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Helping Someone During a Panic Attack

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If someone you know has a panic attack, he or she may become very anxious and not think clearly. You can help the person by doing the following:

  • Stay with the person and keep calm.
  • Offer medicine if the person usually takes it during an attack.
  • Move the person to a quiet place.
  • Don't make assumptions about what the person needs. Ask.
  • Speak to the person in short, simple sentences.
  • Be predictable. Avoid surprises.
  • Help the person focus by asking him or her to repeat a simple, physically tiring task such as raising his or her arms over the head.
  • Help slow the person's breathing by breathing with him or her or by counting slowly to 10.

It is helpful when the person is experiencing a panic attack to say things such as:

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Understanding Panic Attack -- the Basics

Panic attacks are unmistakable. You're involved in some ordinary aspect of life when suddenly your heart begins to pound and you hyperventilate, sweat, and tremble. You fear you are having a heart attack, going crazy, or even dying. Then, 10 minutes or so later, it's gone. What just happened? You have had a panic attack.  Panic attacks are fairly common, usually beginning between ages 15 and 25. If you have recurrent panic attacks, a persistent fear of subsequent attacks occurring, or if you...

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  • "You can get through this."
  • "I am proud of you. Good job."
  • "Tell me what you need now."
  • "Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present."
  • "It's not the place that is bothering you; it's the thought."
  • "What you are feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous."

By following these simple guidelines, you can:

  • Reduce the amount of stress in this very stressful situation.
  • Prevent the situation from getting worse.
  • Help put some control in a confusing situation.

You can offer ongoing help as the person tries to recover from panic disorder:

  • Allow the person to proceed in therapy at his or her own pace.
  • Be patient and praise all efforts toward recovery, even if the person is not meeting all of the goals.
  • Do not agree to help the person avoid things or situations that cause anxiety.
  • Do not panic when the person panics.
  • Remember that it is all right to be concerned and anxious yourself.
  • Accept the current situation, but know that it will not last forever.
  • Remember to take care of yourself.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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