A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode caused by overwhelming fear and anxiety. In the U.S., about 4.7% of adults experience panic disorders. This disorder is classified under anxiety disorders, and its current global prevalence is estimated at 7.3%, suggesting that one in 14 people get diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at any given time.
While panic attacks don’t have a direct cure, there are ways to support people with this disorder. If you have a loved one who has to deal with this disorder and want to offer your help, this article covers what you should do when someone has a panic attack.
Warning Signs To Look Out For
A panic attack can happen very suddenly, but there are warning signs a person will usually show, such as:
- Heart palpitations
- The belief that they’re dying
- Shortness of breath
- Feelings of immense dread or terror
How Can You Help?
Do you know someone who frequently gets panic attacks? Or do you just want to be prepared in case someone within your vicinity gets an episode? During a panic attack, a person may be very anxious and disoriented. As the person closest to them, there are certain things you can do to help!
Keep Calm and Stay With Them
Don’t wait for other people to attend to the person, and immediately stay with them. But before approaching, make sure that you are calm and collected. Getting close in the middle of an episode can further heighten their panic.
Try To Move Them to a Quiet Place.
Bring them to a quieter place if they’re in a crowded and noisy room. A noisy surrounding will make it harder for them to calm down. It might also worsen their panic attack or even cause another one.
Ask Them What They Need
Check if they are a bit calm to hold a conversation. If so, ask them about what they need, such as water, food, or proper ventilation. You should also ask if they have their medication on hand. Give them water to take with it.
You can visit blogs like BuzzRx that offer information about the medications used to treat this disorder, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). And when talking about Buzz Rx, of course, you can’t forget medication discounts through a BuzzRx savings card. If someone you love is struggling to pay for their prescriptions, don’t hesitate to discuss discount coupons and cards with them. That way, they can consistently take medicine and manage their symptoms better.
Speak in Short and Simple Sentences
When speaking to them, use short, simple sentences. Don’t confuse them by using all sorts of complicated sentences.
Refrain from giving advice as well, as it may make them cautious towards you. Remember, they have lived with this disorder and may have already spoken to a professional about it. Hence, they would know more about their disorder than you do. You can only help by preventing their attacks from getting worse; giving unsolicited advice isn’t advisable when helping someone with attacks.
When dealing with someone undergoing a panic attack, it helps to avoid being spontaneous. Don’t surprise them by ensuring that the way you act is predictable. You can do this by stating what you’re going to do first so they won’t become anxious about your next moves. Just reassure them of everything you’re about to do.
Guide Them To Proper Breathing
The most important thing you should do to help the person experiencing the panic attack is to get their breathing under control. However, don’t follow what you see on TV. Avoid giving them paper bags, as they could pass out from breathing too fast and relying on them too much.
They’re already in a state of panic, so letting them focus on their breathing may do more damage than help. Instead, it’s better to show them how to breathe properly, with long pauses of breathing in and out. You can also distract them and let them mirror you to get their breathing back under control.
What You Shouldn’t Do
It can be difficult to take care of someone during an episode, but you must remember that this is also very stressful for a person undergoing it. Thus, you must be mindful of the actions that could worsen a person’s panic attack. Hence, you should avoid doing the following:
- Telling them to “calm down.” This may be the most insensitive thing you can tell a person having a panic attack. It is vital to get them to talk, think of other things, and focus on the necessary distraction. However, telling them phrases like “try to relax,” “don’t worry,” and “calm down” could worsen their symptoms.
- Making assumptions. As mentioned before, you must first ask them what they need. Assuming and guessing may be more stressful for them.
- Getting irritated. If you don’t have enough patience to help someone during an attack, it would be better to step away from the situation. It’s especially true if you feel like you’re getting irritated. Patience is necessary when easing the symptoms of a panic attack. Avoid belittling their experience and their effort to stop their episode.
Panic attacks are no joking matter. They can be one of the worst experiences for a person with a panic disorder. But while they’re sudden, there are several ways to help someone with a panic attack. As long as you stay calm and employ the steps mentioned above, you’ll be able to assist someone whenever a panic attack suddenly occurs.