The word panic spelled out with red letter cubesPhoto by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

You’re walking down the street and you see a woman coming toward you who looks to be in her 20s. She drops the bag she was carrying and you can see that she is breathing rapidly and looks terrified. She grabs her head with her hands.

What should you do?

What Is A Panic Attack?

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A panic attack is a feeling of intense fear, along with physical symptoms, that comes without warning and isn't tied to any real danger. People who experience panic attacks may feel like they’re having a heart attack or dying.

The attack usually ends within 30 minutes , but people who have them may also feel exhausted afterward. Because panic attacks are so stressful, it's helpful to offer support to help them get through it, even if you don't know them.

Panic Attack Symptoms

Man sitting outside with his head down looking stressedPhoto by whoislimos on Unsplash

When you witness a panic attack, some of what the person is experiencing will be visible to you and some won’t.

Symptoms You May See:

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Shaking

  • Sweating

  • Chills

Symptoms They May Feel:

  • Weakness/dizziness

  • A racing heart

  • A sense of doom

  • Chest pain

  • A tingling sensation

How You Can Help

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  • Introduce yourself and say you’d like to help if it's OK with them

  • Don't touch them unless you’ve asked for permission

  • Stay calm

  • Encourage deep, slow breaths do it with them to model behavior

  • Ask if they’d like you to call one of their friends or a family member

  • Try to ground them by asking them to focus on something nearby, like a sign in a store window or your tapping feet

  • Ask what they need — if they’ve had panic attacks before, they may know what helps them get through it

  • Stay until the attack has passed

  • If you’re both unsure if it’s a panic attack or a more serious medical event, call 911

Quiz

Chloe is at a cafe. A man at the next table starts shaking and tells Chloe he thinks he's having a panic attack. What would be a good first step for Chloe to take?

Put a hand on his shoulder to calm him

Tell him her name and offer to help

Call out for an employee to come help

Take Action

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This Byte has been authored by

IS

Ingrid Sandberg

Instructional Designer