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Supporting a friend who has panic attacks

Tips on how to help a friend and yourself deal with panic attacks


Written by Jenny Downing and posted in opinion


This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact editor@spunout.ie.


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Jenny gets panic attacks and has put together a few tips for SpunOut on how to help a friend deal with them.

Panic attacks can be triggered by many different things and everyone panics for different reasons. They might feel stressed out, or frightened of something. If you have a friend who gets panic attacks, or know of anyone who gets them or if you are ever in a situation and someone has a panic attack, here are some tips on what to do and how to react:

  1. Stay calm! If you get worked up and start to panic youself, it will make whoever is panicking feel a lot worse and won’t really help the situation.
  2. Take them outside. Fresh air can really help someone who is panicking.
  3. Tell them that they really aren’t any bother to you. I know from experience that when you’re having an attack, you feel as if everyone thinks you’re strange or just looking for attention.
  4. Help them to breathe slowly. When someone is having a panic attack they will being to hyperventilate, help them to catch their breath again by reminding them to breath  in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
  5. Get them a glass of water. This will distract them  from whatever is causing their attack by making them concentrate on holding the glass.
  6. If they keep panicking for a few minutes and whatever you’ve tried is not working, tell them a really boring story. It may sound weird but it helps! It’ll take their mind off panicking and calm them down.
  7. Most importantly, don’t touch them or hug them as best as you can. I know from experience, that when someone is panicking they feel claustraphobic and smothered. So it would be best to let them have space and remind them of how much space they actually have surrounding them.

My tips on how to calm yourself during a panic attack:

Coming from someone who gets panic attacks every so often, I have learned how to control myself during one and I have developed some ways to help myself whilst panicking, and I would like to share them with you.

  1. Whatever situation that you’re in which is making you feel anxious, get out of there! Stepping outside really helps because I find that the fresh air calms me. Although if you’re in a place where you can't step outside, go somewhere quiet.
  2. Look around you; tell yourself that you have space and don't nee panic.
  3. Find 5 things you can see, 5 things you can smell, 5 things you can touch, 5 things you taste and 5 things you can hear. This will distact you from whatever is making you panic and it will help reassure yourself.
  4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Making sure you breathe in through your nose and out throuh your mouth, and think of something you find calming. (eg. The beach, your bed, playing with your dog, etc.)
  5. Finally, remind yourself that you’re not alone. Millions of people around the world experience panic attacks daily.
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Published November 30th, 2015
Last updated February 9th, 2016
Tags panic attacks mental health anxiety
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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