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How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack? 5 Symptoms to Identify it

Panic attacks occur without warning and have the potential to become severe. Experts suggest some ways on how to help someone who is having a panic attack.

Panic, anxiety, and stress are words that are often used interchangeably but differ in meaning. It’s not all the same. Mental health has now gained the traction it should have had long ago. Awareness about mental health and its importance is growing more than before. While this is a good sign, there are still some terms and concepts that need to be clarified. Panic attack is one of them. What is a panic attack? It is a sudden feeling of immense terror, fear that comes without warning. It may be totally oblivious to the severity of the situation, but it is a feeling when one feels immensely overwhelmed that can have physiological repercussions like hyperventilation etc.

So what should be done when someone is having a panic attack? It is important to also understand the signs and symptoms of a panic attack to help better control the situation, if it occurs. Here are some symptoms of a panic attack:

  • palpitations
  • the beating heart
  • excessive sweating
  • Shaking
  • Feeling short of breath, shortness of breath
  • hyperventilation
  • Choking sensation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal discomfort
  • Instability
  • Feeling of unreality/detachment from self
  • Fear of losing control/going crazy/dying
  • Chills or hot flashes
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What to do when someone has a panic attack?

It’s natural to be unsure how to respond when someone is having a pain attack. But here are some professional-backed tips that can help. India.com spoke with a mental health professional to better understand what one can do when someone is having a panic attack. According to Dr Aparna Ramakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatry, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai, here are some things we can do to help a person experiencing a panic attack:

  1. Keep calm: Don’t be overwhelmed by the person’s symptoms. Being calm will help the panicked person know that everything is going to be okay and that they can calm down.
    Name it: “This is a panic attack. It will happen. I am with you.” Stay with the person and help them out of it. Assure them that it will not go away and that the symptoms will gradually pass. Most panic attacks subside in 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. invite them to sit downsomewhere comfortable and quiet, give them space, a glass of water.
  3. deep breathing model, box breathing, mindfulness and grounding techniques for the individual and do these calming techniques with him. Use 1 technique at a time. Focus on breathing slowly.
  4. distract them by external stimuli
  5. Engage in light, slow conversation: Inquire about the trigger, the stressor (if any) so that you can objectively see the situation of the individual in panic.
  6. Offers coping statements like “You can handle this” OR “This shall pass.” Offer support and comfort to the person.
  7. encourage themSeek help from a mental health professional for the symptoms.
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Dr. Ramakrishnan further added that one should refrain from statements like: “It’s not that bad” OR “You’re overreacting” OR “You just want attention” OR “You don’t have anything”. Seeking professional advice is paramount.

Mental health is important, and it’s also important to have honest conversations about it.

Published Date: May 30, 2023 11:42 AM IST




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