While feelings of anxiety are something we all experience every now and then, for some these become excessive and difficult to control.
Panic disorder affects an estimated seven in 1000 people and it occurs when the body experiences a rush of intense psychological and physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, trembling, hyperventilation, and an overwhelming sense of fear and distress.
There are many types of treatment for anxiety and panic attacks, but sufferers will also benefit greatly knowing they have the understanding and support of those close to them. If you have a friend or family member with panic disorder, see below for a helpful guide on how to provide the best means of support.
Listen: When someone is experiencing a panic attack, you mustn’t try to solve it. No one can take the attack away, but you can provide a supportive presence – remaining calm, listening to them, and speaking in a reassuring manner.
Support: In preparation, find out from your loved one or friend how you can help when they are having an attack. Talk about what you can do to make it easier for them, such as practicing certain techniques, helping with medication or removing them from a certain space to somewhere that’s open and calm.
Respect: Try to avoid playing down the attack or belittling it in any way. Such negativity could make things worse – as can trying to force them out of the attack. Be patient and make sure the sufferer knows you are there for them.
Compromise: You may need to take extra measures to ensure outings with your friend or loved-one avoid potential triggers of panic attacks. You may need to make adjustments for certain activities that make the person feel anxious, such as taking stairs instead of an elevator.
Consider medical attention: If it is the first time your friend or loved one has had a panic attack, you may need to seek medical attention – especially if they have diabetes, asthma or other medical problems. If they suffer regular attacks, assess the situation carefully and watch for signs. Be aware though that some sufferers may not wish to be collected by an ambulance as the experience could make their symptoms worse.
Hypnotherapy can be helpful for those suffering from panic attacks as it alleviates anxiety and helps to desensitise the sufferer from certain stressors. To find out more about how hypnotherapy can help, see our hypnotherapy for panic attacks page.
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