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How to Control Overbreathing and Hyperventilation

Updated on June 6, 2011

Panic Attacks sometimes arise unprovoked or out of the blue. This could happen on the bus on the way to work or while you’re driving. This is why it is important to acquire knowledge of natural ways to control a panic attacks. Most of the medications for panic attacks are for short term use due to its physical dependency nature. This includes muscle relaxants, antidepressants and sleeping aids. Other methods of self medication most commonly alcohol can increase the intensity of panic attacks in the future.

In the long term lifestyle changes is the only way to eliminate panic attacks; this is done by reducing stress levels significantly in work, home and relationships. This can be achieved with behavioral therapy. People that suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder can lead a normal life with the right help below are instructions on controlling panic attacks.


During a panic attack you may feel yourself breathing faster and your heart racing; these effects are only normal if you have taking part in rigorous exercise or shock. However when a panic set in it becomes difficult to breath and hyperventilation begins. This is a very unpleasant feeling and can cause dizziness and strange physical sensations. The goal is to increase carbon dioxide levels in the blood which helps reverse the effects of hyperventilation. You will begin to feel more relaxed and less anxious as your breathing slows.

Slow Breathing Technique

This can be done anywhere and usually only takes a few minutes of concentration. Aim to slow your breathing to eight to ten breathe per minute when you feel the onset of a panic attack. It is easier said than done but with practice it is achievable and becomes second nature. Overtime you will be able to control your breathing without anyone around you noticing you are having a panic attack.

  • To begin focus on your breathing, become aware of it. Don’t try to count how many breathes you are taking; rather just think about slowing it down. If your mind wanders off to thoughts of the panic attack; talk to yourself saying things like ‘Calm down’ ‘Breathe Slower’.
  • Breathe with your abdomen. This can be done by placing one hand on your stomach then slowly breathe in feeling your stomach expand. Relax your chest and shoulder while doing this. You can also observe your stomach while doing this seeing it contract and expand. Play meditating music if you have it available as this will help. Over a few minutes this should stop and prevent gasping.
  • Hold your next breath in for about ten seconds. Don’t take a huge deep breath in as you would in underwater swimming. If counting to ten proves difficult take it down to a count of 7 or 8 seconds.
  • Slowly exhale the breath
  • Now breathe in with a slow count of three and repeat this breathing out on a slow count of three. Don’t take very deep breaths and don’t panic if you don’t get the three counts correct. Try pacing your breathing and focus on that rather than the 3 count.
  • Continue this pace for at least one minute
  • If the panic doesn't subside repeat the whole process

Try to practice these techniques everywhere such as on the bus, during lunch or out to the cinema. The more you do it the less visible it will be to people around you.

Breathing in a paper bag should cover your nose and mouth. This is because it is better to breath in through the nose and out the mouth.
Breathing in a paper bag should cover your nose and mouth. This is because it is better to breath in through the nose and out the mouth. | Source

How to do the Paper Bag Technique

This method of controlling your breathing focuses more on increasing the carbon dioxide levels in your blood. This is done by restricting the amount of oxygen that you intake by increasing the caron dioxide levels as you breath in. Don’t worry about suffocating or losing consciousness because you are still inhaling enough oxygen along with the carbon dioxide. This technique does not require as much practice as the first slow breathing technique. This however is more apparent and less convenient to use in public; simply because no one walks around with a paper bag. However should you find it useful carry a paper bag around with you.

  • Place a small bag over your nose and mouth when you feel panicky. Make sure it covers your nose and mouth firmly by holding it firm around this area. Make sure there are no gaps allowing air to escape.
  • Begin to slowly breathe in and out of the bag. Continue to do this till your panic subsides and you become relaxed.
  • Alternatively you can cup your hands around your nose and mouth. Then breathe in and out slowy, this is less effective than a paper bag.

Video on Breathing Techniques


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    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Great article. I was looking this one to control hyperventilation. Well researched. Thanks for sharing it. Useful and voted up!