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August 4, 2014
by Marti Wormuth, MA

How To Help Someone That Is Having a Panic Attack

August 4, 2014 04:55 by Marti Wormuth, MA  [About the Author]

A Frightening Experience

Panic attacks are incredibly frightening to people, and if you haven't encountered them before, they can be frightening to you, even if you're just with someone who is having one. In this article, we're going to explore how you can tell if someone is having a panic attack and how you can help them through this frightening thing. 

How Do You Know if Someone is Having a Panic Attack?

There are a number of symptoms to panic attacks that need to be watched out for. Here are some of the main ones that you may see; the symptoms that manifest will differ based on the person. 

  • Hyperventilating or shortness of breath.
  • Shaking and/or sweating profusely.
  • They claim that they feel like they are "dying" or that they "don't have control."
  • Chest pains or discomfort. 
  • Extremely quick heartbeat or increase in pulse.
  • Numbness.
  • Temperature changes (either hot flashes or cold flashes) to the point of discomfort. 

As mentioned above, everyone reacts differently to their panic attacks, so you may see only one or two of these symptoms, but in general, they are all fairly common. Many times, a person who is having a panic attack will be able to tell you that they are having a panic attack in some way, so at that point it's up to you to help them out. 

How to Help Someone Who is Having a Panic Attack

There are a lot of things that you can do in order to help someone through a panic attack. Here are some of the most common ways that you can help. As with above, some of these techniques will help people, whereas others may not. 

Talk to them about them ahead of time. If your loved one has a panic disorder, talk about it with them ahead of time. That way, they can help you understand what is going on and help you to be prepared in case that time ever comes where they need you to be able to help them out. By doing this, you won't panic when they're panicking, which will make it easier for everyone involved. 

Consider talking with their therapist or doctor, if they are a friend or family member. If you know a loved one has a panic disorder or panic attacks related to another mental disorder, go with them to a therapy appointment or doctor appointment, or just call them up if you can. That way, you can get the professional advice that you may need in order to help your loved one through a panic attack. 

Get them to somewhere safe so that they don't hurt themselves or put themselves in danger. During the panic attack, get them somewhere safe, preferably sitting down (not laying down; that may make it harder to breathe than it already may be). Get them away from other people if you can, and then keep them there. That way, there's no risk of injury or embarrassment. 

Don't leave them alone - if an ambulance needs to be called, do it right there or send another person to do itStay with them. Many times, if a person having a panic attack is left alone, they get more anxious and the panic attack just gets worse. Stay with them, talk to them, let them know that you are there and that you love them. 

Talk to them slowly and give them encouragement. Try to keep them "with you." One of the scariest things for many people who have panic attacks is that they start to feel detached and "out of reality." So your job is to help bring them back to reality, helping them to feel safe and cared for. Talk to them about their day, tell them that they're doing well and that you love them and are proud of them. Don't stop talking, because it helps to ground them. This can be crucial because it can help them from crossing from a mild panic attack to a severe panic attack. 

Walk them through relaxation techniquesThere are tons of relaxation techniques out there, from asking them to rub their thighs to counting backwards from 10 while breathing in and out. Do some research and see which of these work best for your loved one, and then talk them through these techniques when the time calls for it. As mentioned above, hearing your voice helps to ground them, as does helping them through an exercise that takes their mind off of the panic. 

If you or someone you love has a panic disorder or has panic attacks associated with an anxiety disorder or phobia, these tips will help you get them through them, whether they're a low grade one or a bad one. By knowing how to help them when it's important, you can help their life be a little bit easier. 


Answers to Your Questions About Panic Disorder. (2014). Retrieved May 22, 2014, from

Helping Someone During a Panic Attack-Topic Overview. (0000, January 03). Retrieved May 23, 2014, from

How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2014, from

Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2014, February). Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from

Tartakovsky, M. (2011). How to Halt and Minimize Panic Attacks - Psych Central. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from

About the Author

Marti Wormuth, MA Marti Wormuth, MA

Marti has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s in Communication Studies. Her favorite activities include reading, playing games, and hanging out with the students at her church. Marti volunteers with the youth ministry at her church as a teacher and mentor. Because of this, she recently started another degree, her graduate certificate in student ministries. She considers her current graduate work to be a stepping stone to becoming a youth pastor or a published author.

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