It’s highly possible that you aren’t actually a sufferer of panic attacks but reading this as a concerned third party. Is someone you know experiencing panic attacks? While I am clearly not trained, nor am I interested in giving out responsible professional advice, I am happy to provide this short list of suggested dos and don’ts for family and friends of us. Pencils at the ready!
- Don’t. Regardless of circumstance, do not tell someone who is undergoing a panic attack to ‘calm down’. In fact, this advice applies to pretty much every situation that has ever occurred. Never before in human history has an individual who has verbalised that phrase got the result they were hoping for. When my partner tells me to calm down it’s a bumper day for the swear jar. A real festival of fucks. It feels like an obvious point, but insisting someone who is in the middle of a completely terrifying, uncontrollable physical episode control themselves is only adding unnecessary pressure.
- Don’t. Similarly, while it may seem like reassuring behaviour, insisting ‘there’s no need to panic’ or the far more galling instruction of ‘don’t be anxious’ the application of these phrases is not recommended. I can not overstate the redundancy of this approach. Drawing attention to the illogicality of an episode is colossal a waste of time and, in the case of those close to me, potentially hazardous.