In medical terms, a panic attack is a sudden, intense period of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Panic attacks are also an intense wave of fear characterized by its debilitating and unexpectedness and immobilizing intensity. You’re unable to breathe correctly, your heart pounds, and you may feel like you’re going crazy, or even worse, dying. People who experience sudden panic attacks or have other types of anxiety disorders have their coping methods. In many cases, panic attacks often strike out of nowhere, with no apparent trigger, and without warning. You may experience panic attacks due to an underlying disorder such as depression, social phobia, or panic disorder. This is why you must understand how to help someone with a panic disorder. Doing this can leave a lasting and positive impact on their lives. Here are a few tips.
As we mentioned earlier, panic attacks are unpredictable and happen for different reasons. Among many people who experience panic attacks, some may only have a couple of attacks in their lifetime, while others have recurrent attacks. Studies have shown that most people who have one panic attack will likely have more. As discussed in this article, panic attacks come without warning, which means they can be very frightening, and everyone else needs to stay calm. A panicked response can make the situation worse than it is. Experts suggest that symptoms of a panic attack typically reach peak intensity within 10 minutes. So, you must act quickly to help ease the symptoms where possible.
Familiarize Yourself With the Warning Signs
If you’re yet to learn about this, then take some time to acquaint yourself with the early signs of a sudden panic attack. In many cases, panic attacks commonly begin with choking, a pounding heart, shaking and dizziness, shortness of breath; a feeling of dread or terror; and many others. As much as these are the common signs, people are different, so you will need to research distinctive signs further. You can ask them what symptoms they tend to experience so that you are well prepared. The sooner you’re able to read the signs, the faster you can help a person get to a comfortable place or a more private space.
Action Over Words
A soothing and familiar voice may help some people. However, avoid repeating statements like “stay strong” or asking someone if they’re alright repeatedly. As much as your words mean well, they may not have much comfort at the moment. This can also escalate the situation from good to worse since your friend might think they’re doing something wrong by not being okay. The best way is to use actionable words like asking if they want to go somewhere or reminding them to keep breathing. You can also try engaging your friend in a light talk unless they specifically say they don’t want to talk.
Engage Them About Their Distress
People often have a hard time sharing their experiences about their mental health issues, including a panic disorder. Some people refrain from talking about mental health issues because they feel no one will understand what they’re going through. Others worry about social stigma or being judged with the assertion that what they experience isn’t a huge deal. If you have no keen understanding of the fear caused by panic attacks, you may consider it irrational. However, the response is real, and the person experiencing the attack has no control over it. Try to be as empathic as possible if your friend shares their experience with you. Gratitude Secrets explains that a kind gesture would be to let them know that you’re going to support them.
Keep Their Minds on Other Things
A panic attack's dynamics can be challenging to understand for those who haven’t experienced the condition. Nevertheless, it would be best if you strive to accept your friend’s behavior and testimony without confusion or judging them. If your friend’s anxiety impedes their ability to have fun and enjoy life or interact with people, then encourage them to seek professional help.