Anxiety Attack Support: How Family and Friends Can Help
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, What Do You Say to Someone During an Anxiety Attack? It was written from the perspective of someone with an anxiety disorder - me - helping someone through an anxiety attack. While this proved to be one of my more popular blog posts, it raised one very big question that I had not considered when I wrote it: What do you say to someone having a panic attack if you have never had one yourself?
The comments I received on the subject questioned whether or not a friend or relative could offer any support at all. One comment stated, “It sounds like anxiety attack support is meaningless, but there must be something a relative could do.”
What Not To Say to Someone Having an Anxiety Attack
Before we can truly address what to say, we need to address what not to say. In my experience, there are some phrases that are almost guaranteed to elicit a strong, negative reaction. Here are five common phrases to avoid:
- Just calm down. / Stop it.
- It isn’t that bad. / You’re overreacting.
- You’ll live. / You won’t die.
- Stop being dramatic. / Stop being hysterical.
- You’re embarrassing me. / You’re acting crazy.
What to Say to Someone Having an Anxiety Attack
There is nothing you can say that is guaranteed to be helpful. People will respond to different words, phrases, etc. differently. Keep in mind, anxiety causes a lot of self-doubt on behalf of the sufferer. Here are some phrases or general ideas that most people find comforting:
- I am here for you. / We will get through this together.
- Is there is anything I can do to help you through this?
- I understand you are worried/afraid and that’s understandable.
The best thing to say to someone who is having an anxiety attack is something they want to hear. If you are a fixture in this person’s life, ask them what would be reassuring. Do this when they are calm, of course, not in the middle of an attack. When I have an anxiety or panic attack, my wife is quick to rub my back and tell me it will be okay. She distracts me with small talk to take my mind off whatever is triggering me.
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Howard, G. (2014, July 16). Anxiety Attack Support: How Family and Friends Can Help, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, June 3 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/07/what-do-you-say-to-someone-during-an-anxiety-attack-part-ii-2
Author: Gabe Howard
HI Gabe: What a great topic. Thanks so much for sharing this information, it's so helpful for people to know concretely both what not to say, and what to do instead.
Hi Amy - Thank you so much. I truly believe that many people who "say the wrong" thing don't do it maliciously -- they just weren't sure what to say or do! Thank you for reading and commenting. ~Gabe