How To Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack
If you suspect someone is having a panic attack, Mental Health First Aid teaches you to follow the ALGEE action steps:
IMPORTANT NOTE: You might have seen on TV that people having panic attacks should breathe into a paper bag. This is no longer considered a best practice because the person ends up breathing in carbon dioxide, which could cause them to pass out. If someone is breathing rapidly, dont call attention to their breathing. Simply stay calm and model a steadier breathing rate.
Here are some useful resources you can share:
And dont forget: After youve helped someone, remember to practice self-care. Its not easy to help a person experiencing a mental health issue, so its important to take time for yourself.
Tell Them To Breathe/relax/stop Crying
Your intention is to help and of course your friend needs to breathe, relax, and stop crying. However, remember that they are not in control of how they act and how they feel. They would very much want to do all of these things themselves if they could. Reminding them of their lack of control may not be very helpful.
Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
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Be Patient And Accepting
Remember that being patient, open, and accepting is the best support you can provide for a friend or family member that is suffering from panic attacks. The Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX is equipped to offer and cater services to specific needs to help our clients overcome their anxieties and panic attacks.
What To Say To Someone With Anxiety
If your loved one feels comfortable discussing their anxiety, use active listening techniques to show you understand how they feel and that it makes sense. You could use phrases such as:
- How can I help you?
- I’ve noticed you’ve been anxious recently, and I’m worried about you
- No matter what, I’ll always be here for you
- Do you want to go for a walk and talk about it?
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How To Help Via Text Message
If youre out and about when you get a text from someone that says, I think Im having a panic attack, what do you do?
One of the best things you can do is offer supportive phrases that reinforce their ability to cope. Try a few of these supportive phrases:
- This is time-limited. It will pass.
- Youre doing a great job.
- Im confident that you can handle this.
- Youre going to get through this!
Whether in person or over text, try to avoid making a big deal of their symptoms. Your role can be to help them extinguish the idea that a panic attack is dangerous or intolerable, and remind them that they can handle this experience. You can then offer to help reconnect if they need more support later on.
Focus On Action Over Words
A soothing, familiar voice helps some people, but try to avoid repeatedly saying things like dont worry or asking them if theyre alright over and over.
Of course you mean well, but your words may not have much benefit in the moment. They can also make the situation more stressful, since your loved one may believe theyre doing something wrong by not being alright.
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How To Ground Someone Having A Panic Attack Explained
Its vital to learn how to ground someone having a panic attack, especially if its your loved one struggling with panic disorder. You can help with grounding techniques and positive statements during a panic attack.
Contact Solara Mental Health if your loved one needs professional help to work through this disorder. Well be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Helping Someone During A Panic Attack
- Stay with the person and keep calm.
- Offer medicine if the person usually takes it during an attack.
- Move the person to a quiet place.
- Don’t make assumptions about what the person needs. Ask.
- Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
- Be predictable. Avoid surprises.
- Help the person focus by asking him or her to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.
- Help slow the person’s breathing by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.
Hopefully you should now feel better prepared to know how to help someone who’s having a panic attack. There’s nothing to be afraid about. Just remember to be encouraging and accepting.
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How To Calm Someone With Anxiety Over Text
Here are some things you can do to calm someone with anxiety over text:
- Tell them you are there
- Tell them they can take their time
- Breathe with them
- Ask them to get some ice and keep it against their forehead
- Tell them to drink some water
- Well get through this together
What to say to someone having a panic attack over text? It is not a simple and easy question to answer.
Some people expect to find a template that could make their lives easier but in reality, it is not that simple.
There are a few things we need to consider when helping someone who is having a panic attack over text.
Moreover, text messages have a communicative intent but lack the usual characteristics of a conversation such as the tone of voice, non-verbal behavior, visual contact, etc. and you can find various articles about people who suffer from anxiety or panic disorders and some tips on how to help but there is not much about what to say to someone having a panic attack over text.
Additionally, we can say that the easiest way to help someone when having a panic attack is having someone they trust and feel comfortable talking to and assuring them everything is going to be OK, after all, panic attacks are just temporary, usually lasting between 20 and 30 mins.
However, it is recommended to seek professional advice if you think someone you care about is having serious issues managing their anxiety or panic attacks.
Panic attacks can happen anywhere at any time, without warning.
After Care : Looking After Someone Post
An unpleasant experience like a panic attack can be very emotionally and physically intense. They may also feel a sense of shame or embarrassment about it, as they can sometimes draw quite a lot of unwanted and unhelpful attention. When you are looking after someone who has had a panic attack you should make them feel safe and calm during and after the attack. This might include getting them to a more private place away from curious members of the public so they can rest for a bit.
It can be both mentally and physically draining to have a panic attack so if you can try and give the person some water and food so they can restore their energy. Try to avoid giving them anything with caffeine or alcohol, as these can increase stress, rather than being relaxing. You might also want to avoid dishing out anything too hot as the person might be shaking.
What are your tips for helping people with anxiety? Do you suffer from panic attacks and want to pass on some knowledge?
Were always pleased to hear about your personal experiences, whether you suffer from panic attacks or have helped someone who does. Please feel free to leave any comments below with tips, advice, or observations.
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What You Need To Do During Panic Attack:
- Remind the person that he/she is not obligated in any way to stay where he/she is: If he is panicking about something, he can leave the place that adds to his discomfort. If you can, offer him/her a ride home depending on how alarming the conditions look. However, please dont put any pressure on him.
- Assure the person that there is nothing to be afraid of: Rationalisation needs calm and composed. Under a panic attack, an individual hardly thinks clearly, let alone being logical. Sad as it is, he/she fails to understand that there is no reason to panic. He should feel safe in your company, and it is your responsibility to convince him that you will help him through this phase.
- Let the victim know that its temporary: While those few minutes of a panic attack can be torturous enough, it is still a tad comforting to know that it is not going to last forever. Remind him that it will soon be gone.
What Should You Not Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack
Here are some recommendations on what we should not do when someone is having a panic attack:
Do not tell them to relax or calm down, this will only make things worse.
Avoid feeling angry, frustrated or freaking out when someone is having a panic attack.
It will only add more stress and anxiety.
Avoid being judgemental or criticizing their episode. This will only make them feel embarrassed and afraid of having another attack when you are around.
Do not help them avoid places or situations because they fear they may have a new attack.
Slowly and gradually, help them overcome their fears.
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A Panic Disorder Can Cause Someone To Experience Intense Anxiety That Is Difficult To Control However You Can Help A Friend Cope With A Panic Attack In Several Ways
With over a decade of editing experience, Tom is a content specialist for Advanced Recovery Systems,… read more
Many people deal with bouts of anxiety so intense that it causes them to feel terror when no real danger exists. Individuals who consistently experience panic may be grappling with panic disorder.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, panic attacks are a telltale symptom of panic disorder. They typically bring about dizziness, a rapid heartbeat and breathing difficulties. They can happen anywhere, anytime and without warning.
Having a friend or loved one with panic disorder can be frightening for both you and the individual experiencing the anxiety. However, learning how to help someone with panic disorder can ease their symptoms.
Encourage Them To Breathe
Another way you can help soothe the individual having a panic attack is by encouraging them to breathe. However, do not be forceful about it. If you demand they take deep breaths or act harshly, you are quite likely to make their anxiety worse. Being encouraged to breathe can sometimes be frustrating for those having panic attacks, since they do not always have control over it. If it seems like the encouragement is doing more harm than good, use other means of soothing them.
One way to help with breathing is by doing active breathing exercises with the individual rather than telling them to take a deep breath. Have them breathe in with you for a count of four, then exhale for a count of eight. If they cannot manage that, try breathing in for a count of two and then out for a count of four. The most important thing is for them to exhale longer than they inhale. This helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts in opposition to the adrenal system by giving the body signals that it is safe.
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Focus On Taking Action
A soothing voice might help some people, but try to avoid saying things like Dont worry over and over. You might mean well, but your words may not help in the moment. Try these suggestions:
- Remind your friend to take slow, deep breaths and breathe with them. This can often help as they start to mirror your actions.
- Ask them to count backwards slowly from 100.
- Help them to get comfortable .
- Ask them to name five things they can see, hear, smell or feel.
- Reassure them that theyre experiencing panic and that it will go away.
- If the symptoms continue, become worse, or they dont improve after 2030 minutes, call 000.
Tips For Helping During A Panic Attack
Its estimated that about 2.7% of U.S. adults experience severe panic attacks in a year. This number doesnt include the folks who dont report attacks, and theres a good chunk of those folks. Some people dont even know what to call the experience.
Adults arent the only ones who suffer from panic attacks. Its known to affect teens and children, too. The reality is panic attacks happen, and it can be hard to help someone having an attack. The good thing is there are steps to take to reach the person going through this experience.
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You Have No Reason To Be Nervous
Most likely, the person who is having the panic attack is aware that there is no reason to be anxious. When going through a panic attack, a persons fight-or-flight stress response is triggered, making their mind and body prepare for an actual or perceived threat.
Even if they are not in any real danger, they still may not be able to stop the attack from running its course. Reinforcing that the persons fear is unfounded can increase ones sense of anxiety.
Instead of bringing the lack of threat to their attention, try being a voice of encouragement. Use a soothing voice and simply remind them that you are there for them.
Call The Nearest Medical Center If Needed
It is very difficult to know when and if you should call a medical center. I honestly could never tell if it just felt like I was just about to faint or if that was truly the case. There was one time when my best friend was with me during a pretty bad panic attack and she called the medical centre. It was a very stressful period for me and I hadnt been eating well, I was pale, I had lost sight during the panic attack and couldnt breathe. It turned out all right but just know that this might be necessary.
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Instruct Them To Focus On One Object
Focusing on one nearby object can reduce other stimuli and may help a person having a panic attack. You can also instruct them to think about how heavy or light the object is or whats its shape and texture are.Doing this can redirect the persons attention from the feeling of panic. Some people with panic disorder tend to always carry something with them for this purpose.Whether you have a friend or a family member with this disorder or just a concerned mental health advocate, it pays to know a thing or two on how to help people having panic attacks.Do you have any questions on how to stop a panic attack? Let us know in the comments section below!Up Next:
Don’t Constantly Talk About Their Anxiety
When you are with the person, or when you are talking to them over the phone, avoid constantly bringing up their anxiety or asking questions about it. Instead, keep the conversation flowing and let them talk about it if they want to. That way, they wont feel uncomfortable and pressured into discussing their anxiety when they dont want to.
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What Would You Like Me To Do To Help
Instead of assuming you know the right thing to say or do, ask your friend or relative, ask what you can do to help. He or she may want to help by talking about something else to help keep their mind occupied or may want you to find something to do, unrelated to the situation causing anxiety. Before pushing your ideas, ask what will best help.