Everything's fine one second, then out of nowhere your partner starts to shake and hyperventilate. They say their heart is racing and they're nauseated.

Your partner is experiencing a panic attack. You might even start to panic too, and your partner might feel bad for making you worry.

spongebob squarepants dance GIFBut hope is not lost: you can prepare in case it happens again!

What Is A Panic Attack?

Election 2020 Here Are The Facts GIF by CBS NewsA panic attack is a sudden, intense, and overwhelming feeling of fear without any actual danger present. They usually last about 10 minutes or less, but can be longer and multiple attacks can happen in a row.

A combination of symptoms indicate a panic attack, including:

  • Sense of impending doom, danger, or death

  • Feeling detached from reality

  • Rapid heart rate and chest pain

  • Sweating

  • Trembling

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Chills or hot flashes

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness or faintness

  • Numbness or tingling

Right Off The Bat

Watching someone experience a panic attack (let alone the person you love) is really hard!

season 3 nasty patty GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants

You might be having some of the following thoughts:

  • Did I do something wrong?

  • How can I help?

  • Will I make it worse?

The most important thing to remember is that it is not your fault, or your partner's fault. They just need to know they have your support.

Try This!

Flaticon IconRemain calm

I'm here to help you through this!

Create a supportive environment that makes your partner comfortable. Speak in an even tone.

Flaticon IconAsk your partner what they need

Would you like a blanket?

They might want water, a pillow, a hug, a tissue, or nothing at all! If they have trouble speaking, ask yes or no questions.

Flaticon IconBreathe with your partner

In, 2, 3, 4 ... out, 2, 3, 4...

Count 4 to breathe in, and 4 to breathe out. Repeat as many times as needed - it will feel good for both of you!

Flaticon IconDo a grounding exercise

Can you name 5 things you can see right now?

Ask your partner to sit with both feet on the floor or lay down and list:

  • 5 things they see

  • 4 things they feel

  • 3 things they hear

  • 2 things they smell

  • 1 thing they taste

This is an effective distraction that focuses attention on concrete things.

Just Don't!

Flaticon IconDon't take it personally

Fine, I won't help you then!

Your partner is experiencing the world differently. If they are irritable with you, just shake it off and ask what they need.

Flaticon IconDon't force your partner to do anything

You have to drink water!

Your partner is still the one who knows their body best. If they say no to a sip of water, let them be the final judge.

Flaticon IconDon't blame your partner for making you feel bad

Ugh, I guess I can't do anything right!

They aren't having a panic attack on purpose, and will likely worry that it will happen again. They don't need external pressure. If you need to discuss how it made you feel, do it in a non-judgmental way when you are both feeling well.

Make A Game Plan

Flaticon IconThis is Marcel. He experiences panic attacks from time to time due to a panic disorder.

Flaticon IconThis is Hugo, Marcel's partner. When he and Marcel are together and an attack happens, they have a plan.

  • Marcel does not like to be touched during a panic attack so Hugo gives him space.

  • Marcel's typical symptoms are shaking, hyperventilating, and sweating so Hugo encourages him to sit and brings him water and a towel.

  • Marcel responds well to grounding techniques, so Hugo asks him to list things he sees around the room.

  • Marcel appreciates distractions, so Hugo tells him about his day.

Quiz

Your partner starts to complain of chills, a racing heart, and a feeling of doom. You identify that they are having a panic attack. What's the best approach?

Tell them it's all in their head

Immediately wrap them in a blanket

Call 911 or drive them to the hospital

Ask what they need and follow through

Next Steps

The odd attack can happen to anyone, but if you notice a pattern of panic attacks it's time to seek professional help. There might be something bigger going on.

Friends Hug GIF by wtFOCK

Encourage your partner to make an appointment with their doctor and/or therapist to get started.

Look up the information, dial the number, and drive them to the appointment if they need help!

Take Action

Panic attacks can happen to anyone, anytime, but can definitely be managed.

Cheer Up Support GIF by grown-ishWhen you're both feeling well:

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This Byte has been authored by

KV

Kamelia Valkova

Community Animator at Rumie (and I love nature!)