This article is purely from personal experience and does not contain professional health advice. Those wanting such advice should seek the help of a health professional. 

One time I was with my friend when all of a sudden I found myself in the midst of an anxiety attack. Looking back on the reason why I was suffering from this attack I can understand that it was incredibly illogical but at the time it felt as though my world was crashing down around me. I was struggling to breath, my body was shaking and I was almost in tears as I described each possible end-of-the-world scenario to my friend.

My friend’s response was something along the lines of “oh what are you going on about, everything is going to be fine and if not the consequences are not that bad, you are being so ridiculous Lucy.” At that moment I was furious at him and even now when I think about this moment I cannot help but still feel an anger arise within me. However, I know it is not his fault and my anger is unwarranted, he simply did not understand what to do when someone was going through high anxiety.

In fact, it is safe to assume that most people do not know what to do in such a scenario. So I have created this list from personal experience about things you can do to help.

With an estimated 2 million people in Australia suffering from anxiety, it is quite likely somebody close to you suffers from it. If you are someone suffering with anxiety perhaps this list may be something you can share to help those around you understand.

Acknowledge their feelings

 Most of the time when one is suffering from an anxiety attack their reasoning for it may seem absurd. Its human nature to reassure them everything is okay and tell them to stop worrying but this is the last thing one wants to hear. People with a mental illness are aware that at times their reactions are irrational and implying that to them can be very unnerving.

A simple way you can acknowledge their feelings is by stating “you are upset because of insert reason here, that sucks, I understand” (unless of course their attack is ice-cream related in which case you should suggest something else).

Do not add to their anxiety 

Whilst you have to acknowledge their feelings do not add to their anxiety. For example, if one is anxious after seeing a snake don’t say “if you have seen one snake that means there are many more lurking around.” This can simply cause an attack to reverberate.

When one is suffering from a panic attack, at the time, do not offer solutions to the reason for their attack 

When in the midst of a panic attack do not offer somebody solutions to reason for their attack, they are often not in the right mindset to consider them properly. It may even result in that person rejecting such solutions because it was offered at a time of high anxiety which means they may have applied worst-case scenarios to this.

Remind them to breath 

From my experience I have often thought of the breath as being the greatest medicine for anxiety. There is something so refreshing about concentrating on taking slow deep breaths. However, this is a fact I seem to forget when I am suffering from a panic attack.

A breathing technique which you can guide someone in is by telling them to take a deep breath for 4 seconds and then to hold it for 7 second and exhale for 8 seconds.

This is known as 4-7-8 breathing, you can view an example here.

If you are reading this article and thinking “this sounds like a friend of mine”, then the best possible thing I can recommend is to talk to them. They may not take you up on the offer but at least you have made them aware you are there.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, call: