What Not to Say to Someone Having a Panic Attack

What Not to Say to Someone Having a Panic Attack

Panic attacks can be debilitating and overwhelming for those experiencing them. They can cause intense feelings of fear, anxiety, and a loss of control. During these episodes, it is crucial to provide support and understanding to the person having a panic attack. However, it is essential to be aware of what not to say in such situations, as certain phrases or comments may unintentionally worsen their distress. In this article, we will discuss what not to say to someone having a panic attack and provide guidance on how to support them effectively.

1. “Just calm down.”
Telling someone to calm down during a panic attack is dismissive of their feelings and can be counterproductive. Panic attacks are not easily controlled, and the person experiencing them may feel helpless in that moment. Instead, offer reassurance and let them know you are there for support.

2. “You’re overreacting.”
Invalidating someone’s panic attack suggesting they are overreacting can intensify their distress. Remember, panic attacks are genuine experiences, and the person having them is not intentionally exaggerating their feelings. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and help them focus on their breathing to regain control.

3. “It’s all in your head.”
Telling someone that their panic attack is all in their head can make them feel dismissed and misunderstood. Panic attacks are a real physical and psychological response to stress or anxiety. Instead, offer empathy and understanding to help them feel validated.

4. “You’re making a scene.”
Drawing attention to someone having a panic attack can increase their embarrassment and anxiety. It is crucial to create a safe and supportive environment for them. Instead, offer to move to a quieter or more private space, away from potential triggers.

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5. “Just take a pill.”
While medication can be helpful for managing panic attacks, suggesting it in the midst of an attack might not be the most appropriate time. Instead, focus on their immediate needs and offer assistance in finding professional help if necessary.

6. “You need to get over it.”
Telling someone to “get over” their panic attack is dismissive and implies a lack of understanding. Panic attacks can be distressing, and the person having them may already be struggling to cope. Instead, encourage them to seek professional help and offer support in finding appropriate resources.

7. “I know how you feel.”
While well-intentioned, claiming to know how someone feels during a panic attack can be invalidating. Each person’s experience is unique, and comparing their experience to your own may minimize their struggles. Instead, express empathy and let them know you are there to support them.


Q1. How long does a panic attack typically last?
A1. Panic attacks usually peak within 10 minutes and can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. However, the residual effects may continue for a longer duration.

Q2. Should I touch or hug someone having a panic attack?
A2. Physical contact can vary from person to person. It is best to ask the person if they would like a hug or any form of physical support. Respect their boundaries and provide comfort accordingly.

Q3. What can I do to help someone having a panic attack?
A3. Offering reassurance, encouraging slow breathing techniques, and creating a calm environment can be beneficial. Be patient and present, but avoid pressuring them to talk or share details about their panic attack.

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Q4. Can panic attacks be prevented?
A4. While it may not be possible to prevent panic attacks entirely, managing stress levels, practicing relaxation techniques, and seeking professional help can reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Q5. Should I call emergency services during a panic attack?
A5. If the person having a panic attack is experiencing extreme physical symptoms or if they request medical assistance, it may be appropriate to call emergency services. However, it is essential to respect their wishes and consult with them if possible.

Q6. Can panic attacks be cured?
A6. Panic attacks can be managed and treated effectively through therapy, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medication. With appropriate support and treatment, many individuals can experience a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of panic attacks.

Q7. How can I support someone in the long term who experiences panic attacks?
A7. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to accompany them to therapy sessions if they are comfortable with it. Educate yourself about panic attacks to better understand their experiences and be a reliable source of support and understanding.

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