Help through a panic attack
Be a reassuring presence when anxiety strikes
Experiencing a panic or anxiety attack can be horrifying. Your body shuts down, breathing becomes constricted, your heart races and you may feel an intense sense of doom. Watching one unfold also can be scary if you don’t know how to respond. Anxiety attacks are triggered by a fear—snakes, heights, enclosed spaces, etc.—while panic attacks occur without a stimulus. Symptoms are similar and last about 20 minutes. These tips can help you assist another person suffering an attack:
• Remain calm and quiet in the face of chaos. Telling a victim that the attack is in his or her head is not helpful.
• Hold the person’s hand or put your hand on his or her shoulder to signal your presence.
• Stay there until the attack subsides.
• Offer a glass of water or cold towel.
It can be difficult to remain calm during a panic attack. The acronym CAPS may be helpful to remember: Calm, Assurance, Presence and Silence.