A sudden intense episode of extensive fear and anxiety is called a Panic attack. There are various ways to help someone having a panic attack.
In this article, we will be discussing about how to help someone with panic attacks. Hope this would be a beneficial read for you.
How To Help Someone With Panic Attacks?
Panic attacks are quite common, and an article has stated that around 13% of people will experience one in their entire lifetime.(1) A panic attack is a brief yet intense fear. Some of the symptoms of panic attacks include intense fear, shaking, sweating or chills, pounding heart, a sense of doom, head and chest pain, and difficulty breathing.
In people suffering from panic attacks, their body would be saying that there is a danger, however, in reality, there might be no danger present.
Usually, panic attacks feel very uncomfortable and result in significant distress. Many individuals suffering from panic attacks believe that they are experiencing a heart attack or some other life-threatening problem. Usually, people having one panic attack, worry about having more, particularly in public, and this is because the triggers of such attacks are always not easy to identify.
However, if you know or see anyone who experiences panic attacks, then you should help them in various ways. Below we will talk about how to help someone with panic attacks.
Panic attacks are generally unpredictable and occur for several reasons. Some people might only have a couple of panic attacks in their entire lifetime, while others might have recurrent panic attacks.
It has been shown by a 2016 report that most individuals who have one panic attack in their life will likely have more attacks.(2) Panic attacks usually appear without any warning and they can be really scary. So, if you are willing to help someone with panic attacks, you should stay calm. This is because a panicked response can worsen the condition in the patient with the panic attack.
Symptoms of a panic attack usually reach peak intensity in just 10 minutes.(3) So, you should act quickly if you want to help alleviate the symptoms of panic attacks.
Someone having a panic attack might feel really terrified or think they are going to die. Even if you might feel a little afraid of seeing them, make sure you stay calm and talk to them in a calm voice. You should also know what to say to them during this. Try telling them that they are safe with you, reassure them that you won’t leave them, and remind them that the panic attack won’t last long.
Learn The Warning Signs Of Their Panic Attack:
One more thing that we want to say here when we talk about how to help someone with panic attacks, is that you should try and learn the warning signs of their panic attack.
You should know that commonly panic attacks begin with a feeling of choking, a feeling of terror, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, dizziness and shaking, and a pounding heart. However, since it is also true that everyone does not experience panic attacks a similar way, it is best to ask them what signs they tend to experience. The sooner you are to realize the signs in the patients with panic attacks, the faster it would be for you to help them and make them feel more comfortable.
Help Them To Breathe During Their Panic Attack:
When someone is experiencing panic attacks, they should be helped to get their breathing under control. Keep a strict note that if you are trying to help someone with panic attacks, then you should not give them a paper bag to breathe in or breathe out from, as this can make them more pass out.
(4) You can instead try not to bring attention to their inhalation or exhalation while breathing and to help them keep calm and breathe normally. Hopefully, this procedure should get their breathing back under control.
Ask Them How You Can Help Them:
We would make you know that most patients experiencing panic attacks or living with other types of anxiety, usually know their coping methods.
So, before offering them any help, keep in your mind to ask them if they need any help or the ways about how you can help them. You should, however, know that during a panic attack, they might find it difficult to communicate with you. So, you should ask them in advance how you can help them when they experience the attack when you are with them.
Make sure that during an attack, you just keep yourself calm and be prepared to help them with all possibilities.
Make Them Smell Some Lavender:
Anxiety can be reduced by a soothing scent. The scent helps in relieving or reducing anxiety by tapping into the senses and thus helping the affected person remain grounded and giving them something to concentrate on. This helps them take away their attention from their anxiety.
A common traditional home remedy that is known for bringing about a sense of calm and relaxation is Lavender. Several studies have reported that lavender can help in relieving anxiety.(5) You can try this remedy with someone experiencing panic attacks and anxiety.
Try to hold the lavender oil under the nose of the affected person and let them gently inhale. But make it very sure that if the person dislikes the smell then try to replace the lavender oil with any other essential oil like the chamomile oil, bergamot orange, or lemon.
Take Them To A Peaceful Spot:
One of the most important things that you should know while learning how to help someone with panic attacks is to take them to a peaceful spot when they have an attack. Sounds and sights can generally intensify a panic attack. You should thus, take them out from a busy room or crowded place to a peaceful area. Making them sit in a quiet place creates some mental space, and this would make it easier for them to focus on their breathing and various other coping strategies to get relief from the attack.
Validate Their Distress:
People generally find it difficult sharing their experiences with any mental health problem, including panic attacks. Some people avoid talking about their problems because they believe others won’t understand them, while others worry about being judged or being told that what they are experiencing is not a big deal.
Outsiders usually do not understand the fear associated with panic attacks and might even consider it illogical. However, the response is very real, and the people experiencing the panic attack cannot control it.
So, you should validate their distress and give them an empathic response. You can simply respond to them by saying, “Your problem sounds tough. I am so sorry that you have to go through all these. But, please let me know what can I do to help you as you are experiencing panic attacks.”
Focus On Your Actions Over Words:
A soothing and familiar voice would help someone with panic attacks. However, you should try to avoid repeatedly saying things, such as, “don’t worry” or continuously asking them if they are alright. Though you might mean well while saying these words, yet, this might also make the situation more stressful. This is because they might believe that they are not doing well during an attack.
So, the thing that should be followed here is to make your words more actionable. Take right actions with your words by reminding them to keep breathing, engaging them in light conversation, or asking them if they want to go somewhere else by leaving that room or that place.
Try To Help Them To Stay Grounded:
Grounding techniques can help people with a range of anxiety issues, which also include panic attacks. These techniques help the patient focus on what actually is happening with them, not their fear of the panic attack. Grounding techniques are usually beneficial once the intensity of the attack has faded a little bit.
Below are some of the quick grounding tips that can be followed to help someone with panic attacks.
- Try to hold their hands (only if they are okay with it).
- Give them a textured object to feel.
- Encourage them to move or stretch.
- Talk slowly and gently about familiar activities or places.
- Encourage them to repeat a helpful phrase, such as, “This feels awful, but it won’t hurt me.”
Understand That Their Panic Might Not Make Sense To You Nor Them:
Panic attacks can be scary and confusing. People usually cannot predict these attacks and there is often no proper cause of these attacks. Panic attacks can appear in stressful situations, however, they can also happen during some calm moments or even during sleep.
It might seem beneficial to tell the patients that there is nothing to be scared of. However, they are probably aware of it that there is no actual threat from their panic attacks.That is part of what makes such attacks so confusing.
It is usual to feel ashamed or embarrassed of panic attacks. But, having a trusted companion with offer a great compassion and allow some fair space for the affected person to get back to normal soon. If you want to help someone with panic attacks, then be an empathetic companion, and know that their distress are real and significant.
Respect Their Needs:
You should respect the needs of the person being affected by a panic attack. You might sit with them when they had an attack. However, when it is over, you might feel that they are totally okay and you can take them outside for a movie or walk. But, you should know that even though they seem calmer when they are done with the attack, they would feel extremely tired and exhausted. So, here, you should respect their needs and let them take rest and not take them out.
Apart from this, you should also ask them what they need. But remember, do not ask them too much after a panic attack as it can aggravate the healing process.
Don’t Compare Normal Stress To Their Fear Of Panic:
Sometimes people start comparing their normal stress to the fear of panic or panic attacks. However, this is something you should avoid doing, especially when you are willing to help some with panic attacks.
Maybe you have felt anxious or stressed in a dangerous situation. However, these experiences are not quite the same as someone suffering from a panic attack. You should try not to compare your normal stress or anxiety with the experiences of panic attacks in case of people you are willing to help.
We would also let you know that someone having panic attacks might also feel helpless, physical pain and discomfort, and might be unable to manage the things what is happening with them.
Don’t Give Them Advises:
You must know that not every coping technique helps everyone having panic attacks. Though certain techniques like deep breathing and various other relaxation techniques can have some benefits, but, they generally help when practiced daily. These techniques might not help everyone with panic attack, when tried during moments of attack.
So, you should avoid telling someone how to manage their symptoms of panic attacks. Though you can help them by reminding them to breathe and take deep breaths. But, do not just keep advising them continuously when they are having a panic attack. Instead, wait until they ask you for any suggestion.
Don’t Make The Feel Ashamed:
It is common to see people having panic attacks usually worry, especially in front of strangers. They might know how they are feeling and what others might be thinking about them. But, if you want to help them during their attack, then make sure you don’t shame them. Avoid saying, “What’s wrong with you, why do you behave so?” “Are you upset because of that?”
Though you might not intend to make them feel ashamed, but not understanding or denying the reality of their distress during an attack, can definitely have a negative effect on their condition and worsen the situation.
Take Them To Medical Professional:
You might be afraid of watching someone with a panic attack, but it is difficult to treat someone with attacks always. You should contact a medical professional and seek for medical help to prevent the situation from getting worse.
You should take the person with a panic attack to a doctor if they experience shortness of breath that does not improve, chest pain feels like squeezing, if symptoms persist for more than 20 minutes.
Panic attacks are real and one must be aware of this and ways of helping someone with panic attacks. We talked about how to help someone with panic attacks. If you are with someone who is having a panic attack, then try to use these coping techniques and help them to calm down.
If you find that their symptoms do not improve in a few minutes, then take them to a doctor.
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