How to help someone having a panic attack
A panic attack is an extremely stressful experience. During the attack, the body perceives itself to be in mortal danger. People then think they are going to die, even though there is no danger per se.
Experiencing a panic attack can be daunting. The physical symptoms of a panic attack include breathing problems, feeling as if you are having a heart attack, tinging, chest pain, disorientation, digestive issues, palpitation, trembling, etc. These panic attack symptoms can also be genuinely concerning to observe for the bystander as well.
Knowing what to do in such situations is extremely important for people, as the wrong interventions can make the situation worse for the person experiencing the panic attack.
So, what should you do to help someone having a panic attack?
Be calm yourself
Witnessing a panic attack can be distressing. However, you cannot help others if you, yourself, lose your calm. So, keep your cool. Their life is not in any mortal peril; therefore, you do not need to panic. A panic attack can last for 5 to 30 minutes, so for these few minutes, maintain your composure.
Ask them how you can help
For people who are having a panic attack for the first time, they might not understand what is going on. But for those having recurrent attacks know how to improve their symptoms and manage the attack. So, ask them how you can be of help.
Help them understand there is no danger
The person experiencing a panic attack might feel scared of their symptoms. You should help them by assuring them that they are not in danger. Help in assuaging their confusion and fear.
But it is okay to be anxious yourself
When witnessing a panic attack, it is completely understandable to feel worried and anxious. There is also a chance that the anxiety stays with you and remains disruptive. So, whilst it is important that you be strong in the moment, once the situation subsides, you need to also be kinder to yourself.
Say encouraging words
With a panic attack, it helps to distract people so they can focus their thoughts elsewhere. So, try to say helpful words to them. Encourage them with mantras like you got this, you are strong, you are going to be fine, etc. But do not make them sound as preachy, but instead, organically add to the conversation so they do not feel odd.
Help them breath
Breathing exercises help people become calmer during a panic attack. Therefore, encourage them to do deep breathing and similar breathing exercises. These exercises will also help you be calm as well.
Offer them consoling words afterward
In the aftermath of the incident, be empathetic to their condition. Offer them advice about seeking professional help. Validate their distress. Console them and offer them support.
Make them comfortable
If you see someone having panic attack signs, it helps in making them comfortable as soon as possible. Sit them down, if they feel uncomfortable, try to remove them to a quiet quarter.