How to Help Someone Through a Panic Attack

Panic Attack Support

worried woman with head in her hands
Helping a loved one through a panic attack.. Tom Merton/OJO Images/Getty Images

Panic attacks begin with feelings of fear, dread, and apprehension. These attacks typically progress into uncomfortable physical sensations, disturbing thoughts, and upsetting emotions. Symptoms such as heart palpitations, excessive sweating, chest pain, and shortness of breath are common. The panic attack sufferer may become afraid of these symptoms, fearing that she is going to go insane or even die from the attack.


Do you have a loved one that suffers from these attacks? Have you tried to help them through it, but have found that you were of little to no help? Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to keep yourself calm and put the panic sufferer at ease. Read ahead to learn about ways in which you can help your loved one get through a panic attack.

Understand What Your Loved One is Going Through

You may also feel helpless, frightened, and even a little anxious yourself when your loved one is having a panic attack. One of the best ways to combat fear is through knowledge and understanding. Information can be found through your loved one’s therapist or doctor’s office or through reliable books and websites.

These articles can get you started on learning more about panic attacks:

It can be reassuring to be aware that panic attacks are not known to cause serious bodily harm or death.

Rather, the symptoms typically reach a peak within 10 minutes before gradually subsiding. Your loved one may feel keyed up or anxious for the remainder of the day, but not nearly as nervous as when the attack occurred. Keep in mind that your loved ones fears and concerns should never be ignored. If he is afraid that he is experiencing a medical emergency, do not hesitate to seek help right away.

Speak Supportively

At times, your gut reaction may be to try to snap your loved one out her panic attack by saying phrases like “You’re just overreacting” or “Please won’t you calm down?” Such words will only hurt your loved one and potentially heighten his panic-related symptoms.

One of the best things you can do when your loved one is going through an attack is to use supportive statements. Quietly and slowly say things such as “I am here for you” or “This will pass soon.” Even if you feel uncertain as to what to say, it can be helpful if you stay with him until the symptoms subside.

Find Out How You Can Help

Try not to presume what the other person needs. Instead ask what would be helpful for her in that moment. Panic attacks can vary in intensity and symptoms, so at times your loved one may be best helped by having you stay close by and talk her through it while at other times he may just need a little air and a quiet place to sit. Asking for what he needs can also bring you to clearer focus and helping you gain a sense of control during a challenging situation.

Distract the Person

Getting your loved one to focus on something else can be a good way to help her feel calmer as the symptoms run their course. Talk to him about other things that don’t have a lot of emotional gravity to them, such as the weather or what you plan on dong later. She may have relaxation techniques that already help for her and perhaps you can assist with guiding her through these. For example, lead her through a deep breathing exercise, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), or even just a few simple stretches to allow her to center and relax. 

Show Your Interest and Care

You may use empathetic body language such as reaching out to hold his hand or place your hand on his shoulder, but just ask first to make sure that he is comfortable with touch. Use physical cues, such as nodding, to let him know you are listening. Try not to ever leave a loved one who is having a panic attack. If you can, stay with him until the panic settles down. Once the panic attack is over, ask him what it was like and if there is anything you can do to better assist him in the future. Just knowing that you are empathetic and aware of his needs may help lessen his fears and anxiety during his panic attacks. 

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