Helping Someone During a Panic Attack
If someone you know has a panic attack, he or she may become very anxious and not think clearly. You can help the person by doing the following:
- Stay with the person and keep calm.
- Offer medicine if the person usually takes it during an attack.
- Move the person to a quiet place.
- Don't make assumptions about what the person needs. Ask.
- Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
- Be predictable. Avoid surprises.
- Help the person focus by asking him or her to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.
- Help slow the person's breathing by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.
It is helpful when the person is experiencing a panic attack to say things such as:
- "You can get through this."
- "I am 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 is not dangerous."
By following these simple guidelines, you can:
- Reduce the amount of stress in this very stressful situation.
- Prevent the situation from getting worse.
- Help put some control in a confusing situation.
You can offer ongoing help as the person tries to recover from panic disorder:
- Allow the person to proceed in therapy at his or her own pace.
- Be patient and praise all efforts toward recovery, even if the person is not meeting all of the goals.
- Do not agree to help the person avoid things or situations that cause anxiety.
- Do not panic when the person panics.
- Remember that it is all right to be concerned and anxious yourself.
- Accept the current situation, but know that it will not last forever.
- Remember to take care of yourself.
Current as of: January 31, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health