Experiencing a loved one having a panic attack for the first time can be scary, but know that it is much more frightening for them than for you. While specific symptoms may vary, it is essential to familiarize and prepare yourself for any possibilities to be able to best help your loved one.
Keep Your Voice Soft and Make Your Presence Known
Remember that just because you are in the room with a person doesn’t mean that they have registered and internalized your presence. Keep your voice soft and calm, and your words direct and articulate.
Only begin asking questions after you have confirmed that the panicked individual has acknowledged your presence. This can be subtle, as it is possible that the person could be shaking, or frantically looking around the room.
Be looking for a small nod or a brief second of eye contact to try to confirm this. When they have acknowledged you, continue to keep your words and sentences short and to the point, minimizing any possible “um’s” or other verbal ticks.
Keep Your Language Positive and Concise
An individual in panic may be experiencing a different, antagonistic reality. This alternate reality is filled with fear, so avoid language that could be misinterpreted.
Also, avoid speaking too loudly, which runs the risk of further startling the individual. With all the different stimuli the panicked individual is experiencing, it can be difficult to determine which words the individual may latch on to. Use consistent, positive language for the best chance of making a positive impact.
While this helps to keep yourself calm while trying to assist a loved one, it also helps to establish a consistent rhythm. Take deep, audible breaths with the intent of the panicked person hearing you, and invite them to match your breathing.
Not only can this help to ease their heart rate or shaking, but it also establishes a constant, predictable pattern that can ground them. Slowly counting to 10 or humming a familiar song that you both know can also achieve this goal.
Keep Still and Obvious
Moving around too much, even if to accomplish trivial tasks, invites further confusion for a panicked individual. Keep still and remain in their field of vision as to not accidentally startle them.
Do not make assumptions on things you may think the person may want. Wait to get up and move around until asked to do so. This mitigates any confusion during a panic, while also allowing the panicked person to exercise agency in a dire situation.
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We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.