People with anxiety disorders are intimately familiar with how their symptoms feel. However, if you have never experienced a panic attack you might be confused as to how to help someone with anxiety. You don’t know how to support a person who is in the midst of a panic attack or anxiety attack because it is foreign to you. In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can support someone who has anxiety even if you have never personally experienced it.
Panic attacks and fear
Panic attacks are downright scary. Your mind and body feels that there is a major threat and act accordingly. Panic attacks can make a person feel like they’re dying. Think about it; your heart is racing and you’re convinced that something terrible is going to happen, but you don’t have any evidence that it really is. Sometimes, panic attacks are so severe that they can make a person black out, pass out, or vomit. Some people shake, disassociate, or become unable to speak. As a friend watching their loved one have a debilitating panic attack, you might not know what to do.
Anxiety is scary for friends and family
If you’re watching somebody have a panic attack, you might not quite understand what’s happening to them or why it’s happening to them. However, there are things that you can do to support a friend or loved one who is suffering from anxiety. Different things help different people, so it can be helpful to ask the person directly what you can do to best support them when they are experiencing symptoms. Especially in cases where a sufferer experiences severe panic attacks, it can be scary to watch them endure an attack, but it’s important to remain as calm as you can during this time. Stimulating a person too much when they are in a state of panic is unhelpful. Be gentle and ask what they need.
Anxiety can be scary and disarming
One of the things that people often don’t understand about anxiety is that it is truly frightening. The person who is having anxiety isn’t making it up. They are legitimately scared, whether the perceived threat that is causing them fear or panic is “real” or not. Since they are in a state of fear, it can be difficult for them to function properly. They want to be able to communicate what’s happening to them, but it might be difficult for them to talk. As I mentioned earlier, there are people that have experience nonverbal panic attacks, which are extremely scary. When this happens, you don’t have control over your ability to speak and become unable to do so. As a loved one watching, it can be hard to know what to do. There are things that you can do to help somebody in the midst of a panic attack even if they can’t talk. What are they?
What to do when someone is having a panic attack
Although everyone with an anxiety disorder is different, I know a few tips that can help you navigate what to do when you see a loved one experiencing a panic attack. If the person is unable to speak, for example, one thing that you can try is asking yes or no questions. This is an easier way to find out what they need rather attempting to get them to respond with an elaborate answer. Ask them something that has a definitive “yes” or “no” answer and if they agree, they will likely be able to nod. If they do not agree, they will be able to shake their head. When a person is in the midst of a panic attack, it’s extremely difficult to think straight, so the more simple you can make things for them, the better.
Break it down
If a person is having a panic attack or experiencing any other symptoms of anxiety, it’s important to remember how overwhelming these feelings can be. Breaking things down into smaller steps is one way that you can help a friend with They are overwhelmed and they do not know what to do first. The first thing that you do is help them figure out what they need to accomplish to get them to a better place. Chances are that they’re thinking about too many things at once. Their thoughts are racing. So, breaking down the problem into tiny steps is something that you can help them do. One way to do that might be writing things down.
Something that can be extremely helpful is writing out your feelings. If you can’t seem to figure out how to help a friend or loved one when they’re feeling anxious, you can suggest that they write down their feelings so that they can articulate what those emotions are. Once they are able to see them on paper, they’ll be able to figure out what they’re feeling and how they can cope with those emotions. Sometimes with anxiety, there so many different emotions and thoughts going on at one time in a person’s mind that they become confused. Seeing how they feel in a tangible way is a great method of expression.
Leading a friend to therapy
As much as you want to help your friend, the reality is that you are not their therapist. It’s extremely important to support a loved one in seeking mental health treatment when their anxiety is unmanageable. Even if it is at a functional level, you’re not their mental health professional. One of the best treatments for anxiety is going to therapy, which could be compliant with medication. Whether your friend or loved one is working with a therapist online or in a private practice, it’s extremely important that they seek help for panic or anxiety. Doing so will only make them feel better and live a happy life.
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