Panic attacks occur without warning and have potential to turn severe. Experts suggest few ways as to how to help someone going through a panic attack.
Panic, anxiety, and stress are words that are often used interchangeably but they differ in meaning. It is not all the same. Mental health has now gained the traction it should have got a long time ago. Awareness about mental health, and its importance is growing than before. While this is a good sign, there are still a few terms and concepts that should be cleared out. 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 can be totally unrelated to the gravity of the situation, but it is a feeling when one feels immensely overwhelmed that can lead to physiological repercussions like hyperventilation etc.
So, what should one do when somebody is undergoing a panic attack? It is important to also understand the signs and symptoms of a panic attack to help control the situation, if it arises, better. Here are a few symptoms of panic attack:
- Pounding heart
- Excess sweating
- A sensation of shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing
- Choking sensation ·
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Nausea or abdominal distress
- Feeling of unreality/detachment from self
- Fear of losing control/going crazy/dying
- Chills or hot flushes
What to Do When Someone Has Panic Attack?
It is natural to be not sure how to respond when someone is having a pain attack. But here are some professional-backed tips that may help. India.com spoke to a mental health professional to better understand what one may do when someone has panic attack. According to Dr. Aparna Ramakrishnan, Consultant Psychiatry, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital Mumbai, here are a few things that we can do to help a person having a panic attack:
- Keep calm: Don’t get overwhelmed by seeing the person’s symptoms. If you are calm, it will help the panicked individual know that everything is going to be ok and they can himself calm down.
Name it: “This is a panic attack. It will pass. I am with you” Stay with the person and help them to come out of it. Reassure them that you will not leave and the symptoms will gradually pass. Most panic attacks settle down in 20-30 mins.
- Invite them to sit down somewhere comfortable and quiet, give them space, a glass of water.
- Model deep breathing, box breathing, mindfulness and grounding techniques to the individual and do these calming techniques with them. Use 1 technique at a time. Focus on breathing slowly.
- Distract them by external stimuli
- Engage in light, slow conversation: Enquire about the trigger, stressor (if any) so that you can view the panicked individual’s situation objectively.
- Offer coping statements like “ You can handle this” OR “ This will pass” . Offer support and comfort to the individual.
- Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional for the symptoms.
Dr. Ramakrishnan further added that one should refrain from statements like – “ It’s not that bad” OR “ You are over reacting” OR “ You just want attention” OR “ You have nothing. Seeking professional advise is paramount.
Mental health matters and it is important o have candid conversations around it too.