How to Offer Panic Attack Assistance

Often times panic attacks are unprecipitated events and do not discriminate when they hit. It’s crucial for a panic attack sufferer to know how to handle a panic attack, and equally important for those around them to offer support.

The first step is understanding the complexities of panic attacks. The panic attack onset is usually sudden and seemingly without reason. The sufferer often feels an overwhelming surge of fear and anxiety. During the attack palpitations, chest pain, hyperventilation and profuse sweating are the most apparent symptoms. The person stricken may also have other symptoms like an upset stomach, trembling, muscle tension, dizziness or lightheadedness. Tingling of the face and hands, extreme fear of dying, the feeling of going crazy and a feeling of detachment are also common.

If a person is experiencing their first panic attack the best thing to do is call for emergency medical help. Pay special attention to the symptoms. This person could be experiencing symptoms that will trigger another medical issue. For instance, an asthma patient who hyperventilates during a panic attack may bring on an asthma exacerbation. On the flip side of the coin, a person suffering from heart palpitations, chest pain and sweating may not be having an anxiety attack and could actually be in the middle of a heart attack. Talk to the person with symptoms to help determine if there are underlying medical conditions.

While you are waiting for emergency medical help try to find the cause of the symptoms. If this is indeed a panic attack, locate the source for panic and remove it. Making assumptions about what started the panic attack isn’t always the best answer. The patient often knows what brought on the attack and might have medications to fight it off. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Be deliberate and slow with your movements. You don’t want to startle a patient completely submerged in a world of panic. Restraining the patient is not necessary. If you are calm, the patient will calm. Reassurance is key; never tell the patient the symptoms are just in their head or brush off their anxiety reaction with complete disregard. This fear is all too real for them. Dismissal of their physical and psychological symptoms is not helpful and might make things worse.

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Controlled breathing is a good exercise. Breathing heavily and hyperventilation are common symptoms of panic attacks. Offer the patient deep breathing techniques, and do them in unison with the patient. Have the patient practice breathing in for three counts, holding their breath for three counts and then exhaling for three counts. Often times the patient is allowed to get their mind off the panic attack and fear while concentrating on breathing techniques. Breathing into a paper bag helps as well.

If the patient is having trouble breathing, stay close. Don’t abandon a patient suffering from a panic attack. Be patient and wait for help. Granted, they might not appreciate your presence immediately and might even be rude, but when they are back to normal they will be glad you were there.

Panic attacks are terrifying for the sufferer and a bit jostling for the bystander. Keep calm and reassure the patient repeatedly with comfort statements and that help is on the way. Ultimately, this frightening experience will only last up to 10 minutes, but knowing how to handle panic attack situations appropriately is of utmost importance.

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About Jennifer Johnson

I suffered with social anxiety and stress for years. I discovered what my triggers were and learned to control them. Hopefully some of the natural anxiety relief techniques I have tried, will also be your solution.

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