Keep calm, don't panic and take a deep breath ... you're about to learn that the age-old advice to stop yourself from panicking, namely taking deep breaths, is actually wrong.
Turns out, taking a deep breath for people people who are prone to panic attacks is actually a bad idea. Oops!
Panicking people are often told to calm down and "take a deep breath," Meuret said. But for someone hyperventilating during a panic attack, deep breathing is a bad idea. That's because hyperventilation happens when people breathe so quickly and deeply that they expel an unusually high amount of carbon dioxide, which in turn causes symptoms like dizziness and numbness. Those symptoms tend to make people feel like they're suffocating, so they breathe quicker and deeper, further exacerbating the problem.
"It's not because they have a lack of oxygen, it's because they're exhaling too much air," Meuret said, adding, "'Take a deep breath' is not a helpful instruction."