How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

Have you ever encountered a situation where someone you care about is having a panic attack? Panic attacks can be terrifying experiences, and it is crucial to respond quickly and efficiently to support the person who is struggling. In this article, we will discuss what a panic attack is, how to recognize the symptoms, and what to do when someone you know is experiencing one.

What is a panic attack?

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers physical and emotional responses. The symptoms can be overwhelming and may make the individual feel like they are losing control or even experiencing a heart attack. Panic attacks can be triggered by various factors, including stress, traumatic events, or even genetics.

Recognizing the symptoms:

It is vital to recognize the symptoms of a panic attack, especially if you are supporting someone you care for. Panic attack symptoms can vary from person to person, but some of the most common include:

– Rapid heartbeat
– Sweating
– Shortness of breath
– Nausea
– Trembling or shaking
– Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
– Chest pain or discomfort

If you notice any of these symptoms in someone you know, it is essential to approach the situation calmly and offer your support.

What to do when someone is having a panic attack:

Here are some steps you can take to help someone who is struggling with a panic attack:

1. Remain calm and reassuring:

It is essential to stay calm and reassure the person that they are safe with you. Many people experiencing a panic attack may feel like they are in danger, even if there is no actual threat. Your calm presence and reassurance can go a long way in helping the individual feel more secure.

2. Find a quiet and safe place:

Panic attacks can be triggered by various factors, including crowds or loud noises. Help the person find a quiet and safe place where they feel comfortable and secure. If you are in a public place, like a mall or park, look for a secluded spot where the person can sit and recover.

3. Encourage them to breathe:

Encouraging the person to take deep breaths can help them calm down and regulate their breathing. Panic attacks can make it challenging to breathe, and reminding the person to inhale and exhale slowly and deeply can help them relax.

4. Use grounding techniques:

Grounding techniques can distract the person from their panic attack symptoms and help them focus on the present moment. Some grounding techniques include:

– Focusing on a specific object in the room
– Counting backwards from 100
– Identifying specific sensations, like the feeling of the ground beneath their feet or the texture of the clothes they are wearing

5. Offer physical comfort:

Offering physical comfort, like a hug or a reassuring touch, can help the person feel more secure and less alone. Make sure to ask if the person is comfortable with physical contact before touching them.

6. Seek medical attention if necessary:

In some cases, panic attacks can be severe and require medical attention. If the person is experiencing chest pains, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms that may suggest a medical emergency, call for an ambulance immediately.

How to prevent panic attacks:

While it is not always possible to prevent panic attacks, there are steps that individuals can take to minimize their risk. These include:

– Practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga
– Exercising regularly
– Getting enough sleep
– Avoiding alcohol and drugs
– Seeking therapy or counseling if necessary


Panic attacks can be frightening, but they are treatable. If someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, remember to stay calm, find a safe place, encourage deep breathing, use grounding techniques, offer physical comfort, and seek medical attention if necessary. By following these steps, you can help support and comfort the person through this difficult experience.


FAQs: How to Help Someone Having a Panic Attack

Q. What are the common symptoms of a panic attack?

A. The common symptoms of a panic attack are heart palpitations, sweating, trembling or shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, derealization or depersonalization, fear of losing control or going crazy, and fear of dying.

Q. How can I help someone having a panic attack?

A. You can help someone having a panic attack by staying calm, listening to them, encouraging them to breathe slowly and deeply, reassuring them that they are not in danger, helping them to focus on the present moment, and offering to seek professional help if needed.

Q. What should I avoid doing when someone is having a panic attack?

A. You should avoid telling someone to “just relax” or “calm down” or “stop overreacting” as these statements can make the person feel worse. You should also avoid giving them alcohol, drugs, or caffeine as these substances can worsen anxiety symptoms. Finally, you should avoid leaving the person alone as they may feel more anxious or distressed.


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2. Smith, S. D., & Roberts, L. M. (2019). Pausing to manage anxiety: Online mindfulness-based interventions for panic disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 68, 102144. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2019.102144

3. Zayfert, C., & Dalgleish, T. L. (2021). Helping a loved one with anxiety or panic: A guide for family members and close friends. New Harbinger Publications.