What to Do When Someone Has a Panic Attack

A panic attack can be a scary situation for the person experiencing the symptoms as well as those in the vicinity. Even more frightening is witnessing an attack and not knowing how to help. It’s imperative to provide a safe place for a person to calm down and recover, but there may also be a fine line between helping and wrongly assuming what is best.

A person experiencing a panic attack may be feeling many physiological symptoms such as an increased or rapid heartrate, sweating, dizziness, trouble breathing, and tunnel vision. The experience can be disorienting and extremely frightening.

The following are some tips for helping someone through a panic attack.

  • Stay very calm. Getting anxious yourself may only heighten the other person’s panicked feelings and could affect others in the area as well.
  • If you know someone takes medicine for a panic attack, make it available.
  • Try to move the person to a quiet place. Ask if he or she would like to sit or lay down, but avoid directing or ordering the person to do anything. Offer some water if it is available.
  • Use short sentences to convey messages.
  • If you know about and can remove a trigger, do so. The more benign you can make the environment, the better the chance a person has of calming down and recovering.
  • Avoid sudden movements or agitated speech. The person will be responding with a gut reaction to stimuli, and fast speech and movements can exacerbate a sense of panic.
  • Use simple exercises to provide focus. Guide the person through some simple movements. Have him raise an arm or both arms or look in one direction. Providing focus or distraction can allow a person the time needed to gain bearings and calm down.
  • Try some breathing techniques. Even if a person is not hyperventilating, doing some slow breathing exercises can help recreate a sense of calmness.

If you are prone to panic disorders, make sure you keep a card with helpful information and any medication with you at all times. By writing down and carrying ways to help relieve your symptoms you can empower someone to help you during the time when you need it most. Include information about what works best to calm you down during an attack or what kind of distraction would be most helpful.

Those who suffer from panic attacks can also keep a piece of beeswax or some other malleable substance nearby. Having an item to focus on and fiddle with can be soothing during moments of panic. This can also be useful in preventing an attack in situations that have been known to cause attacks. Items that are texturally interesting are the best choices to use as self-soothing tools.

It’s always important to seek the advice of a professional if you suffer from panic attacks. Panic disorders can make life seem difficult and lead you to avoid once pleasurable situations. Find a therapist or support group that fits your needs, and you will be surprised at how you can train your body to handle panic attacks through therapy techniques and the use of medication.