Panic attacks occur when an individual has extreme anxiety and they start hyperventilating when they have an anxiety attack. Panic attacks are brief but have an intense rush of fear. They can be caused by either painful memory or any kind of stress or even claustrophobia.
During a panic attack, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated and on the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes dull, and this way the body shifts to “fight or flight” mode in which the blood pressure rises and part of the brain that responsds to fear becomes hyperactive.
However, not many of us are able to identify a panic attack and end up dismissing it as a result of stress. So, the first step is to identify it.
The symptoms of a panic attack are:
- Intense fear
- Sweating or goosebumps
- Difficulty in breathing
- Head and chest pain
- A sense of doom
- Unaware of the surroundings
- Lose control of your body
- Unable to speak
- Fear of dying
- A feeling of unreality
If a friend of yours is facing a panic attack, here are some ways you can help them:
Every individual reacts differently during situations like these, so before you can help them make sure they want your help or take them to a quiet and bigger space where they can sit and not fall which might injure them.
Focus on the breathing:
A panic attack can make your breathing shallow and rapid. It’s important that during that time to decrease that perpetuation of threat and help them focus on their breathing to breathe deeply and slowly. One of the most common ways to control your breathing is to breathe in and breathe out for 4 seconds simultaneously. It’s always better if you do it with them, model it out for them so that they do it rather than think it.
Get them cold water:
A cold glass of water, running cold water on the wrists, or splashing cold water on our faces can be very helpful because cold water usually helps with triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, which can help with calming down. The system switches the body function back from a high alert mode to a restful mode after an emergency.
Distraction is always helpful during panic moments as during that time our brain cannot focus on anything other than one thing at a time. The best option is to keep talking to them without expecting a response from them, this is to get them distracted from the panic.
When to get help?
The most important thing to keep in mind’s when to get help. Seeing panic attacks take place in front of you can get scary and for us, the best option is to contact the nearest hospital but this often ends up making the situation more stressful for the person who is having the panic attack. Just sticking with them throughout and helping them in the small things may not seem a lot but it makes a huge difference with them.
It is necessary to reach out for help in situations when:
- The shortness of breath continues.
- Chest pain feels like squeezing and they start moving their arms and legs around.
- The symptoms start getting worse and don’t improve after 20 mins.
Being in such a situation is definitely sucking out your energy, time and you might feel lost and unwanted, always know being there for one another is one of the best ways to get through it as ‘Friendship that stands the test of time, stands anything’.