How to Help a Friend or Family Member through a Panic Attack

At the Grief Recovery Center, our professional staffs are trained and equipped to provide therapeutic strategies to our clients, as well as their family and friends. When an individual is overcoming a mental health challenge, they are more likely to succeed with the support and understanding of their family and friends.

A person with an anxiety disorder can often experience anxiety or panic attacks that can debilitate them from living a healthy and regular life. If you want to be a helpful support network for someone living with anxieties, it is essential to know what you can expect to give your loved one the best support they need. Here are some Grief Recovery Center tips on how to help someone through their panic attacks:

Things You Should Do to Help a Friend or Family Member through a Panic Attack

The experience of a panic attack can be terrifying. There is an intense physical and emotional reaction to a perceived threat or fear that that makes the anxious person very distressed. As a friend or family member witnessing a panic attack, there are a few things that you can and should do to help them alleviate the attack. Our Grief Recovery Center therapists suggest that you:

Remain calm

While it may be easy to let the client’s reaction to their panic attack get the better of you and overrun your composure, it is essential to stay calm. Being affected and worried by your friend or family’s frantic needs will only make matters worse and won’t calm them down. Your reaction to a particular situation can mitigate an otherwise distressful situation for your friend or family member with the panic attack. The ability to choose to stay calm despite a specific fear or anxiety is the best strategy for overcoming a panic attack.

Don’t abandon them

One of the best things you can do for a friend having a panic attack is to be present for them. Help them relax and stick around until the attack passes over; most panic attacks last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Our counselors at the Grief Recovery Center suggest that the most important thing to do is be there to support them. Anxiety and panic attacks can cause isolation and loneliness in individuals suffering from them. A hug, an ear to listen, and some reassuring words are probably the most compassionate support you can provide for a friend suffering from panic attacks.

Distract them by helping them be present

One of the strategies we use at the Grief Recovery Center is by distraction a client while they are experiencing a panic attack. You can do the same with your friend or family member who has panic attacks as well. Ask them to describe certain things around them or things that they did, i.e., what they had for lunch, what they see in the park they’re in or name some things that they smell. Panic attacks are very physical by nature; it speeds up the heart, feels breathless, and feel dizzy. By having an individual going through a panic attack engage in their senses, they will be better able to ground themselves back into reality instead of letting their anxieties overcome them.

Be encouraging and ask questions

Asking questions short and simple questions can also calm a panic attack that is in full swing. According to our experts at the Grief Recovery Center, it is very helpful to ask the individual having the panic attack the following questions to help them think more rationally:

  • How many times have you had panic attacks like this?
  • What do you think will happen?

The questions you ask should be brief, and they should only validate and encourage positive statements that the individual makes. Be reassuring and help the person realize that the feeling will come to pass. The way they feel is a part of the panic. It will not kill them or hurt them physically.

Encourage them to seek help

If your friend or family member isn’t already seeing a professional at our Grief Recovery Center or any other treatment centers for their panic attacks, it is essential to encourage them to seek help. You can either help them find a licensed professional or search dependable and reputable resources online to search for support.

Recommend other resources

There are many resources online and offline. There are many self-help books if the panic attacks are severe and they do not interfere with reasonable quality of life. If you are very close to someone that has panic attacks, it is beneficial to understand them so that you may provide the best support to them.

Be patient and accepting

Remember that being patient, open, and accepting is the best support you can provide for a friend or family member that is suffering from panic attacks. The Grief Recovery Center is equipped to offer and cater services to specific needs to help our clients overcome their anxieties and panic attacks.

Things You Shouldn’t Do to Help a Friend or Family Member through a Panic Attack

Don’t minimize the situation

The last thing you want to do while a friend and family member is going through a panic attack is to say that their attack is unreasonable or their panic is unreal. At our Grief Recovery Center, we always aim to validate the actual emotions behind the fear. The feelings may not be rational to you or anyone else, but for the individual with the anxieties, the panic attack is genuine.

Don’t give them timelines or have expectations

Being critical or judgemental to a person with panic attacks can only make things harder. They may feel like no one understands them which can cause them to isolate themselves more. Giving your friend or family member a timeline to abide by to overcome their worries and anxieties can also be detrimental to their overall recovery journey.

What can you do to help?

The best thing you can do as a supportive friend or family member to a person suffering from panic attacks is to help them seek professional help. If you know someone is having trouble in this area, you can contact us at the Grief Recovery Center for more info today.