Learning how to ground someone having a panic attack is valuable for self-care and caring for others.
In the event of a panic attack, it can often be challenging to stop the mind from spiraling out of control.
However, using the tips we’ll share with you can help lessen the physiological and psychological effects of the event.
- What Is a Panic Attack?
- How to Ground Someone Having a Panic Attack
- Effectively Grounding Panic Attack Sufferers
What Is a Panic Attack?
Not to be confused with an anxiety attack, panic attacks are different in a few significant ways.
Often classified as a more “severe” attack, panic attacks can be sudden and feature sharp, intense pain.
They also cause considerable psychological distress resulting from a real (rather than perceived) threat.
A common misconception is that panic attacks can only occur due to a panic disorder.
However, these attacks can occur comorbidly along with many other mental illnesses.
For example, you can have anxiety disorders that trigger panic attacks and phobias.
Panic attacks are often classified in numerous ways but present with similar symptoms, including:
- Heart palpitations and racing heart rate
- Trembling and chills
- Dizziness and weakness
- Numbness in the hands
- Excessive sweating
- Significant nausea and vomiting
- Chest pain
What Causes Panic Attacks?
Understanding the cause of panic attacks is one of the best ways to know to work your way through them.
For most individuals, the attacks occur due to real external stimuli.
You may encounter a specific situation, hear a specific sound, or experience a trigger that begins the spiral.
It can be challenging to put the finger on the specific cause of a panic attack. They can differ considerably from person to person.
For example, one individual might be triggered by loud, sudden sounds.
Another individual might have a panic attack visiting a location where they had one before.
Sometimes, significant or minor events can trigger attacks, such as earthquakes or leaving one’s home.
A few other examples of panic attack causes include:
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Sudden changes in the environment
- Prolonged periods of stress
- Traumatic life experiences
- Imbalances of neurotransmitters
How to Ground Someone Having a Panic Attack
With a better understanding of panic attacks and how they can start, you can begin developing grounding techniques.
Whether you’re interested in calming yourself or another person, these tips can help you work through the situation.
It is imperative to remember that although panic attacks associate themselves with the feeling of dying, it is a short temporary attack that will soon pass.
Tip 1: Know the Triggers
The first step to grounding someone during a panic attack is knowing the trigger.
Identifying the trigger can help you move the individual away from the stressful situation so they can begin calming down.
Additionally, having this level of self-awareness is essential for the person suffering from the attack.
Once you know their triggers, you can help the individual work through the situation in the future.
Although it’s not best to develop avoidant behaviors regarding specific stimuli, it can help you prepare them for gradual exposure.
For example, if an individual has panic attacks before flying, you can take the necessary steps to prevent an attack during travel.
Tip 2: Make Positive Affirmations
When helping someone through a panic attack, staying positive during the experience is important.
It can be easy for a situation to quickly spiral out of control once one person influences another to feel the same level of stress and panic.
The best thing you can do is remain positive and calm, helping the sufferer feel a semblance of normalcy.
There are a few different ways to make positive affirmations to help work through a panic attack, including:
- Use Kind Words
Kindness is the key to many hearts and as such, maintaining a high level of care is essential.
Let the person know that there’s no judgment, that they don’t have to be embarrassed or worried about their panic.
Assure them that they are safe, that you are there for them, and that the situation will pass quickly.
- Maintain Conversation
This tip is dependent on the person and situation, as some people fair better without conversing during a panic attack.
However, it’s commonly accepted that maintaining a friendly and kind conversation is helpful.
Talking is one of the best ways to help the other person regulate their breathing and help distract them from symptoms.
- Be Flexible
When experiencing a panic attack, a person’s fight or flight response is typically engaged.
In these instances, their body will experience heightened levels of stress that can also result in freezing in place.
Always remind them there’s no pressure to stay in the current situation and that there’s flexibility to leave if needed.
- Ask Questions
What better way to take someone’s mind off a situation than to ask them questions?
With that said, you won’t want to overwhelm them with too many questions.
You can start by asking them if they’ve had a panic attack before and if they need help to gauge their response.
Tip 3: Find Somewhere Comfortable to Sit
Although this might seem like a typical piece of advice, comfort during a panic attack is essential.
The central point of grounding someone is to make sure they don’t have more to worry about.
When experiencing a panic attack, you won’t want to add the worry of fainting while standing on top of everything else.
If possible, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit away from the stimuli triggering the attack.
The more comfortable they are, the easier it will be to focus on their physiological symptoms.
Sitting upright in a chair is one of the best ways to help them regulate their breathing.
Tip 4: Ask Grounding Questions
Panic attacks present themselves in a much different way than general panic. However, dealing with them can be similar in many ways.
When someone is panicking, it’s a golden rule to ask them simple questions to keep them focused.
This solution is highly recommended that first responders and dispatchers often use questions to calm people calling emergency numbers.
Grounding questions are one of the best ways to distract individuals from their physiological symptoms.
You’ll want to focus on things that you know the person will know and can answer easily.
A few great examples of grounding questions include:
- What day of the week is it?
- Where are we located?
- Who are you here with?
- What is your name?
Tip 5: Touching Objects
If you’re looking to ground yourself or someone else, a fantastic option is physically doing so.
Instead of answering questions or maintaining conversation, you have to jolt your brain out of thinking you’re dying or losing control.
Getting your hands on a physical item can help bring you back down to earth instead of continuing to spiral.
Fortunately, there are many objects that you can touch in your immediate area.
You can clasp your hands together and squeeze, touch the arms of a chair, or even carry a sensory toy in your pocket for attacks.
By feeling an inanimate object that is real, you can help to prevent the likelihood of derealization.
Tip 6: Focus on Breathing
Hyperventilating is one of the worst symptoms of panic attacks that can exacerbate other symptoms.
Implementing breathing techniques is one of the most effective ways to work through a panic attack.
When dealing with an attack, you’ll begin to feel your breathing quicken, leading to feelings of helplessness, dizziness, and fainting.
It’s best to encourage the sufferer to focus on their inhales and exhales, letting oxygen in and out of their lungs.
You can even use basic counting to count to ten while they breathe in and breathe out.
It can also help to use positive affirmations while using breathing techniques, reminding them the situation will pass quickly.
Managing your breathing can considerably help to lessen other effects of panic attacks.
Even though it seems simple, it can help lessen chest pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, and general discomfort.
Tip 7: Know When to Offer Space
As a person not suffering from a panic attack, it’s essential to help based on their needs.
Suppose the individual knows they don’t fair well with others when having an attack. In this case, know when to give them space.
You won’t want to make them feel burdened or be too overbearing, causing even more distress.
Mastering the art of backing away when the person self-regulates better independently is ideal.
You can always reevaluate towards the end of the attack to assist with the comedown.
Tip 8: Using NLP Techniques
The eighth tip to consider when grounding someone with a panic attack is relying on NLP techniques.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is beneficial for managing panic and anxiety-related symptoms.
Whether you’re looking to reframe trigger points or work with your brain to lessen how you respond to triggers, it can be quite helpful.
NLP techniques vary considerably, ranging from things that you can do physically to oral mantras and meditation.
However, you can also learn how to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming to assist with panic attacks by mastering the process.
Here are some of our top-recommended guides to help you get started:
- Introducing NLP: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People – Joseph O’Connor, John Seymour
- Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies – Romilla Ready, Kate Burton
- Practical Natural Language Processing: A Comprehensive Guide to Building Real-World NLP Systems – Sowmya Vajjala, Anuj Gupta, Bodhisattwa Majumder, Harshit Surana
Effectively Grounding Panic Attack Sufferers
Having tips to know how to ground someone having a panic attack can help prepare you to be a stronger support system.
Whether you’re managing your mental health or someone else’s, these steps are essential.
The short, sudden feelings of helplessness will soon subside by maintaining calm and staying focused.