Helping Someone During a Panic Attack

Overview

If someone you know has a panic attack, they may become very anxious and not think clearly. But there are things you can do to help:

  • Stay with the person and keep calm.
  • Move the person to a quiet place.
  • Ask what the person needs.
  • Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
  • Be predictable, and avoid surprises.
  • Help the person focus.

    Ask the person to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.

  • Help slow the person's breathing.

    You can do this by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.

  • Know what to say.

    It's helpful when the person is having a panic attack to say things such as:

    • "You can get through this."
    • "I'm proud of you. Good job."
    • "Tell me what you need now."
    • "Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present."
    • "It's not the place that is bothering you; it's the thought."
    • "What you are feeling is scary, but it's not dangerous."

By using these tips, you can help:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in this very stressful situation.
  • Prevent the situation from getting worse.
  • Put some control in a confusing situation.

Helping over the long term

If someone you know is getting treatment for panic disorder, you can offer ongoing help as the person takes steps to recover from it. Here are some things you can do.

  • Allow the person to proceed in therapy at their own pace.
  • Be patient.

    Praise all efforts toward recovery, even if the person isn't meeting all of the goals.

  • Stay calm.

    Don't panic when the person panics.

  • Accept the current situation.

    But know that it won't last forever.

  • Take care of yourself.

    Remember that it's okay to be concerned and anxious yourself.

When a person has panic attacks, the entire family is affected. If someone in your family has panic attacks, you may feel frustrated, overworked, or socially isolated. These feelings are common. Family therapy, a type of counseling that involves the entire family, may help.

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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