Advice for families of ….Panic attack sufferers!

Posted on August 18, 2013
Location: London
Advice for families of ….Panic attack sufferers!

Panic attacks are periods of intense fear or apprehension that are of sudden onset and of relatively brief duration. Panic attacks usually begin abruptly, reach a peak within 10 minutes, and subside over the next several hours. Often, those afflicted will experience significant anticipatory anxiety and limited symptom attacks in between attacks, in situations where attacks have previously occurred. The effects of a panic attack vary. Some, notably first-time sufferers, may call for emergency services. Many, who experience a panic attack, mostly for the first time, fear they are having a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Experiencing a panic attack has been said to be one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life and may take days to initially recover from. Repeated panic attacks are considered a symptom of panic disorder.

Sufferers of panic attacks often report a fear or sense of dying, “going crazy,” or experiencing a heart attack or “flashing vision,” feeling faint or nauseated, a numb sensation throughout the body, heavy breathing (and almost always, hyperventilation), or losing control of themselves. Some people also suffer from tunnel vision, mostly due to blood flow leaving the head to more critical parts of the body in defense.

As friends/families – trying to offer support at these times can be so frustrating.

Although they appear such – Sufferers are not selfish, self centered, erratic or hypochondriacs. They are very frightened individuals, who are experiencing a state they never knew existed – and are trying to withdraw themselves from the state in desperation to find peace.

Asking sufferers to pull the socks up are like asking a blind person to see. It is the very thing they feel they should do but it is also the very thing they know they cannot do. So if you are asking sufferer to do something, better show them how to do.

Sufferers are not looking for pity; they are ONLY looking for understanding. Non-cooperation frustrates & causes the sufferers to become bad tempered, especially towards those they are close to. Also; ongoing tension brings agitation. So the sufferers at times are desperately looking for any sort of instant relief and if not found, they can lose patience very quickly. In these moment, everything or anything is said to the sufferer is wrong.

So what you say to this person, in these situations? What do you not say?

1) Do not ask “How are you?”. Because this will immediately remind the person about the suffering. It is far better if you ask about outside event, such as “who you saw”, “what was said” etc? In this way; It may distract the sufferer for a moment

2) Natural distraction is a very good aid in these situations. Don’t make suggestion such as “Why don’t you go for walk, it will do good to you”. Better to say – I am going for walk; I’d love to have your company. And if you do decide to come, we can always come back to home together, if you think we have gone far enough

3) Nervously ill should never be left on their own for too long. They desperately need company when panicking. However there are some who are the absolutely opposite. So ask; which you do want.

4) For some a comforting hug can do wonders. If in the company of others, the sufferer shows little interest, do not be too concerned. The fact that they are in the company of others, is keeping them in touch with the world around them

5) Dishes being washed, a meal being prepared, cheerful music, a bunch of pretty flowers to look at , or aroma of cake baked in the oven, could all be very pleasing and comforting to hear or look at for the sufferer. In such situations, the sufferers can be drawn away from the situation. These are called natural distractions.


1) This is how you talk to a person who is suffering from panic attacks, feels fatigued /depressed. Because their mind is racing and a vivid imagination is at work, one should speak slowly and calmly to the sufferer. By doing so; as the minutes pass, their thinking slows down and with it anxiety level falls. They are come out of the other side of this particular state.

2) Remind the sufferers: This moment will pass. It always has and it always will. Repetition is so important. It reassures and reminds.

3) Trying to cheer up the sufferer can be counterproductive because it may remind more than ever of one’s suffering.

4) If the sufferer recognizes slightest amount of panic in your voice, their anxiety level will increase very quickly and they will panic all over again. Speaking slowly, quietly and confidently is the only way one should talk to the sufferers who are in a moment of desperation.

5) It is quite just as frustrating for family or friends looking on and much patience may be needed.

However; Sufferers when recovered, never forget those who were there for them in the moment of their fear/desperation and who were not. The anxiety state has been the cause of marriage, relationship and family break-ups. However the upside is that it also has tested relationships and indeed strengthen them.

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