A panic attack is a feeling of intense anxiety that causes physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. They can be triggered by an event or a phobia, e.g. being in a small space (claustrophobia).
When people experience a panic attack, it can feel like a heart attack or like they’re going to die, yet these feelings are only a result of the physical symptoms and will pass. Some people find that they may want to try and move to a quieter area so you become less aware of the people around you. Here are some tips on that I use to cope during a panic attack:
Deep breathing: You could try taking slow, deep breaths to slow your heart and breathing rate down. You may want to slowly inhale while counting from one to five, and then slowly exhale, counting from one to five and you may also find it helpful to close your eyes to try and forget about what/who is around you and to focus solely on your breathing.
Grounding: You may want to focus on physical sensations and touch the floor you’re sat on, or dig your feet into the dirt to feel the texture. Some people like to focus on an object in the distance, to stare at it and think solely of the object’s movements, shape and size to move your focus elsewhere until the symptoms pass.
Think of a calming, happy place: You could try closing your eyes and thinking of your happy place, somewhere that is calm and relaxing. For example, you could think of a sunny beach with a calm sea until the symptoms pass.
How to help a friend through a panic attack
If you’re with a friend and they begin to have a panic attack, or if you notice a stranger that is in distress due to a panic attack, then you may find the following helpful:
Encourage them to move elsewhere: You may want to offer to help them move to somewhere more private, e.g. if you’re in a busy shopping centre, you may want to offer to take your friend outside or to an area where there are less people.
Remind them that this will pass: Your friend may feel like ‘they’re going to die’ due to the physical symptoms of a panic attack, you may want to remind them that they’re going to be alright and that these feelings will pass.
Be there for them: You may want to let your friend know that you are there for them if they need assistance, yet you may want to talk to them in short sentences, or ask questions that involve a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer because they may find it difficult to focus on your voice during a panic attack.
I hope you found these tips helpful and please see a doctor if you experience panic attacks or any other mental or physical health issue that needs treatment. These aren't medical recommendations, but they have helped me so they may be of use to you.
Take care, Sophie x
As always, please bear in mind that I am not a mental health professional or any other type of professional, this is a hobby for me and is for informational purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as any kind of advice. I am not liable for any consequences as a result of this information and if readers rely on any of the information on my blog, it is at their own risk. I cannot confirm that all information is correct, accurate or reliable. The information is true to the best of my knowledge, yet there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. This information isn’t intended as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have, or believe to have, a mental illness, please contact a mental health professional.
Note: This picture belongs to Wix.