Panic attacks are an awful and terrifying experience. They cause sudden and intense feelings of fear in response to non-threatening situations. Common symptoms of panic attacks include a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, chest pain, numb hands, and an intense feeling of impending doom. People who experience panic attacks for the first time may feel as if they're having a heart attack.
Living in fear of a panic attack can lead to developing an anxiety disorder. Despite being highly treatable, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that only 36.9 percent of those who have anxiety disorders receive sufficient treatment. In our previous post Anxiety Disorder Can Destroy Your Life', we pointed out that not being able to get a hold of your anxiety and panic attacks can cause a great deal of damage to your cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and immune system.
With that said, let's talk about what you can do to help a loved one while they are suffering from a panic attack.
Validate their experience
A lot of stigma still exists when it comes to mental health. Because of this, those who experience mental health issues such as panic disorders may find it difficult to ask for help. They often fear judgment and dismissal from those around them. When a loved one is having a panic attack, understand that you may not fully understand their mental ordeal. Practice empathy when this happens, and avoid minimizing their panic attack. Know that the panic you see is very real to your loved one, even if you may not comprehend the source of their anxiety. Avoid saying phrases such as Calm down or What's wrong with you? at all costs as this may make them feel more agitated and frustrated.
Provide positive affirmations
It is important to be mindful of what you say to someone in response to them having a panic attack. While conversing with them can distract them from their symptoms, saying the wrong things can further exacerbate their panic attack. So make sure that your conversation remains friendly and bring up topics that they find interesting. In addition, you should also dispense kind words and positive affirmations that can help your loved one feel safe. Change Becomes You lists some positive affirmations that can help relieve anxiety on Medium.com, such as anxiety is a part of life and it holds no weight over me and you are a calm person that sometimes feels other emotions.
Ask them to practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is another way to get over a panic attack. SymptomFind.com explains that mindfulness meditation is being hypersensitive to the feelings and physical sensations that you're currently experiencing. However, the goal of mindfulness meditation is not dissecting and analyzing your feelings of anxiety and panic. Instead, you let yourself feel these distressing feelings without actively scrutinizing them. Asking a loved one to do this while they're having a panic attack can help them be mindful of the present moment and be less overwhelmed by their feelings. This, in turn, can help them calm down and regain control of their body.
By following the advice we've discussed above, you can help a loved one calm down and gain control over their anxiety.