Many people suffer from anxiety problems these days. Anxiety is having an irrational fear of something or somebody (not to be confused with nervousness). If you don’t have this disorder, then it’s easy to brush it off and think that the person is being full of nonsense, but in actual fact it’s a very real thing. It can affect every aspect of life—from school, to work, to relationships.
What happens is that something upsets or affects the person and, in a very short period of time, they have an anxiety or panic attack.
These are symptoms of these attacks (normally the person won’t have all of them, but could have at least four):
- Anxiety and panic
- Sudden overwhelming fear
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Sense of choking
It is quite scary watching a friend or relation have one of these attacks if you don’t know what to do.
There are ways that you can help. Obviously not to stop them having the panic attack in the first place—that is something that only the person themselves can do—but if you know how to behave around them when it happens, it makes it easier for both of you.
Let them know that it is okay if they leave the place that is causing anxiety. Sometimes being in a crowd can bring on an attack. Just quietly lead them away from all the people, but don’t pressure them in any way.
Let them know that they are safe. Even if it’s perfectly obvious to you that there’s nothing to worry about, it’s a very real fear for the person who is having the attack. Reassure them that there is no real reason to be panicking. Remind them that you are there to help them.
Reassure the person that the attack won’t last long. Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are only temporary, but sometimes the person forgets that and so it is good to remind them.
Gently remind them to breathe. People having attacks often gasp alarmingly and forget to breathe! Here’s a good way to do it… tell them to take a deep breath and count to four, exhale again to the count of four. Do this over and over. Breathe with them.
Please do stay with them. Do not leave them alone.
Things you SHOULD NOT DO…
- Get irritated and yell at them.
- Ask them why they are panicking.
- Tell them to calm down.
- Brush it off and say they are imagining things.
- Talk rubbish and say “Oh look! There’s a flying tiger!” to try and distract them.
Be a good friend.