How To Help Someone During A Panic Attack

Your friend is breathing heavily, shaking and their forehead is covered in sweat, what do you do? Firstly, you must recognise they may be having a panic attack. Panic attacks are commonly caused by anxiety which can occur in people suffering from a variety of mental illnesses, as well as people who don’t. To help your friend you must recognise the symptoms and take appropriate action.

What Are Panic Attacks? What Are The Symptoms?
A panic attack is a sudden bout of extreme anxiety, displayed by several psychological and physical symptoms. They are sudden and can often appear for no reason. They will generally last for 5 to 20 minutes and you will feel unwell, in danger, and possibly believe you may die (even though you cannot die from panic attacks). The physical symptoms include:
– Heavy breathing
– Sweating
– Trembling/Shaking
– Chest pains
– Headaches
– Feeling sick
– High pulse or palpitations
– Tense muscles

Panic attacks, can you spot them?

Panic attacks, can you spot them?

Not all of these symptoms may occur, often only 2 or 3 three symptoms will be present. The symptoms are caused by the body responding to what you think is a threat. Your body takes in more oxygen (shown by heavy breathing) and releases hormones such as adrenaline (causing the faster pulse and tense muscles).

What Should I Do?
If there is a cause of the panic attack, try to remove it. For example, if you know the panic attack was caused by a phobia, get them away from the fear. Getting them to a quieter area will help in most cases.

You must then try to slow down the breathing so that the carbon dioxide levels in the blood will return to normal. Breathing in deeply through the nose, and slowly back out the mouth can help. If hyperventilation occurs, breathe into a bag for 20 seconds, then without a bag for 20 seconds, and repeat until the breathing becomes more regular.

Controlling breathing will usually cause the other symptoms to go away.

Should I See A Doctor?
In a majority of cases, medical advice is not required. You should seek medical advice if:
– The panic attack continues after 20 minutes of attempting to control breathing
– The fast or irregular heartbeat remains after the panic attack ends
– You feel unwell after the panic attack ends
– You have regular panic attacks

Panic attacks will seem scary, but you should not worry about them. Most people will suffer at least one panic attack in their life, and they are not dangerous to your health. If you are concerned you should speak to a health professional, but remember the advice in this post and you should be fine.


23 thoughts on “How To Help Someone During A Panic Attack

  1. for being so young, you have a wealth of knowledge. you also do a great of presenting it. good job.

    I gotta say, my one panic attack actually had extremely shallow breathing instead of heavy breathing. it happened at a non-descript therapy session, just dealing with normal run of the day sort of stuff. wierd.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for this. I’m a fairly chilled out person, but I do tend to get panicky when doing the weekly food shop. The number of times I’ve just had to leave the shop if I haven’t made a proper list before hand is verging on the ridiculous. I guess it occurs ine as that’s sonething important I need to do, but it’s not something I actively worry about, I just tend to get flustered and then feel like I just need to get the hell out of there.


  3. Lonely Little Acorn says:

    Thank you for this post, it’s very useful for panic attack sufferers to show their friends and families as its often hard to explain what you need in the midst of a panic attack.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have panic attacks so often and they’re the scariest thing in the world. I’m agoraphobic and so they can come on because of the weirdest things – Like sitting in a public place with the door shut so I feel locked in. Great advice. Even though I know you can’t die from it, you still feel as though you’re going to. Every. Single. Time.


    • One of my cats gets scared when I close my bedroom door… I’m not calling you a cat… and I wont lock you in my bedroom… wow, ok, I shouldn’t have said that…
      I normally only get them when talking to random people about my depression, but I once had a bad one when I was running a 5k race, I thought I was about to have a heart attack!


  5. I have an anxiety disorder. I get anxiety attacks on a regular basis, at my worse I was having them 30+ times a day. I have an abuse background, but I don’t have any triggers, most people who get anxiety or panic attacks have a trigger, and I don’t. My therapist actually had me go and have labs done, and a scan of my brain. I’m totally healthy and I’ve gotten my anxiety attacks, mostly under control, but I have been living with them for so long, and have had so many in my life, that when I start to have an anxiety attack, no one knows. You can’t tell by looking at me that I’m having an attack. But I really like your post, it would be nice if more people knew what to do when that situation arises.


  6. What would you call what I get? I finally left my abusive husband after 22 years and it took me another 2 years to divorce him. I regularly get these overwhelming feelings of such acute anxiety and fear that I have forever fucked up my life and the lives of my sons by destroying our family that I can barely breathe and want to die. I have to breathe. And breathe and cry.


    • indigo stones,

      i feel sorrow for your situation. no one deserves to be put in such a position. you are worthy of a great life.

      i’m not a doctor and i’ve never played one on tv, but i would say there are a few things going on.

      first you struggle with anxiety. anxiety is a fear that has run amuck and become debilitating. the fear and anxiety becomes a contributor it keeping people frozen. i’m sure you’ve heard the saying frozen in fear, that’s kinda anxiety.

      when anxiety hangs around long enough, living in a constant and hightened state, the body begins to say, i’ve had enough. depression is one way for the body to say i’ve had enough. when that happens, a constant state of blue sets up shop.

      as depression continues to hang around, hope begins to leave. seeing a vacancy, despair comes in and takes up residence. when that happens, alll hope seems lost and any way out of the ondition seems to disappear.

      indigo stones, where you find yourself, drugs may help and therapy may help. a more important task will be finding friends that can support you through the process. another key to you getting better lays in finding a a way to believe in yourself, again. i understand that after being beat down for 22 years, that seems like an impossible task. i have hope that belief in yourself resides within you. and that belief, when nurtured and grown will serve as great battalions in your battle.

      let me know, or anyone for that matter, how they can help you with this journey.

      Liked by 1 person

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