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What To Do When Someone Has An Anxiety Attack

Seek Out Ways Of Managing Anxiety

How to Alleviate Panic Attacks : How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

Persons with anxiety should try to manage their anxiety symptoms along with seeking professional help. The clue to answering the How can I help? question lies in the patients behavioral patterns and everyday activities.

Unfortunately, many persons with anxiety tend to indulge in harmful activities to overcome their anxiety problems. Such dangerous activities include substance abuse, excessive drinking, drug overdose, and smoking.

As you may know, such habits are false short-cuts to dealing with anxiety. Indulging in such bad habits can worsen the existing anxiety symptoms. Therefore, encourage the individual struggling with anxiety to indulge in productive activities at home.

Various approaches can help a person with anxiety manage anxiety at home. Some of these approaches for managing anxiety at home include:

  • Indulging in physical activities for at least half an hour every day helps the body release endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that aid in stabilizing mood and behavior.
  • Deep breathing workouts.
  • Developing a good sleep regimen.
  • Refraining from taking brain stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and other drug-like substances.
  • Practicing mindfulness to help an anxious brain to calm down.

We Can Get Through This Together

Knowing someone is there to help can be a big relief. You may want to put a hand on their arm or shoulder, letting your friend or relative know he is not alone. Facing fears is always easier when you have someone to face them with.

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish ismore

What To Say When Someone Is Having An Anxiety Attack

by Health Writer

Suppose a friend or family member suffers from anxiety. You want to be supportive, you have learned how anxiety impacts their life, but you still dont know what to say or do when an anxiety attack strikes. Here are some suggestions on what you can say to help. Remember, understanding and listening, without judgment, is the first step to helping someone through an anxiety or panic attack.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder may have:

  • Sudden and repeated panic attacks of overwhelming anxiety and fear
  • A feeling of being out of control, or a fear of death or impending doom during a panic attack
  • An intense worry about when the next panic attack will happen
  • A fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
  • Physical symptoms during a panic attack, such as:
  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Stomach pain or nausea

What To Say To Someone Having A Panic Attack

What To Do If You Have A Panic Attack And Cannot Escape From

Panic attacks can be scary to experience and observe. If you are with someone who is having a panic attack, there are things you can say to help. Clear, direct messages are more effective than general comments. It is important to be non-judgemental and provide reassurance.

  • Talk to them in a calm voice and speak in short sentences.
  • Ask about medications they may use during a panic attack.
  • Ask what they need or what has helped them in the past rather than making assumptions.
  • Help them slow their breathing by focusing on slow, deep inhales through the nose, and long exhales through the mouth.
  • Offer additional suggestions in a way that makes them feel in control. Do this by asking them if they’d like to try a new strategy rather than telling them what to do.

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What Is An Anxiety Attack

Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes theres an obvious triggergetting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to givebut in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.

Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if youre about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people think theyre having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isnt available or you cant easily escape.

Dont Shame Or Minimize

Its pretty common to worry about having a panic attack, especially in front of strangers, or believe the attack might annoy or inconvenience friends or loved ones.

People struggling with anxiety or panic attacks might intellectually understand the response is illogical. But hearing that from someone else can increase their isolation, Bingham explains.

Avoid saying things like:

  • Just relax. Theres nothing to be afraid of.
  • Youre upset over that?
  • Whats wrong with you?

You might not intend to make your friend feel ashamed, but denying the reality of their distress can certainly have that effect.

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Focus On Your Breathing

Concentrate on your breathing. Dont hold your breath, but breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to 5. Then breathe slowly out your mouth as you count to 5.

Keep focusing on your breathing for as long as you need to. If breathing and counting doesnt work for you, there are lots of other breathing techniques you can try.

Focus on whats around you. Remind yourself that youre having a panic attack and that it cant hurt you.

Try holding onto something or tasting chewing gum to help keep you grounded. Try naming:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can touch or feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste.

It can be tempting to try and leave or avoid the situation, but try not to. Stay where you are and keep focusing on things here and now until you feel calmer.

Focus on reminding yourself that:

  • it will pass
  • anxiety cant harm me
  • I am in control.

Having a panic attack can leave you feeling tired or drained. Give yourself time afterwards to sit somewhere quietly, or to have something to eat or drink.

Talk about it

Talking can really help. Telling someone you trust can give you a chance to explain whats happened and let your feelings out.

If youre starting to worry about having panic attacks in the future, its important to get support. You can ask your doctor for help or talk to a Childline counsellor about anything thats happening.

Write things down

Calming yoga

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Feeling Of Doom And Peak


At this point you’ll often experience feelings of doom. Once again, this is entirely uncontrollable, and a natural reaction the symptoms. It’s at this point where people feel like they’re about to die, or as though something terrible is about to happen. All of these symptoms become more and more overwhelming.

Suddenly it peaks. You experience this intense dread, and it feels like time slows down to a stop. Then everything starts to drain slowly away. You start to feel a little bit better, but only marginally so, and often you’ll be filled with a considerable amount of fatigue from that entire experience. You’ll be sweaty, shaking, and possibly still have health anxiety or fears as a result. But you’ll usually feel a tad bit better as it starts its slow but steady decline.

Anxiety attacks may have other symptoms as well. There are unusual symptoms like back pain, nerve firing, cold feet, and even itching. There are also severe symptoms like derealization . All of these are no more dangerous, but all of them can be very concerning to the person who is experiencing them.

Panic attacks are not dangerous events, and many who get them are completely healthy. But there are so many physical symptoms involved and so much anxiety that they often feel like something terrible is wrong with your health – even if you know you have an anxiety attack problem.

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Helping To Manage A Panic Attack

We have outlined a few options to help a loved one reach a state of calm while experiencing a panic attack. Please know that NAMI does not endorse any particular suggestion provided below. If someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, they may become very anxious and might not be thinking clearly. You may be able to help them by doing the following:

  • Stay in communication with them speak calmly and gently in short, simple sentences.
  • Ask if there is medicine the person usually takes during a panic attack.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what your loved one needs, ask them.
  • Help your loved one slow their breathing by breathing with them. Speaking slowly in a reassuring tone, say: Were going to focus on your breathing right now.Just do your best to take a slow, deep breath in through your nose. Hold that breath for a moment Now slowly exhale through your mouth. Now another slow, deep breath in. Hold it And again, slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • If the panic attack continues, ask: Has this happened to you in the past? What has helped you in the past?
  • If your loved one is unable to identify what has worked in the past, offer help in a way that gives them agency. Example: I know a technique that helps with panic attacks. Would you like to try the technique with me?

Try Supplements Or Change Your Diet

Changing your diet or taking supplements is definitely a long-term strategy. Research shows certain supplements or nutrients can help anxiety reduction.

These include:

However, it can take a few months before your body is actually running on the nutrition these herbs and foods provide. If youre taking other medications, make sure to discuss herbal remedies with your doctor as there can be adverse reactions.

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Calming Step : Have A Script Ready

A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.

Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.

Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.

If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.

Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.

What Triggers An Anxiety Attack

What Happens to My Body During an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks are unusual, in that they can be triggered under moments of heavy stress or fear, or they can be triggered by nothing at all. Often the first anxiety attack comes at a moment in a person’s life when they’re experiencing a lot of stress . But future panic attacks can be caused by almost anything:

  • Worry that theyll have another panic attack.
  • Paying too much attention to how the body feels.
  • Absolutely nothing.

Once again, it is because anxiety attacks can seem and feel so random that not everyone that has them even knows or believes that theyre having an anxiety attack. Those that have panic attacks too often may even start to develop other anxiety conditions, such as health anxiety, because of how difficult it is to feel like their anxiety attacks are real.

Not everyone that has an anxiety attack once will have it again, however. Some people only experience an anxiety attack because they are under profound stress and exhaustion, or theyre faced with a dangerous situation. For example, if you almost got into a car accident you may experience a panic attack, but only because your anxiety in that situation was so strong that it was uncontrollable.

But many that have panic attacks will have them again. It depends on the individual.

Also Check: How To Help Calm Anxiety

Quick Read Anxiety Support 101

  • Theres a difference between normal, everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
  • If an anxious friend decides to confide in you, show you support them.
  • Validate, rather than minimize, their experience.
  • If you dont have an anxiety disorder, avoid offering advice without listening to your friend.
  • Tell them youre there for them, ask how you can help and listen to what they have to say.

Its never not awkward telling someone I have anxiety disorders. And Ive had to tell a lot of people: friends, family, supervisors, dates.

Opening up to others can be validating and freeing, but its always stressful at first because I dont know how theyll respond. Being stereotyped or treated insensitively when youre struggling can be nerve-wracking, especially if you already get down on yourself for having anxiety.

What Ive learned in my many years of coming clean is that most people mean well. They dont want to say the wrong thing, but it can be hard for them to know the right thing to say if they dont know much about anxiety.

While everyone experiences anxiety, people experience differing degrees of severity, says Ty Lostutter, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and treats patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union.

Anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us safe and motivates us, Lostutter says. It only becomes a problem when someone becomes overly anxious and it interferes with daily life.

What Kind Of Anxiety Disorder Do You Have

As with every health issue, an accurate diagnosis is essential. A few common anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: A pattern of excessive worry about a variety of issues on most days for at least six months, often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, a hammering heart, or dizziness.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Feeling significant anxiety in social situations or when called on to perform in front of others, such as in public speaking.
  • Phobias: A particular animal, insect, object, or situation causes substantial anxiety.
  • Panic disorder: Panic attacks are sudden, intense episodes of heart-banging fear, breathlessness, and dread. Its the feeling youd have if you just missed being hit by a Mack truck but for people with panic disorder there is no Mack truck, says Dr. Beresin.

Also Check: What Doctors Prescribe Anxiety Meds

Learning To Forget What You Think About Anxiety

As someone with family members or friends who have anxiety or a panic disorder, it’s important to understand what anxiety really is. For example, did you know that someone with anxiety can experience physical symptoms even when they’re not mentally anxious? Did you know that one of the symptoms of a panic attack is a feeling of imminent death or doom, combined with intense physical symptoms that are nearly identical to heart attacks?

If you’ve never had anxiety, it’s extremely difficult to empathize and understand, because it is so much different than the normal anxieties people experience in their everyday life. If you start trying to “cure” your friend’s anxiety by assuming you understand what they’re dealing with, you’re going to struggle, and you may actually upset your friend or family member more.

How To Tell If Its A Panic Attack

How to help your friend during a panic attack – BBC

Before you can help a person who is having a panic attack, you need to know if its because of fear or anxiety theyre experiencing or if theres a physical explanation.

Here are 10 symptoms of panic attacks to look for:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do these symptoms look familiar? Theyre also signs of cardiac distress. Its difficult to know if a person is experiencing a panic attack or a heart attack.

The best thing to do is ask if the person has had a panic attack before. If they havent and they dont think theyre having one now, call 9-1-1 and follow physical first aid protocol. If the person loses consciousness, call an ambulance, check for breathing and pulse and apply physical first aid principles. You can also check for a medical alert bracelet or necklace for more information.

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Learn To Recognize The Signs Of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

Anxiety Vs Panic Attacks

Anxiety is uncomfortable and ongoing dread that occurs when we worry about the future or things we cannot control. Physical symptoms include sleeplessness, stomach issues, and headaches. Panic attacks come on quickly, often without warning, and are short periods of intense fear, feelings of doom, and physical symptoms, like shaking or chest pain.

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