Panic attacks are frightening for anyone who suffers from them or for the rest of family and friends. But how can you support someone who is having a panic attack while also remaining calm?
The physical symptoms of a panic attack can be so severe that they resemble the symptoms of an acute heart attack. So, while it can be difficult to distinguish between a panic attack or other health problems, there are things you can do to help, especially if you are.
If you are certain that your friend or family member lives with anxiety and regularly suffers from panic attacks.
Panic attack symptoms
It’s one thing to get nervous. A panic attack is different. To qualify as a panic attack, you have to experience four or more of these symptoms:
- Increased heart rate.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Feeling that you might be choking.
- Chills or overheating.
- Fear that you’re dying or going crazy.
- A feeling that what’s happening around you isn’t real.
Unfortunately, if you have one panic attack, it’s common to have another. People often become so worried about it happening again that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, says Dr. Josell. “People sometimes start to avoid certain situations or places where they had a panic attack before. They might even avoid leaving home,” she adds.
But you don’t have to become a hermit, reassures Dr. Josell. “Panic attacks are so treatable.”
Keep your cool
Watching someone go through a panic attack can be scary, but it won’t help either of you if you get panicked, too. Make sure it is definitely a panic attack and not a serious health condition that requires immediate medical attention. Panic attacks usually don’t last very long, with the most intense feelings lasting for about 10 to 15 minutes, so make sure that this uncomfortable situation ends sooner or later.
Use a calm voice to reassure them
If talking to them seems helpful, try talking in a calm voice about the following:
- It is safe
- You are with them
- A reminder that the panic attack will end
Ask how you can help
Many people who regularly suffer from panic attacks have developed their own ways of coping. Some people prefer to stay alone, breathe deeply and listen to soothing music, while others need the support and help of others. Keep in mind that a person who is accustomed to panic attacks will know the person better when it comes to receiving any help or not.
In fact, you shouldn’t feel offended if you are asked to leave him in peace, as sometimes those who have an anxiety attack just want to be left alone. The fight-or-flight stress response affects a person’s ability to think and act logically, so don’t take it personally. Try to stay close to watch to make sure they are safe.
Encouraging you to breathe deeply
Slow, controlled breathing helps return the body to its normal state. During a panic attack, breathing becomes rapid, resulting in the person not getting enough oxygen in the blood. This, in turn, increases anxiety. Deep breathing returns oxygen levels to normal and reduces anxiety.
Sit in a quiet place
This advice can be difficult to follow, depending on where you are. If you are outside in a crowded area, try to find a quiet, less busy place to sit together and do breathing exercises. If you are near or indoors, go to a quiet, lit room and play some soothing music for relaxation.