You may be wondering how to help someone having a panic attack. If this is the case, this helpful step-by-step guide will show you the appropriate steps to take.
It can be very scary if someone you love is experiencing a panic attack. Often, the individual is really anxious and unable to think straight. Their physical, mental and spiritual well-being is seriously affected during the attack. The panic and acute anxiety he or she feels normally runs through the entire body system and makes the sufferer unsettled for about 10 minutes. You need to do everything possible to return them back to normal. This is essential because the symptoms often build with the intensity of the anxiety. But, when an attack strikes, it can be difficult to know how to help someone having a panic attack.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack
There are a few things you can do to get your loved one out from under a panic attack, settled and returned to their normal senses. We have provided a few basic, yet essential, things you can do to help an individual suffering from a panic attack. They are:
1. Settle Their Nerves
An individual going through a panic attack is unsettled and experiences confused thoughts and fears. The first things you must do to help such a person is to take the following actions. These actions are meant to help your loved one get focus and come back to their right senses.
- Take the sufferer to a quiet place and put him or her in a comfortable position. You can either make the person sit or lie down quietly.
- Tell your anxious loved one to breathe slowly and deeply. Do this exercise also, so the pair of you can work together. Check if this improves symptoms. If not, make him or her go over a few simple concentrating exercises like counting backwards slowly from 50 or counting 1-10, bit by bit. Count along also.
This exercise is meant to slow down heart rate and breathing. Alternatively, you could ask him or her to do a simple physical task like raising both hands above his or her head. Any help you render must minimize the amount of tension felt; it must not make the situation worse but must be able to help return a sense of control to your panic-stricken family member or friend.
2. Maintain The Right Attitude
Your attitude to your loved one with a panic attack can help or inhibit their recovery process. Thus, no matter how you feel, you must remain calm and never do anything that would make the situation worse. Also, letting him or her know that you are proud of them – irrespective of the anxiety sufferer’s condition – boosts his or her’s confidence and helps concentration. Let him or her know that you understand their fears and don’t try to dismiss those fears. However, gently convince your loved one that they are not in any danger, irrespective of the fear. Reinforce the idea that those nerve-wracking thoughts cause the panic and not the situation.
In addition, if you really want to help someone with a panic attack, try to talk to them with words that reduce the stress rather than with words that may make matters worse.
3. Know What To Say
What you say to your loved one in the throes of a panic attack can make or break them. So, no matter how you feel or whether you understand their fear or not, you must never discourage them; instead, you must offer words of encouragement. Try to speak to them with encouraging words like you can get through it, you are not in any danger, concentrate on your breathing and live in the present, I am proud of you, I know you can do it, you are much stronger than what triggers your fear and so on. You need to stay around the person and don’t panic but, as much as you can, try to find out what he or she wants and don’t make assumptions.
Above all, ensure you talk to him or her in short, plain and clear sentences.
How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack: Extra Resources
Apart from what you can do personally to help your loved ones with a panic attack, you can help him or her get continuing help by doing the following:
Discuss therapies available for individuals with a panic attack, acknowledge the importance of therapy and how registering for one can assist a sufferer. Furthermore, let him or her know the various therapeutic options available:
- The cognitive therapy which would teach him or her how to change their perspective about what triggers a sudden onset of fear.
- Exposure cognitive therapy which will help to minimize fears by gradually and repeatedly exposing the anxious person to the source of the fear until he or she is bold enough to challenge it.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy which teaches your loved one how to live in the present and see things without judging them.
Important points to take note of:
- Let them know that they have the medication option if necessary and ask them to seek medical advice with regards to that.
- Do not over pressure the panic attack victim to go for therapy. Just let the person know about it and let the choice of when and how be their choice.
- Be tolerant and commend all efforts he or she is making to get over the panic attack.
b) Stress And Relaxation Exercises
Stress and relaxation procedures like yoga and acupuncture help individuals with panic attacks to cope and manage their stress levels and emotions.
c) Social Support
People with panic attacks need a lot of social support in order to help them recover. Social support helps individuals with panic attacks feel that others identify with their problem and are available to help them.
To help him or her with social support:
- You can get your loved one’s family members to provide the necessary support by showing understanding and compassion.
- You can also get friends to do the same.
- Where the above two are lacking, you can talk to him or her about the option of enrolling in support groups that help people with a panic attack.
- You can get him or her to join an anxiety forum, where they can get panic attack support from people who have suffered it before.
How To Help Someone Having a Panic Attack: There Is Hope
When choosing a panic attack support group, it is wise to check with the organization to ensure that they are dedicated to those suffering from panic attacks. You can also let the sufferer know of the two options they have with a panic attack support group: online and offline. Let them know the difference between the two in terms of what they would gain and what probably may be the weak point of each form of panic attack support group. The final decision must be taken by person faced by the problem. You are wondering how to help someone having a panic attack, but you are also there just to help and guide.
On a final note, you’ll definitely feel concerned and worried when your loved one is under a panic attack but you must take charge of it and learn to live with the present situation, but with a conviction that it won’t last long. Do not over pressure him or her or try to take charge of their life.
Do all you can to help your loved one but let him or her move at his or her own pace. Lastly, knowing how to help someone with a panic attack will aid the sufferer in a real way!
For greater insight into interacting with patients suffering from panic attacks or if you would like to chat with others affected by them, I highly recommend joining the app, Reachout.
Sunil is a social entrepreneur working on projects that enhance the quality of life for people. He is passionate about using tech to help the human cause.