How can I help my partner when she is having a panic attack?
A good question and one that many should be asking but who don't. Many Partners and friends can experience this problem and feel helpless and unable to do anything positive to help.
However the question is is not an easy one to answer with a single reply.
I used to suffer from panic attacks and I remember feeling totally alone even when surrounded by lots of family and friends. I remember that the feeling was like falling inside your own head, if that makes any sense. Often the people around me would makes things worse by doing or saying the wrong thing and this only increased the sense of loneliness.
I now know more about what panic attacks are and how they affect the body. Having this knowledge alone will help your wife reduce the affects of each attack. why because:
1. the attack is a normal physical response but an inappropriate one in the circumstances.
2 The attack cannot actually harm you i.e. you will not die
3 Panic attacks are short lived, it is impossible for the body to maintain the panic state for any length of time. There is more information on this page
Your wife needs to learn the breathing exercises so that she can help herself during an attack, it will enable her body to relax and shorten the length of the attack. She will need to practice regularly.
As for how you can help, lets talk about what helped me and what didn't.
First, learn not to panic yourself or become over fussy around her during an attack, this will only agitate her more.
You need to remain calm and relaxed. Try sitting with her and practice the breathing exercises together.
Try to change the situation you are both in, go for a walk, jump on a bus, do something that totally changes the situation or distracts the mind.
Often it is about removing the focus from the individual to something else. Focusing on the attack will often prolong it.
My advice is, both of you need to understand more about what and why these attacks happen and learning techniques on how to take control back. Focus on keeping healthy both physically and mentally and to take a step backwards and look at the bigger picture of your current life situation, are there changes that could be made?
best wishes Kate