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How to Help Someone You Love Who Has a Panic Attack

Posted Oct 07 2009 4:41pm


A panic attack is always startling, both for the person having the attack and for the people around. It is important to know how to help someone you love who has a panic attack. Knowing   what to do, and more importantly what NOT to do when a loved one has a panic attack is priceless.

What It Is

Before you can help during a panic attack, you need to recognize what a panic attack actually is.  The symptoms needed to be considered, as stated by the American Psychological Association (APA) are:

•    The physical response needs to be out of proportion for the situation.
•    The attack needs to happen quickly.
•    The attack should only last a few minutes.

While the attack should only last a few minutes, the fear of having another attack might actually trigger more attacks. Learning not to fear the fear is the key.

What Not To Do

The first thing that you do NOT want to do when a loved one is having a panic attack is tell them that they are over reacting. The physical and emotional sensations that your loved ones are feeling are real to them. That is the most important thing to remember. If you tell them they are over reacting, they are liable to become more upset and agitated.

Another thing that you do not want to do is become a “crutch” to a person who suffers from this condition. Let them learn to help themselves and do not run at every time they ask. This is a scary thought, but it is an important step to getting over this and getting healthy again.

What You Can Do

When someone you love is having a panic attack, there are a few things that you can do to help them. You can find a wet wash cloth and place it on their forehead and around their face. It is OK to reassure your loved one that everything will be OK.

You can direct them to a doctor. Have them write down all of their symptoms on a piece of paper.  Then you, and the paper, can accompany your loved one to the doctor. Be firm with the doctor and explain it is affecting your loved ones life and it needs to be investigated further.

What To Remember

Knowing how to help a loved one who is having a panic attack is just as important as knowing how not to help. The outlook for your loved one is a good one! Nearly 90 percent of everyone who suffers from a panic attack disorder recover.  

Being there for your loved one and knowing what to do when they are having a panic attack will help everyone. Reassure them that everything will be OK. Provide them with materials on panic disorders, as the more educated they are on their condition, the less scary they become. You have to know when to help, and when to step back and let them learn to take care of themselves.  

By: D. More

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