How to Help your Partner Through a Panic Attack!
By: Monica Martinez LMFT 98443
Seeing our partners suffering and not knowing how to support them can be a stressful experience for both parties. Learning how to navigate panic attacks together successfully can create a sense of security, safety, and trust in one another.
Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear that trigger severe physical reactions. Panic attacks start suddenly, often without warning, and they can strike at any time.
Signs one is experiencing a panic attack include:
Sense of impending doom
Rapid, pounding heart rate
Shortness of breath or tightness in the chest
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness
Numbness or tingling sensation
The feeling of unreality or detachment
What to do when you see your partner has a panic attack:
Stay calm (often a supportive and clear presence is sufficient enough)
Help them get to a safe and comfortable place (sitting, lying down, walking/ whatever is most soothing to them)
Help them regulate their temperature. If they are hot, provide a cold compress or provide air/fan. If they are cold providing a soothing blanket or heat compress.
Remind them they are in a safe place and that they are not alone (you are there to support them)
Say encouraging comments “ you are safe,” “this is going to pass,” “ you will get through this” (this will provide a comfortable and shame-free environment.
Help shift the focus by prompting them in using grounding techniques (name three things you can see, three things you can hear, three things you can smell)
Prompt in counting to 10 forward and backward
Do breathing exercises together (deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth)
Once the initial panic has subsided and they are in a calm state of mind, Help them understand and recognize common triggers that lead to panic attacks and assist in creating a plan to avoid/prepare for triggers identified as much as possible.
As important as it is to help our loved ones, it is also essential to understand what is not helpful
- Do not try to minimize their experience
- Do not make judgmental/critical comments (don’t be dramatic, it’s not that big of a deal)
- Do not rush them out of a panic attack (sense of pressure can escalate and prolong the panic attack)
If you are struggling or believe someone you love is struggling, please seek help.
Often it can be most helpful to have a support person ready (partners, friends, family, and professionals’ doctors, and mental health professionals).
Help is here. You are not alone!