It can be difficult witnessing someone you care for suffer from a panic attack. You may feel helpless and unsure of what to do, however there are few small things you can do to help the person experiencing the panic attack.

  • Stay with the person, and sit with them to help them ride it out. Don't panic! Stay calm to show them that everything is going to be okay. Some helpful things you could say might be "You are going to get through this", "Just concentrate on your breathing", "You are doing so well, keep going", "What do you need me to do?", "Everything is going to be okay, I'm not going anywhere".
  • Reassure them and remind them that things are going to be okay, that they are safe and that you are there for them. Speak slowly using simple language.
  • Encourage them to breathe. When we are feeling panicked breathing becomes difficult. Encourage them to take deep breaths and hold this for four seconds before exhaling out for four seconds. If this doesn't work, encourage them to count backwards starting from 100.
  • Don't assume what is best for them. Ask them whether there is something you can to help them or something that has helped them before in the past. Some people find grounding exercises beneficial during a panic attack such as splashing some cold water onto their face or holding something cold like ice or something hot like a mug of tea.
  • Be kind and empathetic. Panic attacks are incredibly scary and telling someone to "calm down" or "just relax" can make things much worse. Even through you may be feeling annoyed or you don't understand, try to maintain your composure and stay calm for the person.

By staying and supporting someone through a panic attack, you are helping to reduce the level of stress and also are helping to prevent it from escalating further. If you would like some more information about panic attacks or some additional support please contact LETSS on 1800 013 755 or start a webchat via www.letss.org.au

(image by Dan Meyers from Unsplash)