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What To Say To Someone With Anxiety Attack

Listen To Your Parents Advice


Theyve been in your shoes and theyve lived it before. They know its what you dont want to hear, but they know whats best for you . Believe them when they say this wont matter years from now, or you deserve someone who treats you better, because truth is, theyve lived a similar experience and theyre probably right.

What Do You Not Say To Someone Having An Anxiety Attack

When someone is having a panic attack it is important to avoid:

Telling them to calm down or relax.

Telling them there is nothing they should be worrying or being nervous about.

Telling them they are behaving inappropriately and embarrassing themselves.

Telling them they are just overreacting and everything is in their heads.

What To Do When Someone Is Having A Panic Attack

Talking to someone through a panic attack is one strategy and there are more structured methods to try if your words don’t seem to be helping.

  • Count backward from 10, slowly
  • Place an ice cube on the writs or face for a few moments
  • Take a walk or engage in some type of movement
  • Try to solve simple math problems
  • Practice visualization
  • Try a grounding exercise, like the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique

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A Reminder To Breathe

I normally forget to breathe, or breathe less when Im having an anxiety attack. Usually good slow and steady breaths help get our bodies to make it through without passing or blacking out. Its a good reminder that youre in the moment and alive. It also lets me think that I can breathe and I am alive and that other people arent breathing and dont get to live as long as a life as myself. Tell us this and our lungs will thank you.

Encourage Them To Breathe

Depression Quotes Anxiety And Panic Attacks. QuotesGram

Another way you can help soothe the individual having a panic attack is by encouraging them to breathe. However, do not be forceful about it. If you demand they take deep breaths or act harshly, you are quite likely to make their anxiety worse. Being encouraged to breathe can sometimes be frustrating for those having panic attacks, since they do not always have control over it. If it seems like the encouragement is doing more harm than good, use other means of soothing them.

One way to help with breathing is by doing active breathing exercises with the individual rather than telling them to take a deep breath. Have them breathe in with you for a count of four, then exhale for a count of eight. If they cannot manage that, try breathing in for a count of two and then out for a count of four. The most important thing is for them to exhale longer than they inhale. This helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts in opposition to the adrenal system by giving the body signals that it is safe.

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Do Keep Lines Of Communication Open

When it comes to helping someone with anxiety, it is important to keep an open line of communication with them.

If you are able to, see the person regularly as this will help with managing anxiety. Spend one-on-one time with them so that they have opportunities to talk about anything they feel anxious about. You can also keep in touch over the phone, video or phone calling them once a week, or sending a text every few days just to see how their week is going.

Offer Support But Dont Take Over

Avoidance is a core feature of anxiety, so sometimes we may feel pulled to help out by doing things for our avoidant loved ones and inadvertently feed their avoidance. For instance, if your anxious roommate finds making phone calls incredibly stressful and you end up doing this for them, they never push through their avoidance.

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A good general principle to keep in mind is that support means helping someone to help themselves, not doing things for them, which includes virtually anything that stops short of actually doing it yourself. For example, you might offer to attend a first therapy session with your loved one if they set up the appointment. Or, if theyre not sure how to choose a therapist, you might brainstorm ways of doing that, but let them choose.

An exception might be when someones anxiety is accompanied by severe depression. If they cant get themselves out of bed, they may be so shut down that they temporarily need people to do whatever is needed to help them stay alive. Also, sometimes loved ones are so gripped by an anxiety disorder that theyre in pure survival mode and need more hands-on help to get things done. In less extreme circumstances, however, its best to offer support without taking over or overdoing the reassurance.

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‘worrying Wont Change Anything’

When someone we care about is suffering, our instinct is to try and fix the situation for them. The trouble is that anxiety disorders dont typically have an easy fix because the anxious thoughts often arent logical or are focused on the worst-case scenario.

Trying to soothe someones anxiety by telling them their thoughts arent productive, worthwhile, or that theyre a waste of time also invalidates their feelings and may even leave them feeling more distressed than before, Egger explains.

Recognizing A Panic Attack

How to stop feeling anxious about anxiety | Tim Box | TEDxFolkestone

A panic attack is an abrupt and oftentimes unexpected episode of intense dread or fear. Unlike anxiety attacks, which generally have a clear cause, panic attacks occur without a trigger. Whether it is the individuals first panic attack or they experience attacks regularly, the experience can be frightening, embarrassing and exhausting.

Panic attacks can strike at any time without warning. Their duration and symptoms vary from one person to another, but common symptoms include:

  • Feeling detached from reality
  • Fear of losing control
  • A sense of danger or impending doom

Every year, about one in 10 people experience a panic attack. The symptoms an individual experiences varies and can make it hard to recognize when someone is in the middle of an attack. However, there are a few common signs to watch for.

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Can We Practice A Grounding Exercise Together

During panic attacks, people often feel completely out of control, both physically and mentally. A grounding exercise can help.

Grounding exercises help bring people back to the present moment, Dr. Siegel explains. Practicing something like noticing five things you can touch, four things you can hear, and three things you can see, helps bring peoples attention back to the here and now, without over-relying on distraction. Plus, offering to do this together with the person having the panic attack helps them feel supported, and as if you are truly going through this with them.

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Three Things You Should Never Say To Someone Having A Panic Attack

A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. If youve ever experienced this unfortunate attack, you know that the response of individuals around you greatly affects the severity of your attack. With this in mind, here are a few things that you should NEVER say to someone having a panic attack.

“Calm down”

If the person having a panic attack could collect their thoughts enough to calm themselves down, they would. A panic attack is completely irrational, meaning the individual isnt thinking clearly, so yelling or saying things like calm down can come off as condescending and can do more harm than good.

Do: Offer your support and let the individual know that you are there to listen and comfort them. Use understanding phrases like, Can you tell me more about what youre experiencing? Talking things through can help alleviate some stress and anxiety.

There’s nothing to worry about

This kind of approach can seem like a good idea, reminding someone that they shouldn’t be fearful. But saying that theres nothing to worry about dismisses the individual’s feelings at a time when you should be acknowledging them. Its more about comforting the person rather than proving them wrong.

Do say: Everything will be okay. Im here for you.

Youre acting crazy

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What Causes Panic Disorder

Panic disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others dont. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain and certain biological processes may play a crucial role in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think panic attacks are like false alarms where our bodys typical survival instincts are active either too often, too strongly, or some combination of the two. For example, someone with panic disorder might feel their heart pounding and assume theyre having a heart attack. This may lead to a vicious cycle, causing a person to experience panic attacks seemingly out of the blue, the central feature of panic disorder. Researchers are studying how the brain and body interact in people with panic disorder to create more specialized treatments. In addition, researchers are looking at the ways stress and environmental factors play a role in the disorder.

Understand Differences In How Anxiety Manifests

Helping Someone With Anxiety

Because of evolution, were wired to respond to fear by either fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate. For instance, my spouse tends to freeze and will bury her head in the sand rather than deal with things that make her feel stressed and panicky. I tend more toward fighting, and will become irritable, excessively perfectionistic, or dogmatic if I feel stressed.

When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, its easier to understand someone who is feeling scared and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them. By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.

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What Not To Say To Someone Suffering From Anxiety

Stop worrying. Everything will be okay.

Although you may have the best intentions, telling someone with anxiety not to worry is pointless, as studies have shown they cannot control their thoughts. It also invalidates their feelings and shows a lack of understanding.

Everyone feels anxious at some point.

Telling them what they are going through and likening it to your own or others encounters with anxiety trivializes their suffering.

Living with an anxiety disorder is very different from simply experiencing anxiety from time to time.

It could be worse or others have it worse than you.

Although you may be trying to offer perspective, telling someone with an anxiety disorder that it could be worse is condescending and will do nothing to alleviate the anxiety they are experiencing. All this will do is alienate them from you and make their symptoms worse.

You have so much to be grateful for.

Gratitude and anxiety³ have little to do with each other when someone is living with a disorder. Reminding them of their good fortune as a way of telling them not to worry will only belittle their feelings and show a lack of understanding.

The spiral they are in is uncontrollable and can happen irrespective of how great their life may seem.

You have to talk to me. Im here for you. You must feel like this

Assumptions, expectations, and confrontations are never beneficial for someone living with an anxiety disorder.

What Not To Say

There are more things we could say that may have the opposite effect from the one that we intended, for instance, saying I know how you feel just to sympathize even though you dont really know how it feels can be a bad idea since it can backfire at some point.

Moreover, saying You should try doingx or y will make them feel as if they are not doing enough, and not every tip or technique out there may be a good fit for some people.

Try not to offer advice unless they have asked you, you are trained to treat people with anxiety disorders or you suffer from one so your experience would be highly appreciated.

Also, avoid asking Are you OK? because it is obvious that if they are feeling extremely anxious and upset, they are clearly not OK.

with this type of question what we may do is make them feel pressured to feel OK and get better but this will not fix things immediately.

Another arbitrary and judgemental question would be why arent you seeing a mental health expert or a therapist? or why arent you medicated?.

This is completely wrong on many levels and may sound as you are accusing them of not really doing anything to get better.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

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When To Get Help

It can be frightening to watch someone have a panic attack, but at what point should you bring in additional help? Its hard to say.

Simply sticking around and seeing them through the experience might not feel like much to you, but it can make a significant difference for the person having the attack.

That said, reach out for emergency help if:

  • chest pain feels like squeezing and moves to their arms or shoulders
  • symptoms persist for longer than 20 minutes and get worse, not better
  • shortness of breath doesnt improve
  • pressure in the chest lasts more than a minute or two

Im Always Here If You Need To Talk

What NOT To Say To Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack

Sometimes a person with anxiety will want to talk through what is bothering them. Other times they will prefer to be by themselves for a while so they can sort out what is going on in their heads. And then there will be times when they will want to be by themselves, but will want to talk it through later. Whatever the case, many people with anxiety worry that they will be bothering or burdening their friends and families if they share their anxiety problems. Letting the anxiety sufferer in your life know that you are always there to talk, and that they will not be bothering you by doing so, is a hugely reassuring thing to hear.

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You’re An Anxious Person

“No one wants to be labeled for something that causes them immense stress and pain. Branding a person based on their anxious symptoms can be detrimental to their self-concept as this sends the message that others see their anxiety as a defining characteristic,” says Romanoff.

What the research says: A small 2016 study that interviewed 17 doctors found that they prefer to avoid labeling people with anxiety, especially in the early stages of treatment, partly because of the stigma attached to the term and partly because labels can be difficult to get rid of.

How Do You Help Someone With Anxiety Fast

How to calm down quickly Breathe. One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. Name what youre feeling. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique. Try the File It mind exercise. Think about something funny. Distract yourself. Take a cold shower 22.

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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.

Dont Compare Normal Stress And Fear To Panic

A great guide to have if you or someone you know has frequent panic ...

Maybe youve felt stressed or terrified in a dangerous situation. You might even have anxiety yourself.

These experiences arent quite the same as a panic attack, though. Avoid trying to draw comparisons between your different experiences. Unless you also get panic attacks, you probably dont entirely understand how they feel.

If you have experienced extreme fear, let that memory inform you on what your friend is going through. Remind yourself they arent just afraid or stressed.

They may also feel:

  • unable to manage whats happening
  • physical pain or discomfort

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How To Help Via Text Message

If youre out and about when you get a text from someone that says, I think Im having a panic attack, what do you do?

One of the best things you can do is offer supportive phrases that reinforce their ability to cope. Try a few of these supportive phrases:

  • This is time-limited. It will pass.
  • Youre doing a great job.
  • Im confident that you can handle this.
  • Youre going to get through this!

Whether in person or over text, try to avoid making a big deal of their symptoms. Your role can be to help them extinguish the idea that a panic attack is dangerous or intolerable, and remind them that they can handle this experience. You can then offer to help reconnect if they need more support later on.

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