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How To Help Panic And Anxiety Attacks

Focus On Action Over Words

Understanding Anxiety & Panic Attacks & How to help

A soothing, familiar voice helps some people, but try to avoid repeatedly saying things like dont worry or asking them if theyre alright over and over.

Of course you mean well, but your words may not have much benefit in the moment. They can also make the situation more stressful, since your loved one may believe theyre doing something wrong by not being alright.

Remember That It Will Pass

During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.

Try acknowledging that this is a brief period of concentrated anxiety, and that it will be over soon.

Panic attacks tend to reach their most intense point within 10 minutes of their onset, and then the symptoms will begin to subside.

Who Gets Panic Attacks

At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder both conditions classified as anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , about 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women as in men. Panic disorder typically affects individuals when theyre in their 20s but is also seen in young children, adolescents, and older adults.

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Helping Your Anxious Teen Cope With A Panic Attack

Anxious teens are vulnerable to experiencing a panic attack, which is a frightening experience, especially since it can occur out of the blue. A panic attack is a sudden and sharp rise in anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms such as racing heart, dizziness, numbness and shortness of breath. The physical symptoms are an adaptive response to the perception of being in acute danger. However, they can unfortunately arise under everyday stress, such as when a teen has to take a daunting test. What can you do to help your anxious teen cope with a panic attack?

Label the Panic Attack as Harmless Anxiety

Many teens misperceive a panic attack when it is occurring. They think all kinds of scary thoughts: Are they going crazy, dying, about to faint or having a heart attack? Such thoughts trigger heightened anxiety, which often leads to worsened symptoms. Therefore, it is important to help teens understand that they are not in any danger but that their body is overreacting to feeling very anxious. In short, let them know that they are experiencing a false alarm.

Model Being Calm

Reduce Avoidance

Support Them After In Whatever Way They Need

How to Stop a Panic Attack: 10+ Proven Tips to Calm Your ...

Like a lot of the tips on this list, this will depend on the person. If youre out in public, your friend may want to go somewhere more private, or head home. If they want you to go with them, great, but if not, its best you respect their boundaries and let them go alone.

Empathising with them is key here. They just had a huge, overwhelming rush of fear, and theyre probably wiped out from it. Maybe you go home with them and binge watch Gilmore Girls, maybe they go home alone and take a hard 3 hour nap. How they choose to calm down from the panic attack is up to them. The best you can do is say that you understand, that you support them in whatever way they need, and that youre there if they want to talk.

Phew! Panic attacks are a lot to handle if youre having one, and it can help so much to have someone supporting you. By reading this list, youre equipping yourself with the tools to help someone out, and youre going to be an incredibly supportive person the next time it happens. If there were Good Mental Health Buddy awards, wed give you a gold freaking medal. Maybe even an engraved trophy if we wanted to get fancy.

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When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack

Below are some tips for you or your loved one to consider during a panic attack:

  • Anxiety cannot increase forever and you cannot experience peak levels of anxiety forever. Physiologically there is a point at which our anxiety cannot become any higher and our bodies will not maintain that peak level of anxiety indefinitely. At that point, there is nowhere for anxiety to go but down. It is uncomfortable to reach that peak but it is important to remember this anxiety will even out and then go down with time.
  • Emotions are like a wave, they will come and they will go.
  • You have experienced this before, you know what to expect, and you will be able to handle it.
  • Avoidance is anxiety’s best friend. Avoidance now will mean sustained anxiety in the future.

The following websites and brochures provide useful information for helping and supporting loved ones with panic disorder:

Keep Your Mind In The Present

Notice five things you can see around you. Then, four things you can touch. Three things you can hear. Two things you smell. One thing you taste. When you stay grounded in whatâs going on around you, it gives your mind something better to do than focus on fear or bounce from one worry to the next.

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Panic Attack Treatment And Prevention

Cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the first-line, evidence-based treatments for anxiety. These treatments can be used separately or in combination.

Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and addressing anxiety-related thoughts and behaviors. It often involves meeting with a therapist weekly and practicing hands-on strategies each day to manage anxious thoughts and behaviors.

SSRIs are taken daily and can help adjust levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which can affect mood and anxiety. There are many types of SSRIs. A medication provider will determine which one is best for you and will meet with you regularly to monitor benefits and side effects.

Duval doesnt recommend avoidance strategies or using substances such as drugs or alcohol to cope with or abstain from anxious feelings or panic attacks. Incorrect use of substances, including prescriptions, can interfere with relationships and work.

It is a way to mask or avoid the anxiety were not giving ourselves ways to manage it that are going to decrease it long term, Duval says.

Instead, she suggests finding strategies to manage the attacks or reduce the anxiety around having a panic attack.

The challenge is that oftentimes the more we try to prevent something, the more it will happen, Duval says. A big part of managing anxiety and panic is finding ways to face it.

What Is Panic Disorder

HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS

Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden rush of strong fear or discomfort that is accompanied by a cluster of physical and cognitive symptoms, including heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, and fears of dying, going crazy, or losing control.

Panic attacks are common among all anxiety disorders but what sets panic disorder apart is that panic attacks are unexpected and occur “out of the blue” without an obvious trigger . These unexpected panic attacks must be associated with a significant change in behavior or be followed by at least one month of persistent worry about having another attack or about what will happen if you have another panic attack.

Panic disorder is a disorder that many people experience – roughly 2-3% of people per year in the United States suffer from panic disorder .

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Keep Lavender On Hand

Lavender is a traditional remedy that many people use to reduce stress and help them relax.

Research suggests it has a calming effect but doesnt lead to dependence or cause withdrawal symptoms. Using products that contain diluted lavender oil may help reduce or manage symptoms of anxiety.

However, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate essential oils, and strengths and ingredients vary widely.

If you use lavender essential oil, make sure you:

  • get your oil from a reputable source, such as a pharmacy
  • follow the instructions for use
  • avoid applying concentrated oil directly to the skin
  • avoid using lavender with benzodiazepines because the combination can cause intense drowsiness

Which essential oil is right for you?

What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like

The first step in managing a panic attack is being able to recognize when it’s happening.

Panic attacks can impact the entire body and mind and, along with physical symptoms, bring about feelings of doom, dread, and intense fear. They usually come on without warning, and their cause may be unknown.

Panic attacks can be so distressing that they can cause the person to feel as though they are dying, and the experience of having a panic attack can bring about additional fear or anxiety of future panic attacks.

When panic attacks continue to occur over time, it could be a sign of a panic disorder.

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Teach Your Child To Get Help

As a panic attack can be sudden and happen at anyplace and anytime, it is important to teach your child to get help. Let your childs teachers and caregivers know about their condition so that your child can go to them for help. If there are no familiar adults around, teach your child how to talk to someone who is nearby and explain what is happening when they feel that they are going to have a panic attack. Assure your child that there will always be someone who will help them.

Calming Step : Focus On Breathing

How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack

Your breath affects your mental state, so breathing is a crucial part of stopping a panic attack.

During a panic attack, your breathing speeds up, a signal that your body is in fight-or-flight mode, Dr. Josell says. Rapid breathing sends a clear signal that youre in danger, but slow, deep breathing helps to turn off the fight-or-flight response.

  • Find a quiet place to sit or lie down, if possible. But even if you cant, deep breathing can benefit you anywhere.
  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
  • Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, and exhale out through your mouth. Breathe at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
  • Notice your hands. The hand on your belly should move as you inhale and fall back into place as you exhale. The hand on your chest should stay relatively still.
  • Repeat for several minutes or until you feel calm.
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    Cultural Differences Related To Panic Disorder

    It is important to consider a cultural lens to best understand how panic disorder presents. Research has shown that there are cultural differences in the way people view panic attacks and in the way different racial and ethnic groups receive and perceive a diagnosis of panic disorder.

    There is evidence for panic disorder-like diagnoses across cultures, such as ataque de nervios in Latin American communities. Research has shown that African Americans experience more functional impairment than non-Latino white Americans. This is not an exhaustive list of cultural factors related to panic disorder, but it does highlight cultural differences that may affect the presentation of panic disorder as well as individual differences in the interpretation of panic symptoms .

    Have An Active Lifestyle

    A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet can work wonders. Make sure your child gets regular exercise. In fact, if you feel that your child is anxious or worried over something, going for a walk will help to ease the anxiety.

    Regular and balanced meals are important. Avoid processed and sugary food to keep stable blood sugar levels. Doing so will not only ensure healthy physical development but also better moods and emotions.

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    Understand Their Panic May Not Make Sense To You Or Them

    Panic attacks can be confusing as well as scary. People generally cant predict them and theres often no clear cause. They can happen in stressful situations but also during calm moments or even during sleep.

    It might seem helpful to tell your friend theres nothing to be afraid of. But theyre probably perfectly aware theres no actual threat.

    Thats part of what makes panic attacks so confusing. The reaction matches a fear response but nothings happening to cause that fear. In response, someone who gets panic attacks might begin to fear the symptoms themselves, or link them to a serious health issue.

    Its typical to feel embarrassed or ashamed of such an intense reaction, Bingham explains. But having a trusted companion offer compassion can allow space for the person to return to baseline.

    You can be that person even without understanding why they get panic attacks. Thats far less important than your ability to offer empathy and recognize their distress as real and significant.

    The End Of Everything: What A Panic Attack Feels Like

    Tips to Reduce Panic Attacks and Anxiety

    Only 16, Caroline, had her first panic attack a year ago. Her mother was dropping her off at her summer job at a local school when, without warning, a full-blown panic attack engulfed her. My heart started racing and my body felt so hot. I started to sweat and shake uncontrollably. My vision became distorted and my body felt limp, like a wet noodle, she says. For 20 minutes, until the panic attacked passed, Caroline refused to get out of the car. Her mother didnt know what to do.

    Kirstie Craine Ruiz, 46, has lived with anxiety, panic attacks, and panic disorder for about ten years. For a long time, she had full-blown attacks 2-3 nights a week. I would usually awake to a racing heart or the feeling of my heart expanding in my chestas it might explodeFrom there, I would begin to panic and my heart would go even fasterand my body would shake so hard that it felt like I was having a convulsion. I could barely breathe and was usually pretty sure I was having a heart attack and that I was going to die. Sometimes Id go the ER and theyd hold me overnight because my heart would be going so fast and they couldnt get it to go down.

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    A Guide To Overcoming Panic Disorder

    About 10 to 33 percent of people will experience at least one panic attack this year. Even if youve never had a panic attack, you probably know what they are like. A pounding heart, sweating, trembling, dizziness, chills.

    Only 2.7 percent of people who experience a panic attack in a given year will meet the criteria for panic disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent and often unexpected panic attacks.

    An individual with panic disorder also worries about experiencing future panic attacks. In other words, panic disorder is the fear of panic attacks, or the fear of fear. Such anticipatory fear can cause significant distress and negatively impact an individuals daily life.

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