Panic Attack
Health & Fitness

5 Ways to Help Someone Through a Panic Attack

Happy Tuesday, everyone! As I mentioned in February, I’ll be chatting about a mental health topic once a month! February’s post was about finding the right therapist for yourself and for this month, I thought I’d chat about panic attacks. More specifically, how to help someone through one.

Panic attacks are relatively new to me. They began back in October and I’ve had some pretty bad ones in not so ideal times. I thought about panic attacks from my husband’s perspective though and how he’s helped and thought that maybe I should share what he’s done because it’s worked.

I am not a professional and these are techniques that have helped me, but find out what those around you who experience them may need.

Tips For Helping Someone Through a Panic Attack

Below are some things that my husband has done for me that have helped pull me through an attack. Sometimes all of them work, sometimes only one.

Below are 5 things you can do to help someone through an attack:

1. Give Them Space

Sometimes when someone is experiencing a panic attack, the best thing to do is step away and give them space. Having an attack can often feel like the world is closing down on the individual. Giving them space may allow them to catch their breath and not feel so closed in. Some people may need the opposite, however. Sometimes human contact and being held is what they need. In my circumstances I don’t like to be touched and prefer space.

2. Make Eye Contact

Making eye contact (even if you’ve stepped a few steps back) can help that person focus on your eyes. Giving them something to focus on may slower their breathing. When this has happened to me, my husband has said my name and told me to look at him. By staring into his eyes I have been able to give my brain something else to focus on instead of the closing in feeling.

While you have their attention, also remind them to inhale deeply and take big breaths to fill their lungs with oxygen. Inhaling deeply combats the hyperventilating and will help them come down from the attack.

3. If Available, Provide Water

Having water to sip on will again give the person something else to focus on. Small, short sips can bring them down and help with the longer breaths. If they don’t want any, also don’t force it.

4. Let Them Experience the Full Attack

It’s important to let the person experience the full attack. Which sounds counter productive but trying to stop them may make it worse. I know from experience that when I begin to have these attacks I need to experience the full effects. Otherwise it begins all over again shortly after. Riding it out with them is the best way to finish it.

Ask them what they need from you. If they can’t respond, stay with them and be empathetic. Allow them to finish their attack and offer any help afterwards.

5. Allow Them to Come Back Down

Having a panic attack quite simply drains you. You feel extremely heavy and both mentally and physically exhausted. Give the person a few minutes to catch their breath and reconnect with their surroundings.

Sometimes it can be a quick turnaround and other times it can take longer depending on how bad the attack was. Let them tell you when they’re ready to move.

What Not to Do

Don’t tell them to calm down or that it’ll be over soon, and don’t act like it’s an inconvenience to you. This won’t help the situation but only make it worse.

Above anything, offer support and ask what you can do for them if and when this happens.

I’m super lucky that my husband has been with me when I’ve had these or has come to check on me when he isn’t. I’ve personally never helped anyone through this experience and don’t think I would know what to do if I came into the situation. I hope this post gives some clarity on what you can offer someone if they need you during a panic attack.

Have you ever helped someone through a panic attack? If so, what was your experience like?

36 Comments

  • Alicia Harding

    This post is super honest and helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    I loved the points on giving someone space and allowing them to see the panic attack out. Something I’ve had done to me previously is people overwhelming me with “you’re okay” and it just makes it worse.

    Love honest and personal posts! xx

    • Alexandra

      Thank you for the kind words, means so much! I think it’s important to bring awareness on how t help someone through these things! I’m super lucky in the sense that my husband has done everything I’ve needed, but I thought what if that wasn’t the case? What if people actually don’t know how to help someone. Thank you for reading <3

  • Caroline

    Super helpful tips! I hate it when someone tells me to calm down – as if I have that choice?! And they are so exhausting – they knock me out for a good few days :/ xx

    • Alexandra

      Thank you so much for the comment and for reading! Coming down from one has taken a toll on me too sometimes. They literally drain life right out of you. Sending you love! <3

  • Erica @ Blog Life With Erica

    This is such a great post and great tips. The worst thing is to be going through a difficult time and have someone to tell you that you are overreacting, or to calm down. It’s a real trigger and reminder that people do not understand how you feel.

    It’s so important to not make others feel like you are belittling their feelings. The goal is to validate others.

    xo Erica

    • Alexandra

      Thanks for the words and for reading, Erica! I’m fortunate to not have had those negative experiences but have heard of some stories and cannot begin to think that those situations felt good. I think talking about this stuff helps to bring awareness to peoples needs and feelings!

  • Daniela

    This is so helpful! Especially for those who live with someone that suffers from anxiety, or someone who’s dating an anxious person. Thank you so much for spreading awareness of mental health.

  • Ang

    I never would have thought of trying to make eye contact. That makes sense, though. Giving them something to focus on is a great idea, and eye contact probably builds their trust in you as well.

    • Alexandra

      That’s exactly why I thought about writing this post! I would never have assumed that helped either until experiencing these for myself. Eye contact really works for me and helps me stay grounded. Thank you so much for reading and for the comment <3

  • Shyla

    As someone who has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks this post is so helpful and I would share it with so many people to help them understand better. It is such a difficult feeling and in that moment it is the worst experience and no one knows how to help. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Alexandra

      Thank you so much for those words, Shyla, that means so much. I would have never known how to handle this situation if I were on the other end of it so I thought it might be important to share. Everyone is different and may need different things but even if this helps one person have a conversation with someone asking how they’d like to be helped then that’s the most important. Thank you for reading! <3

    • Alexandra

      Thanks for reading! I know everyone is different and may need something other than what I mentioned but I figured it’s a start for someone who may not know what to do at all!

  • Simply Alex Jean

    This is a beautiful post, and thank you for sharing your experiences. My fiancé lives with panic attacks from time to time and your advice is sound, at first I tried to solve the attack as opposed to helping him through it and letting it run its course which I learned through trial and error. I hope your post helps others and this is a great topic and great advice!

    • Alexandra

      Thank you so much for that comment, that means so much. It’s almost a guessing game for the person on the other end of it to see what helps! That’s amazing you were able to see what works for your fiancĂ© to offer him that support. Thank you for reading! <3

    • Alexandra

      It’s tough to understand something, especially if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Just trying to shed some light for what someone can do if they’re ever in this situation!

    • Alexandra

      Thank you so much! I thought it would be good to let people know what they can do to help! I would have never known what to do if this happened to me and I was with someone experiencing an attack.

  • Emma

    A really important post. I think a lot of people don’t know how to manage a panic attack situation. I’d also add to not leave them alone. Assure them that you will stay with them. And talking in a calm and quiet manner. Introducing yourself too if they don’t know you is also important. Such a great post!

  • Cristina Rosano

    These were all helpful tips! I have both my dad and sister that had them in the past and sometimes you never know what’s best to do until you are in the situation! Thank you for sharing these, they will be very useful x

  • Jenny

    Great post with some really terrific tips! Unfortunately, in our current situation, panic attacks may be more common with family and friends. These suggestions can be life changing to someone in need. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *