It can be very scary if someone you love is experiencing a panic attack. Often, the individual is really anxious and unable to think straight. His physical, mental and spiritual well-being is seriously affected especially during the attack. The panic and acute anxiety he feels normally runs through the entire body system and makes him unsettled for about 10 minutes. You need to do everything possible to return him back to normal. This is essential because the more anxious he gets, the more intense the symptoms he experiences.
There are a few things you can do to get your loved one under panic attack settled and return to his normal senses. We have provided 4 basic essential things you can do to help an individual under panic attack. They are:
1. Help him settle down
An individual under panic attack is unsettled and experiences confused thoughts and fears. The first things you must do to help such person is take the following actions to get him settled down. These actions are meant to help your loved one get focus and come back to his right senses.
- Take him to a quiet place and put him in a comfortable position. You can either make him sit or lie down quietly. Don’t give him surprises but ensure he can predict your moves.
- Tell him to breathe slowly and deeply. Do this with him to help him fall in line as quick as possible. Check if this improves his symptoms. If not, make him go over few simple concentrating exercises like count backward slowly from 50 or count 1-10 bit by bit. Count along with him. This exercise is meant to slow down his heart rate and breathing. Alternatively, you could ask him to do a simple physical task like raising his hands above his head. Any help you render him must minimize the amount of tension he feels; it must not make his situation worse but must be able to help him gain back his control and clear off the confusion in his head.
2. Maintain the right attitude
Your attitude to your loved one with a panic attack can help or inhibit his recovery process. Thus, no matter how you feel, you must remain calm and never do anything that would make his situation worse. Also, letting him know that you are proud of him and standing with irrespective of his feeling boosts his confidence and helps him to concentrate.
Let him know that you understand his fears and don’t try to dismiss his fears. However, gently convince him that he is not in any danger irrespective of the fear. Let him know that it is his thought that causes the panic and not the situation. Try to talk to him in words that reduce the stress rather than in words that may heighten them up. Use suitable words to help him gain back control of himself.
3. Know what to say
What you say to your loved one under panic attack can make or break them. So, no matter how you feel or whether you understand their fear or not; you must never discourage them instead you must offer words of encouragement. Try to speak to him in encouraging words like; you can get through it, you are not in any danger, concentrate on your breathing and live in the present, I am proud of you, I know you can do it, you are much stronger than what triggers your fear and so on.
You need to stay around the person and don’t panic but as much as you can, try to inquire what he wants and don’t make assumptions. Above all, ensure you talk to him in short, plain and clear sentences.
4. Get him or her additional help
Apart from what you can do personally to help your loved ones with a panic attack, you can help him get continuing help by doing the following:
Talk to him about therapies available for individuals with a panic attack and let him know the importance of therapy and how registering for one can assist him. Let him know the various therapeutic options he has like:
- The cognitive therapy which would teach him how to change his perspective about what triggers his fear.
- Exposure cognitive therapy which will help to minimize his fears by gradually and repeatedly exposing him to the source of his fear till he is bold enough to challenge it.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy which teaches him to live in the present and see things without judging them.
Important points to take note of:
- Let him know that he has medication option if necessary and ask him to seek medical advice with regards to that.
- Do not over pressure him to go for therapy. Just let him know about it and let the choice of when and how, to be his and not yours.
- Be tolerant and commend all efforts he is making to get over the panic attack.
b) Stress and relaxation exercises
Stress and relaxation procedures like Yoga, Acupuncture help individuals with panic attacks to cope and manage their stress levels and emotions.
c) Social support
People with panic attacks need a lot of social support in order to help them recover. Social support helps individuals with panic attack feel that others identify with their problem and are available to help them.
To help him with social support;
- You can get your family members to provide the needed support to him by showing him understanding and compassion.
- You can also get his friends show more understanding and empathy.
- Where the above two are lacking, you can talk to him about the option of enrolling in support groups that help people with a panic attack.
- You can get him to join an anxiety forum, where he can get panic attack support from people who have suffered it before.
When choosing a mental health forum, he should check with the organization to ensure that they are dedicated to those suffering from panic attacks. You can also let him know of the two options he has with panic attack forum: online and offline. Let him know the difference between the two in terms of what he would gain and what probably may be the weak point of each form of panic attack support group. The final decision must be taken by him. You are there just to help and guide.
On a final note, you’ll definitely feel concerned and worried when your loved one is under a panic attack but you must take charge of it and learn to live with the present situation, but with a conviction that it won’t last long. Do not over pressure him or try to take charge of his life. Do all you can to help your loved one but let him or her move at his or her own pace!