I have a panic disorder and, unfortunately, that means I sometimes become panicked for no particular reason. Having a panic attack, especially if it's in a public place, can be embarrassing enough as it is so please be empathetic. I know it will pass but in moments of panic I can forget that. Know that these attacks are scary and real to me even if they are all in my head.
1. Don't smother me or ask a bunch of questions.
If you do need to ask me something, yes or no questions are ideal. It's hard to think and talk clearly during a panic episode and too many questions can be overwhelming.
2. Take me somewhere cool and quiet where I can be alone.
If I'm in public or around a lot of people I can become frozen with anxiety and shut down. Being alone or with a few people I trust allows me to express my feelings in a safe environment. Cool temperatures can also help to reduce physical symptoms of anxiety.
3. Remind me to breathe.
Hyperventilating is a common symptom of panic attacks. Breathe with me until I get a steady rhythm going and keep reminding me to breathe deeply until the panic wears off.
4. Ask me if I want to be touched.
Sometimes touching can be super helpful, especially if I'm dissociating from reality. If I do want to be touched, hold my hand or give me a long, loose hug. However, for some people touching can make anxiety worse. If you don't know, just ask!
5. Reassure me that I will get through this.
Be empathetic. Remind me that I've gotten through this before an I can do it again.
6. Use grounding exercises, ESPECIALLY if I'm dissociating.
Help me realize what I can see, touch, and hear to give me a sense of reality. Counting or letting me hold your hand can help too.
7. If it's really bad help me find my emergency meds.
If you have emergency meds for bad panic attacks, take them! You have them for a reason.
8. Let me talk if I need to but don't force it.
Sometimes I'll want to talk a lot if there's something specific that's bothering me but sometimes talking can be hard. If I can't seem to talk well, don't force me to.
9. Sometimes distraction techniques can help.
Talk to me about a show or music. Ask me what my favorite Starbucks drink is or tell me a funny story.
1o. Again, breathe. Breathe. BREATHE!
Breathing is key! Breathing can be the difference between being able to control a panic attack and letting it taking control of me.
11. Lastly, know that I am grateful for you. Thank you.
At the end of the day, if you try to help me during a panic episode know that I am so grateful for you. Thank you for being there for me and thank you for being understanding. You are so important to me.