Skip to main content Skip to bottom nav

How do paper bags help with panic attacks?

105 Answers
Last Updated: 06/22/2020 at 5:19pm
1 Tip to Feel Better
United States
Moderated by

Penny Dahlen, Ed.D., LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

I am committed to helping you find your passion, heal old wounds, and flow smoother in all aspects of your life path! I use a compassionate listening approach.

Top Rated Answers
April 11th, 2015 12:18am
rebreathing exhaled, carbon dioxide-rich air will raise carbon dioxide levels in the blood and stop the panic attack.
June 22nd, 2020 5:19pm
While panic attacks might mimic the symptoms of heart attacks, they can be caused by several other problems and medical conditions. These include feeling stressed or facing medical conditions such as asthma attacks, hyperventilation syndrome or even respiratory alkalosis. Although the common causes may differ, common symptoms include chest pain. Deep breathing through the mouth or by using a brown paper bag has its benefits, as it aids in restoration of the loss of carbon dioxide in the blood during the panic attack. During a panic attack, we tend to hyperventilate - so a paper or plastic bag helps to restore the carbon levels, allowing us to regain a sense and feeling of calm. If panic attacks occur too often or tend to interfere with daily functioning, seeking help and other treatment options may be suitable.
October 15th, 2014 8:47am
Actually they don't, because breathing to the paper bag while panic attack can worsen the symptoms..
January 31st, 2016 3:35pm
Panick attacks can lead us to breathe faster and harder than normal. We may begin to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation is caused by too much O2 and breathing into a bag lowers the concentration by increasing the amount of C02 inhaled.
April 9th, 2015 2:57pm
When people have panic attacks, they tend to focus a lot on their internal physiology (i.e., heart beating too fast, sweating, etc). Therefore, by having a paper bag and you do deep breathing exercise (inhale ---- exhale) with it, you would turn your focus to the paper bag, and in turn, your mind would comprehend that you're in charge of your body because you are the one controlling your breathing pattern and it's clear from the change from the paper bag.
January 6th, 2016 4:07am
People who are having panic attacks are sometimes hyperventilating and what the paper bag does is when you release the carbon dioxide when you exhale, it gets trapped into the paper bag and you breathe the carbon dioxide in again in hopes to bring your PH levels down. I would not suggest this as a main remedy for a panic attack.
November 8th, 2014 11:31pm
When we have panic attacks, our levels of carbon dioxide drop. By breathing into a paper bag we are trapping the carbon dioxide and therefore breathing it back in.
December 18th, 2015 2:01am
Paper bags are used to regulate the breathing pattern of those in the midst of a panic attack. They can be lifesavers!
October 25th, 2014 1:58pm
Panic attacks can cause hyperventilation which means you are removing too much carbon dioxide. Breathing into a paper bag forced you to re-inhale the carbon dioxide that you have blown out so you don't lose too much.
May 30th, 2015 3:33pm
Uhm i think it varies from one person to the next. Snacking, music, running. Any distraction can help a panic attack
December 16th, 2015 8:48pm
Great question! Paper bags allow the recirculation of carbon dioxide back into your lungs since it is lost during hyperventilation. When we hyperventilate, we breathe too fast and expel too much carbon dioxide, thus creating the sensation of being smothered. Reintroducing the carbon dioxide allows for thay balance to be achieved. Always remember to consult a physician before taking such steps so that you can be evaluated and if need be, trained to use this method. Remember, we are not physicians here, nor do we advocate or advise such steps.
March 26th, 2016 11:19am
When you breathe into a paper bag, you are exhaling carbon dioxide into the bag and breathing it back in with oxygen. It lowers your oxygen intake, allowing your heart to slow down and calm your body.
May 23rd, 2015 10:56am
breathing into a paper bag can help you refocus your attention to your breath and bring you back to a calmer state of reality
December 10th, 2015 5:01pm
Paper bags can have multiple uses during panic attacks! If you are hyperventilating, breathing into a paper bag will restrict the amount of oxygen you are inhaling. An excess of oxygen can lead to dizziness and rapid heartbeat. You can also use paper bag breathing as a way of becoming more mindful of your breathing, and truly focus on inhaling, holding and exhaling. It can take as little as one minute of conscious breathing to stop the body's panic response. Paper bags can also be liberally wrung, crinkled or shredded as a way of focusing on a simple task to stop your mind from racing.
January 1st, 2016 5:39pm
Breathing in carbon dioxide is super good for a temporary relaxing feeling. I need 25 more characters to finish this, but it is that simple. It is a fine temporary solution, but if you find yourself doing it all the time, you probably need professional help.
January 3rd, 2016 3:11pm
Paper bags are helpful because they increase carbon dioxide levels, but I don't particularly find that to be a good thing. They relieve the symptoms of the breathing difficulty, which can help someone because the breathing issues create more panic. I find a more effective way to deal with the breathing is a calm, measured breathing exercise. This is also scientifically safer, because there isn't a reduction in blood-oxygen levels when using measured breathing. Paper bags are okay, but measured breathing (belly breathing is the most effective tool I've come across for coping with panic attacks) is excellent, in my experience.
November 4th, 2014 8:29pm
Paper bags help with panic attacks as panic attacks can cause people to over breathe. By breathing into a paper bag it builds the carbon dioxide back up in your body, so this should help you feel better.
December 9th, 2015 3:12pm
They stop the person inhaling too much oxygen. In turn this dampens the fight or flight response triggered by the sympathetic nervous which is enacted every time we breathe in.
December 10th, 2015 7:16am
Sometimes when people become panicky they over breath. This lowers the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, by breathing into a paper bag 10 times ish, it can help raise Carson dioxide in the blood stream, making you feel better. On a more personal level, I like things I can control, so by breathing into a bag (or blanket for me) I feel more in control of what I'm doing. Counting breathes also helps calm my brain by distracting out from the panic attack itself.
December 24th, 2015 5:33am
A common side effect (not sure if that's the right word to use) of panic attacks is hyperventilation. Your breathing becomes very rapid, you may begin to sweat or become dizzy. When you hyperventilate, you breathe out lots of carbon dioxide. Too much. It can make you feel lightheaded or strange. By breathing into a paper bag, you are catching all of the released carbon dioxide from your own lungs and breathing it back in at a normal rate, preventing you from hyperventilating and maybe putting a halt to your panic attack.
December 24th, 2015 9:01am
They calm your breathing down. By that your heart comes down to a normal relaxed rate causing you to become calmer.
January 2nd, 2016 1:28pm
paper bags help you to breathe calmly. cause when you focus on the paper bag and calm yourself as you breathe steadily lowering your blood pressure leading a steady thinking mind.
September 11th, 2014 7:46am
They can help regulate and control breathing, which a)prevents hyperventilating, b)can help the person having a panic attack calm down faster.
November 9th, 2014 9:34pm
A lot of people say breathing in and out of paper bags help relieve panic attacks, which is often followed by hyperventilation. Studies show that it actually isn't true.
November 12th, 2014 6:49am
Paper bags help control breathing. Your body is in fight or flight and you hyperventilate causing too much oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Paper bags prevent you from breathing excessive amounts of oxygen and can calm a person down as well as prevent them from fainting.
May 8th, 2015 5:16pm
I'm honestly not sure they do. Maybe they help with your breathing but other than that I have no idea.
December 9th, 2015 12:26am
During a panic attack, you can begin to hyperventilate, which lowers the levels of carbon dioxide levels in your blood which makes you feel even worse. Paper bags help with this by building up the carbon dioxide in your body again.
December 10th, 2015 12:10am
This method is said to help because you will be breathing in more CO2 which will bring your pH level back to a normal range. That is what the scientists say. I personally believe that it can help because you think it can help.
December 10th, 2015 2:25am
The paper bag is used to reduce hyperventilation while having the panic attack. Hyperventilation is one of the leading cause of panic attacks.
December 13th, 2015 11:44pm
Paper bags are used to help regulate your breathing. It controls how much air you breathe in and how much air you breathe out. A close friend was having a bad panic attack one time and I gave her a paper bag to use, which helped her calm down and gave her something to focus on, bringing her back down to earth.