How to Help Someone Experiencing a Panic AttackA panic attack is a sudden bout of extreme anxiety. Someone experiencing a panic attack might feel severe physical symptoms, such as hyperventilation and palpitations ( a feeling of abnormal or fast heart rate), as well as being distressed.

Panic attacks can occur for nor obvious cause or in situations that are not normally stressful.  If someone is very anxious, check for a history of panic attacks, and ask if he/she has any intense fear, such as a terror of spiders or of being in a crowd.

What to look out for:

  • Hyperventilation (over-breathing)
  • Muscular tension, producing headache, backache, and a feeling of pressure in the chest
  • Extreme apprehension and fear of dying
  • Trembling, sweating, and dry mouth
  • High pulse rate and sometime palpitations

Your aims:

  • To remove any obvious cause of panic
  • To help the person regain control

How you can help:

  • Try to find out and remove the cause of the fear
  • Take the person to a quiet area
  • Reassure them and explain that they are having a panic attack, if they don’t already know
  • Encourage them to breathe more slowly
  • If the person is hyperventilating, encourage them to breathe into a paper bag to help control the symptoms

What to do if you are having a panic attack:

  • If you are in a situation that causes you fear, ask someone to help you remove the cause of the fear
  • Find a quiet space where you can sit until the attack passes
  • Try to clear your mind, some people find that thinking about stressful subjects can trigger panic attacks.
  • Focus on your breathing, and slowing it down
  • Reassure yourself that the panic attack will pass
  • Some people find that thinking of something that makes them happy, a memory or something they are looking forward to can help ease the panic attack
  • If you recognise that there is a particular stressful subject that does trigger your panic attacks, try addressing that issue – talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, teacher or colleague.

If you experience panic attacks regularly, it may be best to see your GP who will be able to recommend further solutions.