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How to support someone having a panic attack

It can be really jarring when someone is experiencing a panic attack, but there are things you can do to help. Here are some steps to follow in the moment:

  1. Stay calm

  2. Gently let them know that you think they might be having a panic attack and that you are there for them

  3. Encourage them to breathe slowly & deeply

  4. Encourage them to sit or walk somewhere where they can focus on their breath/distract themself until they feel better.


Don't pressure them

  • It's understandable to want to help them face their fears or find practical solutions, but it can be very distressing for someone to feel they're being forced into situations before they feel ready. Try to remember that being unable to control their worries is part of having anxiety, and they aren't choosing how they feel.

Ask how you can help

  • They may already know how you can support them – for example, helping them with difficult situations, talking to them calmly or doing a breathing exercise with them. By asking them what they need or how you can help, you can support them to feel more in control themselves. NOTE: You should never encourage someone to breathe into a paper bag during a panic attack. This isn't recommended and it might not be safe.

Look after yourself too

  • It's important to remember to look after your own mental health too, so you have the energy, time and space you need to be able to help. Set boundaries and don't take on too much. It's important to decide what your limits are and how much you feel able to help.

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