How To: Calm Someone Having an Anxiety/Panic Attack
Anxiety Attack vs. Panic Attack
There are many differences but also many similarities between anxiety and panic attacks. For instance, an anxiety attack generally reacts to stressor. During an anxiety attack, one may feel scared, apprehensive, and sometimes depressed. They may also feel as if their heart is racing, a shortness in breath, or even shakiness. Anxiety attacks are usually shorter than your average panic attack.
On the other hand, panic attacks do not generally react in correlation to a stressor. They are unpredictable, but also harmless. Someone having a panic attack may be frozen with terror, violently shaking, or crying in apprehension. They may feel as if they are going to die, have a heart attack, or simply lose control. Experiences in chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea are not uncommon.
Thankfully, both anxiety and panic attacks are manageable and relatively common.
Keeping Yourself Calm
Whether it's a panic attack or an anxiety attack, the techniques you can use to soothe them are all the same. First things first, you need to recognize what is happening and keep yourself calm. After all, how can you really help if you have an anxiety attack too?
- Look & listen for the signs of an attack
- Move the person to a quiet place & stay with them
- Whatever you have them focusing on, do the same
- Constantly remind yourself (if need be) that there is nothing to be anxious about
- Offer them medicine if they generally take it--if there's something else that can help, not all of it falls on you alone.
Do you suffer from panic/anxiety attacks? What do you do?
What to Do
The calmer you are and remain, the faster the process will go. Remember to do as you have them do and everything will pass before you know it. Be patient, kind, understanding, and soothing. Keep the person engaged and focused at whatever costs, and keep other people away. The more people around and the more attention drawn to them, the more anxious they'll generally become.
- Don't make assumptions, ask what they need
- Lay them down
- Another human's heartbeat can really soothe a person--have them lay on your chest & focus on the sound of your heartbeat
- Be predictable
- Speak to them in short sentences & ask short, to-the-point questions
- Take slow, deliberate & deep breaths with them
- Remind them that they are doing okay, and there is nothing to panic about
- Have them repeat sentences back to you (i.e., if you tell/ask them if they know they are a great person, have them tell you "I know I am a great person.")
- If you know the person well, try doing something you know relaxes them (i.e., maybe hum or sing a certain song, play with their hair, rock them slowly back and forth)
- Speak in a soft but firm & reassuring tone
- Don't dismiss their fears--if they insist that there is something to panic about, simply let them know that it's okay, and continue encouraging them
- Keep them cool, they tend to overheat & exhaust themselves
- Do not leave them alone
This person may or may not need your help in the future. The more you are there for them, the easier the attacks will be for them to cope with--and in turn, easier on you. Don't forget to remind them that you're there for them, and that the attack will pass in time. Remember to care for yourself and always keep yourself calm in this instance first before you try to help. If you are unable to calm the person, or this is their first experience with an anxiety/panic attack, seek medical and professional help right away.