27 Ways to Be Helpful During a Loved One's Panic Attack
Witnessing someone you love having a panic attack can be scary — especially if you don’t know what to do. So we asked our Mighty community to tell us what others can do to be helpful while they’re having a panic attack.
Our conclusion? Everyone is different. If you have a loved one who experiences panic attacks, ask him or her what you can do to help. Or, if you’re someone who experiences panic attacks, don’t be ashamed to tell those around you what you need. If you develop a game plan with someone you trust, it can make coping with panic attacks that much easier. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Here are some examples from our community:
1. “Honestly, once I get to the panic attack point there’s not a whole lot they can do — my boyfriend will often rub my back and just wait it out with me, or talk it out if I’m able. Just being there is enough. The worst thing someone can do panic because I’m panicking.” — Sheyna Rae Webster
2. “Get me to a quiet room where I can just be alone for a moment. My panic attacks normally happen because there’s too much noise or too many people. So getting away is the best.” — Amber Yats
3. “Talk to me to help keep me grounded. Once I’m lost in my thoughts it’s harder to get out of the panic attack.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy
4. “Get me a bag of ice or something frozen, whether we’re at home or at the grocery store. Honestly, I would get panic attacks while grocery shopping and a bag of frozen peas would get me through the panic attack so I could continue.” — Jenna Renee Gillit
5. “Sometimes I need to move away from a situation. It’s nice to have someone come with me.” — Jess Lynn
6. “Different people have different triggers and different grounding methods that work for them. When I’m in the midst of a panic attack, I can’t stand to be touched and I usually can’t talk. I definitely don’t want anyone to make light of the situation and if someone were to joke with me, it would make it worse. Ask me if I want help. If I shake my head no, respect my space while I wait for it to pass.” — Sarah Work
7. “Help me to let time pass and let the panic attack run its course. Possibly, assist me in getting to a ‘safe’ spot.” — Kevin Joseph
8. “Don’t undermine my panic. Don’t yell at me. Acknowledge it. Understand. Have empathy.” — Ivonne Macewen
9. “Don’t ignore me because it’s uncomfortable — remind me I’m safe and that I’m going to be OK.” — Amy Griffin
10. “Listen. Sounds so simple, but can be difficult to do. Sometimes I need to just let the ramblings all out, sometimes I need to be distracted with a task like walking, cleaning, organizing, etc. It helps when those around me ask how they can help and actually listen.” — Kira Schoultz
11. “Don’t bring more attention to me! The more people who see the panic in my eyes, the more I panic. I just need space, room to breathe and understanding.” — Kelli Salter
12. “Distract me — talk about beautiful things.” — Rosenberg Rosa Perez
13. “Give me my space, but don’t leave me completely.” — Jamie Bredeson-Wobbema
14. “Help me focus elsewhere. Show me things aren’t deadly or threatening. Distract me without judgment.” — Tommie Matherne
15. “Ask me if there’s anything I need or anything you can do to help. If I say no, tell me you’re there if I need you and that everything is going to be OK.” — Christine Nawas
16. “Smile at me and tell me in a calm tone that it will pass. You don’t have to do anything dramatic. I already ready have the drama lit up in my head and body.” — Bambi Sears
17. “Stay by my side. Don’t make it a big deal. Breathe with me.” — Lexie Sittsamer
18. “For me, physical grounding is everything. A simple reminder to breathe during less severe moments is life-giving.” — Rachel Jackson
19. “During a panic attack, ask if it’s OK if you come close. Getting in [my] face can make the attack worse. Sometimes holding my hand helps, sometimes it’s a trigger.” — Ashley Brown
20. “Never tell the person having the attack to ‘get over it.’” — Katie Valladares Rudolph
21. “I may value you as a friend, but it’s not your job to act like my therapist, even if I’m having a panic attack. If I tell you I can’t talk about something or do something right now, it’s not your job to try to force me.” — Emily Mathiak
22. “Remind me this won’t last forever.” — Alyse Paige
23. “I think it is different for each person. I know it is for me. I actually have to go into my own space for awhile, to be alone to collect my thoughts. Once I’m calm, I need to be held tightly or just need a hand to hold. It’s exhausting to have a panic attack. For someone who has a loved one near, I would say ask before the attack what they can do to help.” — Mary Beth
24. “If you feel unable to help, you can call a crisis hotline and let the person speak with them. I keep the number saved in my cell phone for when I have panic attacks or feel suicidal.” — Kendall Roney
25. “Keep yourself calm. I will eventually feed off your calmness and I’ll be able to calm down.” — Marissa Stone
26. “The only way for me to calm down is to sit by myself and cry. I don’t want people near me and I don’t want help ‘calming’ down.” — Corvette Shannon
27. “Sometimes I don’t need someone to try and fix it. Sometimes they just need to be there with a simple hug or to hold a hand.” — Harjinder Saran
*Answers have been edited and shortened.
Editor’s note: These answers are based on individuals’ experiences and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.