How To Help Someone With Anxiety Attack – When a loved one has a panic attack, it can be difficult to know how to help them. By responding with understanding and empathy, you can make a real difference.
Whether it’s your friend, family or partner, chances are you know someone who has had or will have a panic attack. If you happen to be around when this happens, it is only natural that you want to do everything in your power to understand and support them.
People will have an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Statistics show that women
If your loved one is having a panic attack, there are many ways you can help. With some research-backed techniques, you’ll be better equipped to provide support.
Call them softly and tell your loved one that you believe they are having a panic attack. This can provide some context for what is happening and alleviate the fear of the unknown.
You can let them know it will pass. Panic attacks can last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, although the worst symptoms usually subside within 10 minutes, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
If this is the first time your loved one has had a panic attack, it may be recommended to seek medical attention to rule out other causes of the symptoms.
Everyone experiences anxiety differently. It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Don’t be afraid to try different strategies.
One of the best ways to help someone is to stay calm yourself, even if you feel a little bad about what is happening.
Stay calm by breathing deeply and remind yourself that this is temporary. If the situation becomes overwhelming for you, reach out to someone else for help.
Your loved one may need some space during a panic attack. An over-excited panic state – when your brain’s limbic system is on “high alert” – can mean that common elements in the environment are too stimulating, such as touch, music, bright lights or other sounds.
After reminding them that they can manage their symptoms, you can give your loved one space until the panic attacks pass. They might ask you to stay. If they do, reinforce their ability to experience the symptoms on their own by saying a survival statement once or twice and letting them ride the symptoms until they pass.
If the two of you have made plans, it can help to suggest that you hang out with them after the panic attack is over to help your friend see that they can get through the day even though they had a panic attack.
When someone is having a panic attack, we want to be empathetic, but we don’t want to reinforce the idea that panic is dangerous, dangerous, or should be reduced, minimized, or escaped.
So instead of reassuring and worrying about your loved one, it can help remind them that they can handle what’s happening on their own. This gives them strength to face the situation.
Remind them that although panic attacks may seem continuous, they usually peak in about 10 minutes. It is not possible for the body to remain tense for longer than that.
If you’re out and about when you get a text from someone saying, “I think I’m having a panic attack,” what are you going to do?
One of the best things you can do is offer words of support that will strengthen their ability to cope. Try some of these supporting expressions:
Whether in person or via text, try to avoid emphasizing the symptoms too much. Your role can help them turn off the idea that the panic attack is dangerous or unbearable and remind them that they can deal with the experience. Then you can offer to help them reconnect if they need more support later.
Although panic attacks can make us feel as if something is wrong, they are only false alarms—a malfunction in the body’s fight, flight, or freeze response. The sympathetic nervous system reacts to a perceived threat by triggering physical processes such as heart rate and breathing rate. Panic attacks are simply an example of the flight or fight response out of context.
If your loved one is living with panic disorder—where they experience unexpected, recurring panic attacks and avoid behaviors or situations that might trigger them—the best thing you can do is not reinforce the panic cycle by making a big deal out of it. the panic attack.
It’s also helpful to avoid reinforcing escape behavior, which could happen if they stay around or give too much reassurance. If you do this, it may inadvertently reinforce the feeling that something is wrong after all.
A great way to help a friend with panic disorder is to support them once they connect with a therapist who is doing exposure therapy with them. You can encourage them as they are gradually exposed—with the guidance of a trained therapist—to increasingly difficult situations that might trigger panic. In this controlled environment, they will practice escape resistance or safety behaviors.
While it is tempting to help a loved one avoid feelings of panic by distracting them from bodily sensations or distracting them from the situation, this is considered a “safety behavior.” While safety behaviors can help relieve anxiety in the moment, they can actually reinforce the cycle of panic that exists in panic disorder.
Safety and distraction behaviors can prevent people from learning that panic attacks, although unpleasant, are not actually dangerous or harmful.
Your loved one can handle panic without actually doing anything, and it’s important for them to know that panic anxiety goes away on its own without causing harm.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – the main method of treating panic disorder – teaches you strategies to reduce anxiety and avoid panic attacks. The idea is not to prevent them, but to sit with them until they inevitably pass. And you often experience fewer panic attacks over time as you become less afraid of them.
The most effective way to respond to a panic attack is to overcome it instead of resisting or running away from it. While running away from a panic attack reduces anxiety in the short term, in the long term only starts the cycle of panic because you reinforce the belief that panic is dangerous, dangerous, or something that must be avoided at all costs.
The idea is to let the symptoms just exist, which helps you see panic attacks as a manageable experience rather than one to escape.
Try not to keep asking someone if they are okay, as this can reinforce the idea that panic is dangerous or dangerous. Also, avoid saying phrases that may detract from their experience, such as:
Do not offer substance. It can be tempting to give your loved one something to relieve tension, but doing so can make the panic attack worse. Certain types of cannabis, such as sativa, can increase anxiety and lead to paranoia. Alcohol changes serotonin levels in the brain, which can make feelings of anxiety more intense.
If your loved one wants medication to help with future panic attacks or anxiety disorders, suggest seeing a primary care physician or psychiatrist. The clinician may prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines for occasional use.
A panic attack usually goes away in just a few minutes. If it doesn’t, it could mean a more serious medical event is happening, such as a heart attack. Remember to stay calm while assessing the situation.
Some symptoms of a panic attack are similar to those of a heart attack. You can read about how to distinguish between a panic attack and a heart attack here.
Supporting someone during a panic attack can be stressful – not just for them, but for you too.
Once the panic attack has subsided and your friend is in a more relaxed headspace, it’s important to take some time for self-care.
Be gentle with yourself for a few hours or the rest of the day. Take some time to recharge by doing yoga, taking a hot bath, journaling, or anything else that relaxes you.
If caring for someone is interfering with your own quality of life, consider seeing a therapist to talk about what you’re going through. Check out the ADAA’s Find a Therapist Directory to find a local clinician or teletherapy option that may be right for you.
Remember, we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. You can’t give too in an empty cup. Take care of your energy first, and then whatever you have left can flow to your loved ones. If someone close to you is dealing with anxiety, we have described how you can help to support them in the best way possible.
If someone in your family or one of your friends suffers from anxiety or has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder,
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