Mervin Smucker (2015). Panic Attacks and Breathing

An effective cognitive behavioral technique for those suffering from panic attacks makes intentional use of the breath. Persons who suffer from panic attacks tend to hyperventilate (shallow, rapid breathing) when stressed, which may trigger heart palpitations that they then misinterpret in a catastrophic manner (e.g., believing they are dying, are going to pass out, are losing their mind). Engaging in a “focused breathing” exercise – slowing inhaling and exhaling through the nose (with the mouth closed!) – can help to calm the person experiencing sensations of panic. As the hyperventilation is brought under control and the breathing returns to normal, the panic episode may dissipate within several minutes. In this way, individuals prone to panic attacks learn the effectiveness of breath control, and the association between the sensations of panic and breathing.

Mervin Smucker