lead to colleagues questioning the severity or legitimacy of the condition, exacerbating the anxiety experienced by affected individuals. Consequently, a hostile work environment may emerge, characterized by negative attitudes or stigmatization. This additional stress contributes to a cycle of heightened anxiety, affecting professional relationships and job satisfaction. Thus, fostering education and awareness within the workplace is crucial to promote empathy, support, and a more understanding environment for individuals experiencing panic attacks. By cultivating a culture of compassion and acceptance, organizations actively contribute to the well-being and productivity of their employees.

Coping Strategies for Panic Attack at Work

Deep Breathing and Grounding Techniques

When a panic attack strikes, it is crucial to engage in immediate coping strategies to regain control. One effective approach is to practice deep breathing and grounding techniques. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. By consciously focusing on your breath, you can redirect your attention away from the panic and center yourself in the present moment. Additionally, engaging your senses, whether by touching a textured object or consciously observing your surroundings, can further anchor you in reality and alleviate the intensity of the panic attack.

Building a Support Network

Having a strong and supportive network at work can play a pivotal role in effectively managing panic attacks at work. It is important to reach out and inform trustworthy colleagues or supervisors about your condition. By sharing your experience, you enable them to offer assistance, understanding, and potentially make accommodations that can help you navigate through panic attacks. Additionally, consider exploring support groups or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) offered by your organization. These resources can provide valuable support, guidance, and a sense of community with others who may be experiencing similar challenges. Remember, you do not have to face panic attacks at work alone, and seeking support from those around you can make a significant difference in your well-being and ability to thrive in the workplace.

Stress Management Techniques

Regularly practicing stress management techniques is vital in reducing the frequency and intensity of panic attacks at work. Engaging in activities such as exercise, meditation, or yoga can promote relaxation, improve overall well-being, and serve as effective tools for managing workplace anxiety. Additionally, setting boundaries, both in terms of workload and personal time, prioritizing self-care, and finding healthy outlets to channel stress can contribute to building resilience and minimizing the impact of workplace anxiety. By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you empower yourself to better cope with stressors, maintain a healthier work-life balance, and reduce the likelihood of panic attacks occurring in the workplace.

Creating an Anxiety-Friendly Work Environment

Open Communication and Education

Promoting open communication about mental health in the workplace is paramount in reducing stigma and fostering understanding. By actively encouraging employees to share their experiences and concerns, organizations can create a safe and inclusive environment. Additionally, providing educational resources about anxiety disorders equips individuals with the knowledge to recognize and empathize with those experiencing panic attacks at work. By offering training sessions and workshops, employees and managers can gain valuable insights and practical tools for creating a supportive work environment. Together, these initiatives form a solid foundation for building a workplace culture that prioritizes mental well-being and encourages open dialogue about panic attacks and other mental health concerns.

Implementing Stress-Reduction Programs

To effectively address workplace anxiety, organizations can take proactive steps and implement stress-reduction programs. Moreover, these programs play a crucial role in fostering a healthier work environment and minimizing the occurrence of panic attacks. By prioritizing employee well-being, organizations demonstrate their dedication to creating a supportive and nurturing workplace. Additionally, stress-reduction programs can take various forms, including mindfulness sessions that promote present-moment awareness and relaxation, stress management workshops that equip employees with practical coping strategies, and employee wellness initiatives that encompass physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Through these initiatives, organizations not only prioritize the mental health of their employees but also contribute to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and overall organizational success. By recognizing the importance of addressing workplace anxiety and investing in stress-reduction programs, organizations can create a work environment that fosters resilience, supports individuals experiencing panic attacks, and cultivates a culture of well-being.

Flexibility and Work-Life Balance

To alleviate workplace stress and anxiety, organizations can offer flexible work arrangements and promote work-life balance. By providing options for remote work, flexible schedules, and accommodating personal needs, organizations empower individuals to effectively manage their anxiety. These arrangements enable employees to create a work environment that caters to their individual needs, striking a balance between professional responsibilities and personal well-being. Additionally, encouraging regular breaks and utilizing vacation time promotes a healthier integration of work and personal life. Recognizing the significance of rest and rejuvenation, organizations contribute to reducing burnout and enhancing overall job satisfaction. By prioritizing flexibility and work-life balance, organizations demonstrate their commitment to employee well-being and create an environment that supports individuals in effectively managing workplace anxiety and maintaining a healthy equilibrium.

Seeking Professional Help for Workplace Anxiety

Therapy and Counseling

Individuals experiencing frequent panic attacks at work may find significant benefits from seeking therapy or counseling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy are common approaches used to effectively treat anxiety disorders. By working with a mental health professional, individuals can receive expert guidance, develop tailored coping strategies, and receive ongoing support in navigating workplace challenges. The therapeutic process empowers individuals to gain insights into their triggers, learn effective techniques to manage panic attacks, and build resilience to face work-related anxieties. Seeking professional help not only provides a supportive space for individuals to address their concerns but also equips them with the tools and resources necessary to thrive in the workplace.

Medication Options

In some cases, medication is recommended for severe workplace anxiety. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or beta-blockers are commonly prescribed to alleviate panic attack symptoms. Consulting with a psychiatrist or primary care physician is essential for determining suitable medication and dosage. These healthcare professionals assess anxiety severity and prescribe medication when necessary. Medication should be taken under healthcare provider guidance for safety and effectiveness. Seeking medical advice allows individuals to consider medication as part of managing workplace anxiety and reducing panic attack impact.


Managing panic attacks at work necessitates understanding, support, and proactive strategies. Additionally, it involves implementing stress reduction techniques, fostering an anxiety-friendly work environment, seeking professional help, and practicing self-care. By adopting these strategies, individuals can effectively minimize the occurrence and impact of panic attacks. Moreover, open communication, education, and support networks play a crucial role in promoting empathy and well-being within organizations. It is important to remember that you are not alone in grappling with panic attacks at work. Valuable resources and strategies are readily available to help you overcome these challenges. Prioritizing your mental health enables you to regain control, thrive professionally, and create a supportive workplace environment for others experiencing panic attacks.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long do panic attacks typically last?

Panic attacks, typically lasting for a few minutes, can vary in intensity and duration from person to person. However, it’s crucial to remember that panic attack at work are temporary and do not cause any long-term physical harm.

Can panic attacks be prevented at work?

While it may not be feasible to completely prevent panic attack at work, implementing effective stress-reduction strategies, fostering a supportive work environment, and prioritizing self-care can significantly minimize their occurrence and impact. By proactively addressing workplace stressors, individuals and organizations can create an atmosphere that promotes mental well-being and reduces the likelihood of panic attacks. This can include offering stress management programs, encouraging open communication, providing resources for self-care practices, and promoting work-life balance. Through these efforts, individuals can better cope with stressors, build resilience, and experience a healthier work environment that contributes to overall mental health and productivity.

Should I disclose my panic attacks to my employer?

Disclosing your panic attacks at work to your employer is indeed a personal decision. However, it is important to note that sharing your condition with a trusted supervisor or human resources representative can be beneficial. By communicating your situation, you allow them to understand your needs and provide the necessary accommodations and support. This openness can foster a supportive work environment and ensure that appropriate measures are in place to assist you during times of panic attacks at work.

What’s Next?

In conclusion, dealing with panic attacks at work can be challenging, but it is possible to manage and overcome them with the right strategies and support. By understanding the nature of panic attacks, recognizing triggers, implementing coping techniques, and creating an anxiety-friendly work environment, individuals and organizations can foster a healthier and more productive workplace.

To further explore related topics and gain valuable insights, check out these Mindphony blogs:

Remember, prioritizing your mental well-being is essential, and seeking professional help is always recommended. With the right support and strategies in place, you can effectively manage panic attacks at work and thrive in your professional life.

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