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Panic attacks are often severe reactions to stress. How people act during a panic attack may vary between individuals, but you should still know how to help someone having a panic attack in case it happens to your loved ones. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you may know what to do to help someone — but if you don’t, here are some easy tips to help walk someone through a potentially scary experience.
Nobody wants to be alone when they’re panicking. Many people like to be reassured that they’ll be okay and that the storm will pass. Some people even experience panic attacks due to their loneliness, so you should not leave them until their symptoms have passed. Many people don’t like to be touched or hugged while panicking due to feeling restricted — in which case, you can sit there and remind them that they’re not alone, so they can still benefit from your presence.
Overstimulation might add to or intensify the symptoms your loved one feels during a panic attack. If at all possible, try to get them to move somewhere quieter. If you can’t move them, try to influence the area around them. If the TV is on, turn it off. If lights are flickering, turn them off or use a different light source. Minimizing how much is going on in the environment can help put a panicking person at ease more than in an uncontrolled environment.
When in doubt, ask a person what they need during a panic attack. Not everyone is responsive when panicking, though. You may have to use your general knowledge to help how you can. After a panic attack, ask your loved one how best to help them out in the future.
Each person is different. What works for one person might be different for another. While you can learn how to help someone having a panic attack in general, the specifics will likely differ from person to person. Some people may rely on an organizational system to keep them from falling into a panic, while others might stick to a certain diet that won’t affect their brains negatively.
When you know the proper grounding techniques to bring your loved one back down to earth, you may find it easier to calm them down. Grounding techniques force a person to focus on the world around them rather than the perceived threat that their brain is responding to. One grounding technique is to hand the person something they can focus on and look at. Something with entrancing patterns will work well, as it allows the eye to focus on the color variations. When you help your loved one focus on something, they may come down from their panic attack quicker.
Above all else, if you don’t know what to do, make sure to be supportive. Even if your loved one isn’t responsive during their panic attack, you should be supporting them throughout it to encourage them to calm down when they can. You should talk to them in slow, short, simple sentences and reassure them that everything will be okay. You can be a calming presence that helps ground them.
You should also be aware of what panic attacks are and how they differ from anxiety attacks. Being armed with this knowledge can help you explain what’s happening to the person having the panic attack. If you can communicate that they’re in no immediate danger and rationalize their experiences, they may be less likely to think harm will come to them.
With the prevalence of panic and anxiety disorders, knowing how to help someone having a panic attack is crucial knowledge — you never know when it could happen to you or someone you love. Panic attacks can be scary, especially to people who have never experienced them before. If you can help someone work through their panic, you can make the experience much less terrifying and even shorter for them. Plus, they may be able to pass the knowledge on to someone else down the line, creating a chain reaction of goodness.