Panic disorder affects 6 million adults in the U.S. each year. Panic attacks can come on unexpectedly and are certainly frightening. They are also frightening for those around the person experiencing the attack. One FGB'er reached out to the Community to ask for advice on her partner’s panic attacks.
“I witnessed my partner go through a panic attack,” she wrote.
“My partner is known for having slight anxiety. He's been pretty overwhelmed at work lately and had a big presentation he was preparing for at our apartment the night before. I know he doesn't like to give speeches, but I had no idea how to prepare for what was about to come. He was talking to me normally and then all of the sudden had to sit down. It was like his body became paralyzed and I had no idea what to do or how to handle the situation. I actually didn't even know it was a panic attack at the time. Has anyone witnessed/had a panic attack here? Any advice on how to handle this?” she asked.
One FGB'er responded with practical advice.
“If your reaction is not going to help the situation, think about giving him some room or going to get some water," she wrote. "If he sees that you’re very worried, it’ll just add to his own worry.”
Another had tips for soothing someone who just had an attack.
“Talk to him calmly and let him know he's having a panic attack," she wrote. "Hopefully, he can verbalize his desires, but sometimes a damp cloth for the face helps, opening a window or turning on a fan and yes, a drink of water. If possible, have him write out his presentation on note cards and try to memorize it, but keep the cards handy. Practice beforehand by himself, to the mirror and to you. Good luck on his presentation! If he's going to have to be giving presentations more regularly, you might suggest he see if there's a Toastmasters group in your area. They specifically work to help people become better public speakers. Also it might not be a bad idea to talk to his doctor about some mild anti-anxiety medication; not necessarily one that's taken regularly, but only as occasion calls for it.”
WebMD recommends that if you see a person experiencing a panic attack, you should:
1. Remain calm.
“Don’t let the situation overrun you. Your low-key behavior can be a model for your friend and let them know everything's OK,” the site says.
2. Stay by their side.
“The best thing you can do to help with a panic attack is to stay and help your friend ride it out. Most panic attacks ease up in 20 to 30 minutes," say the professionals at WebMD.
3. Be understanding, positive and encouraging.
“Ask what the cause of your friend's panic is. That can let them take a step back and think about the situation more rationally.”
Reflect back on the attack awhile after it is over and ask your partner what he would have wanted from you during that time. For example, some people experiencing panic attacks feel comfort by human touch, such as a hug, while others are caused even further stress and prefer space.
If your partner continues to experience panic attacks, consider seeking help from a licensed professional. And remember, during a panic attack, your ultimate goal is to make him feel as comfortable and as calm as possible in order to return to his normal mental state and end the panic attack.
Reach out to the Fairygodboss Community for any and all professional or personal advice.