Watching someone you care about – or even people we don’t know – have a panic attack can be terribly difficult, and leave you feeling frightened and helpless too. If this has unfortunately happened to you before you have most certainly wondered about how to help someone having a panic attack.
If this is you, you can stop worrying! It is possible to be able to assist somebody through a panic attack. It may not be easy; and it’s definitely not a pleasant experience to go through; but your help and encouragement can go a long way to helping your loved one, and putting your feelings of helplessness aside.
Panic is surprisingly infectious. It just takes one person to start panicking, for other people to also feel overwhelmed and scared. It’s a natural response, but one that does zero good when you are meant to be helping someone else stay calm!
See the situation for what it is. This may take some education on your part to be able to correctly recognize a panic attack; but once you are aware of that you can honestly reassure yourself that it’s not a medical emergency, that you loved one is not losing their mind, and that in a couple of minutes it’s all going to be fine.
It’s OK to ask the sufferer questions – they aren’t going to bite! Asking what symptoms they are experiencing is a good way for you to also be able to determine that they are in fact having a panic attack. Don’t also be afraid to ask them what you can do to be able to help them. Whether it’s sitting with them and reassuring them that they will be fine, to getting water for them, or reminding them to breathe – it’s good to be able to know exactly what you can do to help the situation.
Remember to be gentle and patient when enquiring as to how they are feeling or what you can do. Becoming exasperated, angry, panicked, or impatient is not going to help the situation.
Reassure and Encourage
When you are in the midst of having a panic attack, it’s hard to get out of loop of negative thoughts in your mind. It’s a tremendous help to have somebody reassure you that you’ll be alright. Therefore, one of the simplest and most effective things you can do when it comes to how to help someone having a panic attack is to just be comforting with your words.
You can also reinforce the facts: it is only a panic attack! There is nothing wrong with that person. Be aware that the sufferer may not always respond immediately as panic does physically manifest itself (with symptoms such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, and uneasy breathing). It can be hard to believe somebody when they say you are fine because of this physical manifestation. As long as you are aware of this and can continue to patiently encourage that person, you positive words will have a positive effect.
At the end of the day, you are the one who is going to sometimes need to be proactive. Whether it’s physically taking the panic-stricken patient to the doctor if they insist, or motivating them to come with you for a calming walk, taking some sort of action is at times the best solution.
If you and the sufferer or close – if it is a family member or friend for example – then being proactive can be a long term deal. This can include meditating together, exercising, changing lifestyle habits and diet, or taking up a relaxing pastime together.
Lastly, your intention to help and do the best you can is in itself enough. Do not be too hard on yourself. To the sufferer, your help means the world and is appreciated.