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Can Sinus Pressure Cause a Panic Attack?

By C.A. Rubino ; Updated July 27, 2017

A typical panic attack can occur at any time, without warning. The psychological symptoms include intense feelings of anxiety or fear, combined with physical symptoms that resemble medical emergencies, such as a heart attack.

Sinus pressure results from a problem associated with the sinus cavity, such as a blockage, infection and/or inflammation. This situation causes a variety of physical symptoms similar to anxiety, possibly triggering a panic attack.


A panic attack features extreme psychological distress, characterized by feelings of foreboding. Often the individual feels that he is dying or going insane. In most instances, the individual generally feels out of control.

Physical symptoms associated with this psychological distress include dizziness, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, feelings of suffocating, pain in the chest, rapid and violent beating of the heart and various stomach disorders.

Sinus pressure occurs because of a blocked sinus cavity, resulting in problematic breathing, causing the individual to experience shortness of breath and dizziness. Since the physical and psychological causes of a panic disorder work together, an individual might link sinus pressure symptoms to an impeding panic attack, thereby inadvertently triggering the event. In other words, the individual can trigger the attack by responding to the physical symptoms associated with sinus pressure.


Since sinus pressure results from a blocked or inflamed nasal cavity, individuals usually resort to mouth and/or chest breathing. This can result in the individual hyperventilating, a situation characterized by a buildup of excessive oxygen, in proportion to decreased carbon dioxide in the bloodstream.

During hyperventilation, an individual usually experiences an increase in anxiety, which can trigger a panic attack. In addition, because of the buildup of oxygen, an individual can feel dizzy, woozy and/or lightheaded, common symptoms associated with panic attacks. The individual may erroneously link these symptoms with an impeding attack, which increases anxiety.

Medical experts advise individuals prone to panic attacks and/or sinus pressure to practice deep breathing techniques.


According to the American Psychological Association, a panic attack and correlated symptoms usually last around 30 minutes. However, some individuals experience a surge of emotional and physical distress lasting merely 15 seconds, while other attacks may involve a cyclic series of episodes, or wavelike patterns, which can extend for a couple of hours.


An individual can relieve sinus pressure with over-the-counter nasal sprays and drops, or oral products that include an antihistamine and/or a nasal decongestant. In addition, pain relief medicine can help alleviate sinus pressure. However, medical treatment is advised for sinus infection, as well as chronic congestion.

Panic disorders can be treated with therapeutic techniques such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as pharmaceutical intervention. Alternative techniques include herbal formulas such as St. John's wort and gingko biloba. Conflicting evidence suggests increasing B vitamins—especially folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

An individual can relieve stress, the main contributor to panic attacks, through a proper diet, exercise and relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing from the stomach.


Various studies estimate that 3 million to 6 million people in the United States experience panic disorder. Because of this, panic disorder stands as a major health problem and one of the most common psychological disorders.

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