Help: How Do I Help A Friend Who Is Experiencing A Panic Attack?

Anxiety is a common emotion we face sometimes. Especially in school with all that stress, there are increasing occurrences of students who experience panic attacks. To properly help our friends would take a lifetime career (or eternity), so let’s just aim to do the best we can in such situations.

Stay Calm, They’re Already Anxious

It is understandable that you may find it hard to stay calm as you see someone in a frenzy, such as a panic attack. They are in a very stressed state, and they may not be able to control entirely what they are doing, or what they are saying to you. It could be even harder to maintain composure if they are making provoking remarks directed at you. It is hard, but try not to be triggered. Instead, remember not to take things personally and remember that they are not fully capable of controlling their emotions at that moment. Remain neutral, and stay grounded. This way, you would be in a better position to help friends who struggle with anxiety.

Ask Them How You Can Help At An Appropriate Time

You may not be totally familiar with anxiety and panic attacks, and you are not expected to know the best way to ease the stress your friends are feeling. That is okay. But remember, you can still ask your friend if he or she has had a panic attack before, and what they usually do to cope. It is best if you ask these questions beforehand. However, in the case that you are caught in an unexpected situation in which it is the first time you encounter a friend having a panic attack, remember to take immediate action. You can follow the suggestions below.

Never Make “Don’t” Statements

When you see someone in a panic attack, the last thing you would want to do is to tell them what not to do. It is of no help to your friend because it creates additional unwanted pressure, which is detrimental. Phrase what you say in a positive light, and be suggestive. Reassure them and tell them that the hurt and pain will go away.

Guide Them In Taking Slow Deep Breaths

Another important thing you can do in the event of a panic attack is to guide your friend in taking steady, slow, deep breaths – and you can do it with them. The easiest thing to do when you lose control of your actions is to follow someone else’s actions. Do it together with them. As they regain momentum in steady breathing, you can do more things to get them back on track and focused on staying calm. Counting slowly is one of the ways to do so. Another way is to relocate yourselves to be in a less distracting environment, and in a more comfortable position.

Validate Their Problems

Take their problems seriously and do not brush them off as problems not worth them fretting over. They know that, and they are clearly still troubled by those problems. Instead, come from an empathetic point of view, and let your friends know that there is nothing wrong with them; tell them it is okay to feel the way they are feeling. The best feeling someone with anxiety issues can receive is to feel understood and validated.

Seek Expert Advice

Take care of yourself as well. Do not compromise yourself too much to the point that you are too overwhelmed to be in a position to help your friends. If you need external help and support in order to help your friend better, get them. Recognise your boundaries and do not over-promise what you can do for your friend; you would not want your friend to feel guilty on top of already feeling troubled with anxiety. You can talk to someone you trust about how you feel as you help your friend through this difficult period. If necessary, talk to a mental health professional and seek advice on what are the best steps to take in such situations. There are counselling and crisis helplines available on Healthhub which can be considered.

As a leading home tuition agency, FamilyTutor takes mental health very seriously and urges any individual who needs help, to seek proper help.

By the way, the ‘Simply Advice’ series conveniently gives you information that is useful any day any time. It aims to shed some light on pertinent topics and provide you with the best advice!



Zoe is an undergraduate student in Singapore who loves thinking deeply and translating them into writing. She hopes her reflective opinions and sound advice weaved into relevant articles will be useful for you in one way or another!

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