The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States. Over 19% of the population or 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders often lead to panic attacks in stressful or overwhelming situations and can be debilitating. When someone you care about is experiencing a panic attack, you may not understand what is going on or what you can do to help them.
With this panic attack guide, we’ll give you tips and advice for how to calm down someone having a panic attack. We’ll also explain the signs and symptoms of a panic attack.
If you want to know how to calm down someone having a panic attack, keep reading for more panic attack advice.
What Is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is part of an underlying condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. A panic attack can be a result of stress or over-stimulation from large crowds and loud noise.
A panic attack can also be the result of trauma or PTSD, such as a car accident.
Everyone has a different trigger that can initiate a panic attack. While there may be no inherent danger present, hearing a loud and sudden noise could provoke the body’s fight or flight mechanism.
A car backfiring or a firework going off could be difficult for someone with a panic attack disorder to differentiate from that of a gunshot. This can be especially troublesome for veterans.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
Panic attacks have a sudden onset that can come with little to no warning. The symptoms of a panic attack may vary but often include:
- A fast heartbeat
- Racing pulse
- Hyperventilating/having a hard time catching your breath
- Rocking back and forth
- Feeling an overwhelming sense of dread
- Feeling like the world is spinning
When someone you care about is having a panic attack, it can be hard to see them spiral into distress. But if you follow these panic attack tips for how to calm down someone having a panic attack, you will understand how to better help and support them.
How to Calm Down Someone Having a Panic Attack
A panic attack can last from 10 to up to 20 minutes or more, depending on the complexity of the situation. Some people may experience multiple panic attacks a day.
You may have the best of intentions but it is important to know what to do and what not to do for someone having a panic attack. Here are some dos and don’ts for how to calm down someone having a panic attack.
What to Do
- First and most importantly, remain calm and collected. A person suffering from a panic attack can already sense an enormous amount of energy around them, so keep a cool head.
- Give them space if they need it. But let them know you are there for them.
- Reassure them that they are safe and that everything is okay.
- If you can, help them move to a more secluded area away from whatever it is that may have triggered the panic attack. If not, just stay with them until they feel like the worst of it has passed and they are able to move again.
- Ask them what happened to see if you can help them work through the problem. If they’re not ready to talk, it’s okay.
- If they take medication for panic attacks, assist them with accessing and taking their medication.
- If it is available, offer them a drink of cold water.
- Offer them a steady arm of support or ask if it is okay for you to put your hand on their shoulder or back for comfort.
What Not to Do
- Do not panic. If you are also panicking, it could make the situation worse.
- Do not leave them alone unless they need medical intervention.
- Do not scold them or degrade them. They can’t help it.
- Don’t hug them tightly unless you know it is okay to touch them. Touching without consent can sometimes be a trigger for panic attacks.
- Do not tell them they are too sensitive or that they are overreacting or faking for attention.
- Don’t tell them to just snap out of it.
Panic Attack Tips
A helpful way how to calm down someone having a panic attack is with a technique called Grounding. With grounding, you use a series of prompts to help the person refocus away from what is troubling them.
Through grounding you help the person identify the following:
- 5 things they can see
- 4 things they can feel
- 3 things they can hear
- 2 things they can smell
- 1 thing they can taste
You can also have them recite a favorite movie quote or song lyric as a mantra over and over until they feel better.
Deep breathing may also help the person to refocus. Practice taking a big breath in with them through their nose and then slowly breathing out through their mouth. Do this several times until their breathing is calmer. Tell them to visualize a calm place like the ocean or a field.
Having a Relationship With Someone Who Has Panic Attacks
If you are dating someone who suffers from panic attacks, go to places where there is less of a chance for them to experience a reaction. Go to a quiet and open space like a park instead of a noisy cosmic bowling alley. Or, have a date at home together.
You can educate yourself about anxiety and panic attacks so you can be more understanding. Learn to identify their triggers and the signs of an oncoming panic attack. Work with them on their coping mechanisms.
Above all, be considerate and open with your partner about their condition.
Find Special Needs Relationships and Friendships on Special Bridge
Now that you know more about how to calm down someone having a panic attack, you can be a better friend or partner to someone you care about.
Being friends with or dating someone with anxiety may seem like a challenge, but it can also be extremely rewarding once you get to know them. Like any relationship, it requires time, patience, and understanding.
Special Bridge is a site and app for meeting people with special needs and disabilities. Whether you’re looking for that special someone or looking for like-minded friends, Special Bridge is here.
Register today for a free account.
March 4, 2022 at 7:03 pm
Very informative. I used to suffer from them all the time. I was finally put on medication and am much better now. Thank you for writing this. It will help many.
March 4, 2022 at 8:20 pm
When I was 12 years old I was suffer of panic attack and nervous breakdown and I really do need help and making friends I could talk to and been taking medication for helping me for feeling better now
March 7, 2022 at 10:35 am
Love this! Thank you for posting!