Panic Attacks

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Panic Attacks & How You Can HELP!

Roughly 25% of individuals experience a panic attack at some point in their lives.
While some individuals may have multiple panic attacks, only a small number go on to develop panic disorder or agoraphobia. Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but individuals with anxiety disorders are at a higher risk of having them.

Some panic attacks may happen without any apparent reason, known as ‘uncued’ panic attacks. Meanwhile, other panic attacks may be triggered by a specific situation, such as a person with social anxiety disorder experiencing a panic attack in a social setting.

How can you know if someone is having a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden and intense episode of anxiety that peaks within 10 minutes. It is characterized by several symptoms, including:

• Rapid heartbeat or palpitations

• Sweating, chills or hot flushes

• Shaking or trembling

• Numbness or tingling

• Difficulty breathing or choking sensations

• Dizziness or lightheadedness

• Chest pain or discomfort

• Nausea or stomach distress

• Disconnection from reality or feeling detached

• Fear of losing control or going insane

• Fear of death

If you suspect someone is experiencing a panic attack, ask them if they are aware of what is happening and if they have had a panic attack before.

What should I do if I think someone is having a panic attack?

When assisting someone you are not familiar with, it is important to first introduce yourself. If the individual indicates they are experiencing a panic attack and have had them in the past, inquire if they require any assistance and provide it to them if possible.

What if l am uncertain whether the person is really having a panic attack, and not something more serious like a heart attack?

It can be challenging to identify if an individual is experiencing a panic attack or a more serious medical condition, as the symptoms can be similar. Only a medical professional can provide a definitive diagnosis.

If the person is uncertain if they are having a panic attack, it is important to follow physical first aid guidelines. The first step is to assist the person in finding a supported sitting position, such as against a wall.

Check if the person has a medical alert bracelet or necklace. If so, follow the instructions or seek medical assistance.

In case the person loses consciousness, apply physical first aid principles. Check for breathing and pulse, and call an ambulance.

What should I say and do if I know the person is having a panic attack?

It’s important to stay calm and not panic yourself when reassuring the person that they are experiencing a panic attack. Speak in a reassuring but firm manner and be patient. Use simple and clear language, and invite the person to sit down somewhere comfortable. Rather than assuming what the person needs, ask them directly.

Avoid diminishing the person’s experience. Recognize that the fear they are feeling is real, but assure them that a panic attack, while overwhelming, is not harmful or deadly. Let them know that they are safe and that the symptoms will eventually subside.

What should I say and do when the panic attacks has ended?

Once the panic attack has passed, inquire if the person is aware of where they can obtain information on panic attacks. Provide suggestions if they are unsure. Inform them that if the panic attacks persist and are causing them distress, they should consult with a relevant healthcare professional. It’s important to be familiar with the various professional resources available for panic attacks in your community. Assure the person that effective treatments for panic attacks and panic disorder do exist.