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06/28/2010 06:50 PM

How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

jojobear
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Steps

1. Understand what a panic attack is. A panic attack is a sudden attack of extreme anxiety. It can occur without warning and for no obvious reason. The symptoms are listed under the tips sections of this article. In extreme cases, the symptoms may be accompanied by an acute fear of dying. Although they are quite distressing, panic attacks are not usually life-threatening and can last from 5 - 20 minutes. It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of a panic attack can be similar to those of a heart attack.

2. If this is the first time the person has had something like this, seek emergency medical attention. When in doubt, it is always best to seek immediate medical attention. If the person has diabetes, asthma or other medical problems, seek medical help.

3. Find out the cause of the attack. Talk to the person and determine if he or she is having a panic attack and not another kind of medical emergency (such as a heart or asthma attack) which would require immediate medical attention.

4. Establish if there is a cause for the fear and either try to remove it or consider taking the person away from the source of distress to a quiet area. Sometimes a person with panic disorder will already have techniques or medication which they know will help them get through the attack, so ask them if there is anything you can do.

5. Speak to them in a reassuring but firm manner. Be prepared for the possibility of the person having an intense desire to escape. Try and get them calm down (and in order to do this, you need to remain calm yourself). Ask the person to remain still, but never grab, hold, or even gently restrain them; if they want to move around, suggest that they stretch, do jumping jacks, or go with you for a brisk walk.[1]

6. Do not dismiss their fears in any way by saying things like "there's nothing to worry about" or "it's all in your mind" or "you're overreacting". The fear is very real to them at that moment, and the best you can do is help them cope - minimizing or dismissing the fear in any way can make the panic attack worse. Just say "it's OK" and move on to breathing.

7. Stay calm and don't pressure the person. This is not the time to force the person to come up with answers or to do things that will make their anxiety worse. Minimize the stress levels by being a calming influence and let them get into a relaxed state. Don't insist they figure out what caused their attack as this will just make it worse.

8. Encourage them to try to control breathing. Regaining control of their breathing will help eliminate the symptoms and will help calm them down. Many people take short, rapid breaths when they're panicking, and some people hold their breath. This reduces the oxygen intake which will cause the heart to race. Use one of the following techniques to help bring their breathing back to normal:

*

Try counting breaths. One way of helping them to do this is to ask the person to breathe in and out on your count. Begin by counting aloud, encouraging the person to breath in for 2 and then out for 2, gradually increase the count to 4 and then 6 if possible until their breathing has slowed down and is regulated.

*

Get them to breathe into a paper bag. If the person is receptive, offer a paper bag (see warnings), but be aware that for some people, the paper bag itself may be a trigger of fear, especially if they've had negative experiences with being pushed into it during previous panic attacks.[2] Also, since this is done to prevent hyperventilation, it may not be necessary if you're dealing with someone who holds their breath or slows their breathing when they panic. If it is necessary, however, this should be done by alternating around 10 breaths into and out of the bag, followed by breathing without a bag for 15 seconds. It is important not to overdo the bag breathing in case carbon dioxide levels rise too high and oxygen levels fall too low, causing other more serious medical problems.

* Get them to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, making the exhale in a blowing fashion like blowing up a balloon. Do this with them. to help them focus.

9. Keep them cool. Many panic attacks can be accompanied by sensations of warmth, especially around the neck and face. A cold object, ideally a wet washcloth can often help minimize this symptom and aide in reducing the severity of the attack.

10. Don't leave them alone. Stay with them until they have recovered from the attack. Never leave someone who is struggling to breathe. A person with a panic attack may seem like they're being unfriendly or rude, but understand what they are going through and wait until they're back to normal. Ask them what has worked in the past, and if and when they have taken their meds.

11. Remember that the feelings are real and that their thoughts may be racing. Reassure them that you will get them help, do not leave them alone but do not hesitate to seek immediate medical attention including an ambulance. They may be acting on feelings, but they can act in ways that put the person in immediate risk of serious harm.

12. Seek medical help. If the symptoms do not subside within 15 minutes, consider seeking urgent medical advice. Some panic attacks, however, may last for hours, and bringing the person to a hospital could make things worse. If this is the first time he or she has had a panic attack, they may want to seek medical attention because they are frightened of what is happening to them. If they've had panic attacks in the past, however, they may know that getting emergency care will worsen their state. Ask them. This decision will ultimately depend on the individual's experience and your interactions with him or her.

Retrieved 6/28/10 from: http://www.wikihow.com/Help-Someone-Having-a-Panic-Attack

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06/28/2010 07:04 PM
ray2135

awesome JoJo....good job

06/28/2010 07:12 PM
PCG
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Posts: 2259
Senior Member

thank you very much this is most helpful.

I do have a question, when is it safe to talk to the person who had the panic attack about what might have caused it?


06/28/2010 08:02 PM
jojobear
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Sometimes triggers can be found, other times they can not. I personally would prefer to try to figure out if there was a trigger much after the attack. During an attack I cannot think rationally at all. Trying to figure something like that out is overwhelming and makes it worse. Also after a panic attack I am so drained from all the energy the attack takes out of me and the medication that I often use makes me sleepy as well.

So I think if say my boyfriend were going to want to ask me if there was something that may have triggered the attack I would prefer him to wait until the next day and ask me if I felt up to talking about it. I would expect him to be understanding if I said no at this time I do not feel up to it. I would also though reassure him though that I would be willing to discuss it when I felt up to it.


06/29/2010 04:55 AM
PCG
PCG  
Posts: 2259
Senior Member

Thanks, that's always been an issue for me, with my husband. I'm a fixer and I want to take care of him so I try to find out what hurt him so we can either work around it or work through it, but I know I have asked him in the wrong times before Smile

12/01/2010 08:03 AM
Chanda
Chanda  
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Awesome info!

12/01/2010 01:38 PM
PhilPhil46
PhilPhil46  
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Great post Jojo! Printing it out as we speak and leaving it on my coffee table at home. and sharing with co workers too. So they don't freak out. lol

12/03/2010 06:23 PM
ZuzuPetals
ZuzuPetals  
Posts: 41
Member

Here is a trick a pdoc once told me. It works really well for me when I am having a panic attack at home:

If possible, move yourself (or have someone help you move) into the bathroom. Turn the shower on full blast at the highest heat. The steam from the shower forces your lungs open. This trick, along with coaching of breaths, always shortens my panic attacks.

I hope this trick will help others as well as it has helped me.

Sometimes when I feel a panic attack coming on, I will take my clonazempam then take a hot shower. The combo forces the drug to take affect quickly and the steam forces open lungs. It really is helpful. Smile


12/03/2010 07:32 PM
PhilPhil46
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Zuzu I never that, but have done the hot bath for relief. But inhaling steam from the shower, can be a little safer when I'm feeling dizzy. I will try if I ever have another panic attack. Thank you

12/06/2010 02:18 PM
jojobear
jojobear  
Posts: 6115
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I have done the hot shower thing. Although I have no one really around to force me and when someone does try to force me that can make me panic. So it works for me if I can get myself to the bathroom. Also I have in the past filled my sink up with very hot water and put my face close to the water. My sink is rather deep. Then I just sort of inhale. It is a trick that works for say chest congestion with colds that I learned many years ago that I realized actually helps me feel calmer too.

I used to always take a clonazepam and a hot bath. It seemed to help calm me down but make me very sad and cry a lot. I would get very weepy and then have to go to bed right away. Not really sure as to why. Maybe just the time spent alone then in the bathtub thinking about the whole ordeal and the fear I felt. Maybe if I would allow someone in the bathroom with me to talk and help distract my thoughts it would work better.

Post edited by: jojobear, at: 12/06/2010 02:19 PM

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