How To Help Someone With Panic Attacks
Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it’s one of their worst experiences; maybe more terrifying than a natural disaster. Panic attacks are like intruders who invade your mental space and do not allow you to have peace. They disrupt everything about you during those 5-10 minutes. Escaping panic attacks must be done right!
The more that you fight a panic attack, the greater it becomes in strength. Panic attacks want you to fight them, because they strive on your fear, pain and struggle. Panic attacks are also very sneaky: they’re like snakes coming from behind you and snapping without your awareness.
But once you become cornered by a panic attack, you become more aware of them than anything else. Your surroundings quickly become irrelevant as all you can focus on is the war zone that has just erupted in the depths of your mind. And just as any war zone, you become fearful for your life and consider running away from your current location to hide in a safe haven.
But there is no safe haven outside of your immediate surroundings. Because if you do run away, you are actually beating yourself up. What do you accomplish by running away? You may be in an important meeting, in a room full of people or even seeing a patient in the office; running away will make your current situation awkward.
The safe haven lies in your mind; it always has and it always will. Panic attacks are just intruders that capitalize on the chemical imbalance in your brain; their high is your low! As long as your serotonin levels remain on the low side, panic attacks remain high and elated. So when you attempt to run, you are actually running away from yourself, because everything is happening within your mind.
Besides medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines and psychotherapy, such as CBT or psychodynamic, the real way of helping yourself or someone else from panic attacks is by learning how to become comfortable with panic attacks when they do strike. Medications and psychotherapy do help a lot, but if you cannot learn how to become comfortable in your own skin during the attacks, you will continue to struggle.
Experience is key. The more panic attacks you have under your belt, the more comfortable that you become at handling them. And the way to handle them is to remain calm in your present environment and continue to focus on what you were doing prior to the attack. This technique helps prove to yourself that you are still in control of your mind and that you do not have to get up and leave.
You can also try incorporating a technique such as massaging your hands without making it noticeable to those around you. For most people, hand massages feel good and put you in a state of relaxation. Hand massages can be a coping mechanism that you only perform when cornered by a panic attack: they help redirect your thoughts to the good feeling of your hands, and take away your focus from the uncomfortable sensations of the panic. Call it a “hand job” if need be.
Overall, the only way to properly escape a panic attack is by not reacting to it. No matter how difficult and uncomfortable it may be to ride it out, the more experience you have remaining cool, calm and collected during the attacks, the more control that you will gain over future ones.
Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)