Helping Someone Experiencing an Anxiety Attack Through An Episode

Experiencing a panic or anxiety attack is one of the scariest things someone can go through. There can be difficulty catching your breath, chest pains, and numbness in the extremities. Many think they are having a heart attack. They may not be thinking clearly. Keeping a cool head and knowing what to do to help someone during one of these attacks can make all the difference to them.

Knowing what an anxiety attack looks like will help you to start intervening before the situation becomes worse. They may start trembling and sweating. Their breathing will increase. Shallow, rapid breathing will typically cause tingling in the extremities and dizziness. Their mouth will usually be dry and they may complain of nausea.

Reassure the person that you are staying with them. Remind them that the feeling they are having is scary but is not dangerous. Try to keep them as calm as possible. If the anxiety attack is happening in a public place, try and move the person to a more private area. Ask the person what they need, don’t assume. Ask if they have medication they should be taking. Do not confuse the person by rambling on, speak in short, concise sentences. To help the person to regain focus, ask them to do a simple task such as raising their arms above their head. Slowing the breathing will usually allow the person to calm down and not hyperventilate. Practice slow breathing with him or her.

Remember to be patient with the person and don’t pressure them to “calm down”. If they wish to be alone, let them. If this is the first time they have experienced an anxiety attack, encourage them to seek medical attention to rule out a physical problem.

Reference

N.A. “How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack.” Wikihow.com (Website). (2015).
  • 18 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • This is good advice. I was at the dentist's office recently and a lady had an anxiety attack while in the dentist chair. She Kept complaining that she could not breath and the nurses there were patient with her and tried to clam her down. They even held her hands and rubbed them until she eventually got calm again. 
  • Before I had kids and it was just me and my wife, I had regular anxiety attacks because I didn't think I had enough job security and there were other problems plaguing us at the time. It didn't happen outside, usually it happened in our house or in the bedroom. What my wife would do was she would just hold me and we would just hug each other for a few minutes without saying anything until it passed.
  • I also have a fair share of anxiety attack episodes, though it's not really a serious one. It's the feeling of fear and apprehension towards something, and sometimes I also experience paranoia. I am not that comfortable in public places. I feel like everybody's staring at me, and that somehow makes me really anxious.
  • This is a lot of very good advice. I had a severe anxiety attack once last summer and my husband had no idea what to do. I don't get them often and in our entire 10 year marriage he has only been around to witness maybe 2 or 3. He initially thought I was over reacting and sort of blamed me for the attack. At the time I was unable to let him know that I had no control over the attack and every word he said actually made it worse. You have to be calm and exude calmness when you are around someone suffering from a panic attack. As someone who is scared to death of the attacks I have I appreciate your words of wisdom to others. 
  • There is a 5 step process I found helpful: 
    Acknowledge and Accept 
    Wait and Watch 
    Actions 
    Repeat 
    End 
    'Most of them are self explanatory but I think the 'Wait' one could use some explanation. When the person is in the midst of a panic attack it would be good for them to be able to look at it as an opportunity to observe and learn. Encourage the person not to react until you have the chance to observe where the panic is taking them/you. 
  • Thank you for this advice, I think I need to send this to my Mom! I think the worst thing you can do when someone is having an anxiety attack is to minimize their feelings and tell them to calm down or that they're over reacting etc. The feelings you're having are real and having someone invalidate you doesn't help and often just makes things worse.  
  • Whenever I've had one and I wasn't alone, I've never been shy about telling them what I needed. If I needed reassurance about anything I would tell them flat out to reassure me about that. Sometimes just listening to the person is the best idea
  • Being the one who has had an anxiety attack, this is great advice, thank you!  My best friend has been there to experience many of my attacks and he helps a lot when I have had one, it's a huge help.
  • These are the very exact symptoms I used to have when I first suffered anxiety. It was several years back, when I was in my teens. I used to feel low all the time and had unnecessary apprehensions. I was complaining of heart attack and pain travelling through left arm. It was hysterical stuff. I was later put through ECT. After several years of medication, I got better now. However, It was hypnosis and relaxation that helped me more. I had no one to assure me. People around me were mocking at my situation. My mother helped me get back on rails, as she was a working woman, fortunately. Aah, this article brings back all those memories. A panic attack is a harrowing experience. 
  • Panic attacks are scary, just a few months ago I had one with all and the chest pain, and it was terrifying.  I wonder if there are cases in which the panic attack sufferer is suffering a heart attack, but he or she doesn't feel the urge to go to the ER because he or she think it's just another panic attack?  It can certainly happen, I think. 
  • I lived with a family (Brother and sister) who suffered from them, so I know what it's like. If they don't take medicine for it, at least being there to calm them down or help them through it is a very wise choice.
  • When someone is going through an anxiety attack I usually just try to comfort them after the ordeal by rubbing their back and holding there hand. There is not nothing much you can do. If they need you to do anything else, be there for them. Just don't abandon them.
  • Thanks for posting, I haven't had any anxiety attack and I don't know (yet) people suffering of them but I think that everyone needs to have this type of information just in case, and try to forget all the stigma around them.
  • The thing that helps me most for some reason is a nice glass of water, and if there's someone around that can help me and I'm in the stage that I feel like I'm about to pass out, that's typically my most frequent request. Other then that, I usually take a small (usually a quarter) dosage of my medication at that point which usually helps to calm and sedate me.
  • I think this forum is so wonderful.  I really like the way that you have information posts like these to start threads, as well as inviting members to start their own.  Thank you.  I found this very useful.  If it's the first time that someone has had an anxiety attack, and you're with them, is there any way that you can absolutely distinguish it from a heart attack, or should you always get someone who's exhibiting these sorts of symptoms in an ambulance asap just in case?  
  • For someone even struggling themselves with anxiety, this is a very helpful post. Just knowing that someone else will be there for you is a great boost to your self-worth. We also live in a modern age where it is possible to seek medical treatment quickly so knowing about these signs are a good way to know if they need to just be calmed down or taken in. It is great to ask questions or if you know what they are comlaining about, there is usually a medication like aspirin nearby to help them feel taken care of.
  • Years ago, I used to have severe attacks which manifested itself in the form of dizziness. It used to frighten the living daylights out of me and if I'm honest, I have to say that I still live in fear of it. The one thing that helped was someone trying to make me laugh. In fact, I used to tell my friends to do that as I was laying on the grass, having a panic attack. 
    I used to play soccer and occasionally, I had it while I was playing. My friends would rush over and I'd tell them to make me laugh by saying dumb things or just joking. It helped me get through it. 
  • I am very lucky that I have a partner who is so supportive of my panic disorder.  There are days when I am overcome and really can't face the world.  I need to reschedule appointments, unplug, not answer the phone, not even answer emails.  He will take over for me to make sure that my life is seemless.  On the other hand, there are days when I am simply giving in, and I've asked him to be firm with me.  To not enable my illness by treating me like I'm too fragile to push through.  He's honestly tuned into me just perfectly and knows when to say "let's just do a small thing today" ... and often that push will get me out of my panic.  This has made all the difference for me.
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