What Should You Do If You See Someone Having A Panic Attack
Remind the person they are safe, using a calm, soothing voice, and gently encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply. Suggest they sit down, and stay with them, reminding them of your presence and support.
Tell them youre here, and wont leave them until theyre ok. If they ask you to leave, as long as theyre not in immediate danger, take a few steps back and give them some space. Stay nearby so you can still keep an eye on things, and let them know that should they change their mind, youll come right back.
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.
Take action with your words by:
- asking if they want to leave the room and go somewhere else
- reminding them to keep breathing
- engaging them in light conversation, unless they say they dont want to talk
They may want a hug, or they may want no physical contact at all so dont presume either way.
Help them feel grounded. To help someone ground themselves, you can try:
During an attack, its okay to calmly ask what you can do to support them. Just prepare for the possibility of a short or curt response.
Enlist The Help Of Others
If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support. Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers. They should know how to tell when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state, and how to respond to help you.
Research suggests that PTSD reduces social support resources, but that having strong social support helps lessen the impact of the condition. Reaching out for help and building your support network are essential when dealing with trauma-related symptoms.
Where Can I Find More Information On Ptsd
The National Center for PTSD, a program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is the leading federal center for research and education on PTSD and traumatic stress. You can find information about PTSD, treatment options, and getting help, as well as additional resources for families, friends, and providers.
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What Should I Know About Participating In Clinical Research
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH’s clinical trials webpage.
Tip : Deal With Volatility And Anger
PTSD can lead to difficulties managing emotions and impulses. In your loved one, this may manifest as extreme irritability, moodiness, or explosions of rage.
People suffering from PTSD live in a constant state of physical and emotional stress. Since they usually have trouble sleeping, it means theyre constantly exhausted, on edge, and physically strung outincreasing the likelihood that theyll overreact to day-to-day stressors.
For many people with PTSD, anger can also be a cover for other feelings such as grief, helplessness, or guilt. Anger makes them feel powerful, instead of weak and vulnerable. Others try to suppress their anger until it erupts when you least expect it.
Watch for signs that your loved one is angry, such as clenching jaw or fists, talking louder, or getting agitated. Take steps to defuse the situation as soon as you see the initial warning signs.
Try to remain calm. During an emotional outburst, try your best to stay calm. This will communicate to your loved one that you are safe, and prevent the situation from escalating.
Give the person space. Avoid crowding or grabbing the person. This can make a traumatized person feel threatened.
Ask how you can help. For example: What can I do to help you right now? You can also suggest a time out or change of scenery.
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Where Can I Find Support
Having an under-recognized condition like CPTSD can be isolating. If you feel like you need some extra support, the National Center for PTSD has several resources, including a PTSD coaching app for your phone. While many of these resources are geared toward people with PTSD, you may still find them helpful for many of your symptoms.
The nonprofit organization Out of the Storm also has many online resources, including a forum, information sheets, and book recommendations, specifically for CPTSD.
Tip : Be A Good Listener
While you shouldnt push a person with PTSD to talk, if they do choose to share, try to listen without expectations or judgments. Make it clear that youre interested and that you care, but dont worry about giving advice. Its the act of listening attentively that is helpful to your loved one, not what you say.
A person with PTSD may need to talk about the traumatic event over and over again. This is part of the healing process, so avoid the temptation to tell your loved one to stop rehashing the past and move on. Instead, offer to talk as many times as they need.
Some of the things your loved one tells you might be very hard to listen to. Its okay to dislike what you hear, but its important to respect their feelings and reactions. If you come across as disapproving, horrified, or judgmental, they are unlikely to open up to you again.
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Identifying And Recognizing Ptsd Triggers
Identifying PTSD triggers is not always obvious someone with PTSD might not be aware of what sets them off or provokes their feelings of fear or anger. This is particularly true with sensory triggers like smells, colors, tastes or touch. Recognizing triggers may require a combination of talk therapy, or observation by a psychiatrist to examine parts of the environment that provoke an emotional response.
Recognizing PTSD triggers when they occur can be different for different people. While some people may be fearful or avoidant, others may be angry, aggressive or panicked. While some people may be able to recognize these behaviors in themselves, others may not. In these cases, healthcare professionals and family and friends may be needed to help to identify triggers.
How Long After Trauma Does Ptsd Start
The first symptoms can begin within weeks of a traumatic event and need to continue for up to three months or longer to be considered PTSD.
It is important after a traumatic event to get whatever help you need. This can be talking to friends and family or accessing information and resources and professional help that help you feel you can continue with your life, says Dr Kriegeskotten.
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Living With Someone Who Has Ptsd
When a partner, friend, or family member has post-traumatic stress disorder it affects you, too. PTSD isnt easy to live with and it can take a heavy toll on relationships and family life. You may be hurt by your loved ones distance and moodiness or struggling to understand their behaviorwhy they are less affectionate and more volatile. You may feel like youre walking on eggshells or living with a stranger. You may also have to take on a bigger share of household tasks and deal with the frustration of a loved one who wont open up. The symptoms of PTSD can even lead to job loss, substance abuse, and other problems that affect the whole family.
Its hard not to take the symptoms of PTSD personally, but its important to remember that a person with PTSD may not always have control over their behavior. Your loved ones nervous system is stuck in a state of constant alert, making them continually feel vulnerable and unsafe, or having to relive the traumatic experience over and over. This can lead to anger, irritability, depression, mistrust, and other PTSD symptoms that your loved one cant simply choose to turn off.
With the right support from you and other family and friends, though, your loved ones nervous system can become unstuck. With these tips, you can help them to finally move on from the traumatic event and enable your life together to return to normal.
A Look At The Symptoms Of Ptsd:
There are multiple PTSD symptoms, but we will discuss a few which are common:
- Intrusive Memories Intrusive memories can have several symptoms, which include memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, and physical reactions.
- Avoidance Symptoms of avoidance can include not thinking about or talking about the event and not going to places or seeing people that remind them of the event.
- Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood Many negative changes happen with thinking and mood when you have PTSD. These include negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you, hopelessness when you think about the future, an impossibility to remember things, a hard time with relationships and issues with detachment, a lack of interest in things you enjoyed, an inability to feel positive emotions, and general emotional numbness.
- Changes in Physical and Emotional Reactions Many physical and emotional changes are related to PTSD. These can include being easily startled or frightened, being on guard, self-destruction, an inability to sleep and concentrate, being aggressive or acting out in anger, and shame or guilt that is overwhelming.
Children can have PTSD just as adults can. In some cases, children re-enact the traumatic event through play or have nightmares that seem unrelated. If you or someone you love are suffering from any of these, you can learn how to stop PTSD attacks.
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Ptsd Episodes: Flashbacks And Dissociation
The amygdala doesnt forget anything that it has deemed as dangerous and doesnt discern whether the threat is real or imagined. This plays a big role in untreated PTSD, especially when these symptoms occur:
- Flashbacks are a nightmarish and intense reliving of a traumatic event. Whether it is momentary or lasts a few minutes, hours, or even days, someone going through a flashback is unable to distinguish it from reality. Flashbacks are uncontrollable and are very vivid, likely evoking strong sensory memories associated with the trauma that was endured and the environment in which it happened.
- Dissociation occurs when a person feels separate or disconnected from their body and surroundings as though they are observing things from outside of themselves. This tends to occur automatically as a coping mechanism to manage traumatic memories and the emotions associated with them. Like flashbacks, dissociative episodes can be fleeting or last for a long time.
Educate Yourself About Ptsd
Healthwise is an excellent website with many informational articles on PTSD. You will recognize the Healthwise logo by the three red circles with one embedded into the other. Adam Husney MD, Kathleen Romito MD, and Jessica Hamblen Ph.D. are practitioners in family medicine. They are a few of the medical reviewers on the site, so you know the information is accurate and current.
There are many blogs, websites, and videos that can teach you about anger management, unhealthy behaviors, and trouble dealing with anger and PTSD. An internet search will help you find them and there are many informative articles at BetterHelp.
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Common Internal Ptsd Triggers
- Physical discomfort, such as hunger, thirst, fatigue, sickness, and sexual frustration.
- Any bodily sensation that recalls the trauma, including pain, old wounds and scars, or a similar injury.
- Strong emotions, especially feeling helpless, out of control, or trapped.
- Feelings toward family members, including mixed feelings of love, vulnerability, and resentment.
Prevalence And Symptoms Of Ptsd
According to the National Center for PTSD, approximately 7-8% of people in the U.S. will develop PTSD during their life10% of women and 4% of men. To be diagnosed with this condition, a person will have symptoms that include several of these:
- Recurrent and distressing memories or dreams of the traumatic event
- Prolonged or noticeable psychological and/or physiological reactions to cues resembling the experience
- Flashbacks of the event or emotional/psychological dissociation when triggered
- Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, people, places, or any reminders of what happened
- Difficulty remembering details of the event
- Changes in mood, memory, or thinking patterns
- Hypervigilance, sleep problems, anger outbursts, or self-destructive behavior
While all these symptoms can cause significant impairment, some are more challenging to manage than others. This is largely due to the amygdala, a structure deep in the brain that is best known for our fight or flight response. When in danger, the amygdala assigns an emotional tag to any experience that could be life-threatening, and its function is automatically prioritized over other areas of the brain, including those that govern reasoning and memory.
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What Do I Do If I Feel A Panic Attack Coming
As soon as you feel the first signs of a panic attack such as a higher-than-normal heartbeat try to de-escalate it by breathing deeply, and thinking of calming things. Ask family and friends to help you to deal with these initial stages, by distracting and soothing you too.
Here are some other examples of things people to do help panic attacks from occurring, or to help defuse them once they begin:
Dont Be Too Hard On Yourself
One more thing you should definitely do if you have PTSD: Be kind to yourself. That advice probably makes you roll your eyes but sometimes, cheesy advice rings true. PTSD can cause feelings of guilt, shame and anger. When youre feeling down, it can help to remember that its not you. Its the disorder.
PTSD changes the structure of your brain, Dr. Wimbiscus points out. Think about that: Your brain is physically different than it used to be. PTSD is not caused by weakness, and you cant just make yourself get over it.
So what should you do when youre feeling hopeless? Remember that hopelessness, too, can be a symptom of the disorder.
And try to follow Dr. Wimbiscus advice: Focus on getting through your daily tasks, and know that it gets better. Allow time to do its work. It may be a struggle right now, but time is one of our greatest healers. There is hope.
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Common External Ptsd Triggers
- Sights, sounds, or smells associated with the trauma.
- People, locations, or things that recall the trauma.
- Significant dates or times, such as anniversaries or a specific time of day.
- Conversations or media coverage about trauma or negative news events.
- Situations that feel confining .
- Relationship, family, school, work, or money pressures or arguments.
- Funerals, hospitals, or medical treatment.
What Exactly Is Ptsd Anyway
First, the basics. PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder. It occurs in people whove experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
Sometimes, that event is big and obvious: combat, a life-threatening accident or sexual assault. Other times, it develops after a series of smaller, less obvious, stressful events like repeated bullying or an unstable childhood.
Chronic PTSD can result from multiple adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, which can include unstable adult relationships, food insecurity, childhood abuse, effects of racism, recurrent micro-aggressions and more.
These recurrent childhood stressors can impact brain and overall development leading into adulthood. When a child is exposed to stressors early in life, unhealthy patterns often develop and brain function may change due to internalization of trauma.
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How To Manage Work While Coping With Ptsd
When I got to work that morning, I had to stand to keep myself calm. I couldnt sit down. I couldnt concentrate. My vision was blurred. A coworker peeked her head into my cubicle to say good morning and I almost jumped out of my skin. I texted my husband to tell him what was going on. He texted back to say that hed made an appointment with my primary care doctor and he was leaving work to take me there.
In the doctors office, I started off calmly describing these symptoms, but when she had me describe the car crash Id been in a few weeks before, I unexpectedly burst into tears. I hadnt been sleeping and when I did, Id dream about my teeth flying out of my mouth from the force of the crash. I took crazy routes to avoid the exit where crash had happened, but Id downplay the crash to anyone whod asked. Everyone told me theyd been in worse accidents. What was wrong with me?
When my doctor diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder , she suggested that I go home for the day and to go on leave, using Family Medical Leave Act . Id gone to the appointment from work and thought Id be able to go back to the office. But she compared my condition to a stroke or a heart attack: you wouldnt go back to the office after one of those, would you?