How to help someone through a panic attack

How to help someone through a panic attack

Panic attacks are a very personal experience. It is unique to each person and can be triggered by different factors.

There are a few techniques that could be helpful - we’ve detailed two below to help you or a loved one.

Above all else, remember these:

  • A panic attack can be very scary for the person suffering, so it is important that you stay as calm as you can
  • Reassure them that they are experiencing a panic attack and that you will stay with them until it passes
  • Listen to them - don’t assume what might work for them. Instead let them talk (they might even tell you what helps them)
  • Stay with the person until it passes (unless they prefer to be alone)
  • Encourage them to talk, because talking will distract their thoughts and regulate their breathing 
  • Recommend techniques that might help, such as the two we have outlined below 


This is a grounding technique that brings a person back to the present, and helps them to recognize that they are safe. 

5 things you can see

4 things you can touch

3 things you can hear

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste

You can use this technique when you feel: like the anxiety is taking over; numb; like you are in a dream; lost in past events; or having an out-of-body or out-of-reality experience.

Breathing technique

Breathing can get very shallow during a panic attack. 

The adrenaline is trying to prepare you for what seems like a dangerous situation and your body goes into fight or flight mode. 

Put your hand below your belly button

Inhale for 4 seconds, expanding your belly

Hold for 6 seconds

Exhale for 8 seconds, letting the air out of your belly

Repeat until calm

(feel free to change up the counts - try 4 seconds square if that works better for you)

This causes an automatic nervous system shift from sympathetic state (fight or flight) to parasympathetic response. 


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Helpful things you could say

"You can get through this."

"I am proud of you."

"How can I support you right now?"

"Focus on your breathing. Stay in the present."

"It's not the place that is bothering you; it's the thought."

"What you are feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous."

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