Anxiety, What is it?
To think about how we can help someone with anxiety, we first need to know and understand what kind of situation he is going through. And that is why a brief explanation of what anxiety is, can be useful.
We give the name of anxiety to a state of deep subjective discomfort of emotional origin characterized by a strong negative effect and a high level of physiological activity or activation, which affects behaviour.
We are confronted with a state which is usually defined as an anxious reaction that appears to exist without the need for a threatening situation at this time, but which tends to be linked to the anticipation of a future threat or to an overflow or inability to face the demands of the environment, although one is not always aware of its origin.
How Can One Help in Case of an Anxiety Attack?
As you can imagine from its description, an anxiety attack is a highly debilitating phenomenon and focuses the patient’s attention on the symptoms themselves. It is also easy to confuse the symptoms with those of a heart problem.
Helping someone in this situation is not easy when immersed in it, although it is possible. How can we do it?
1) Don’t Tell the Person to Calm Down
It is relatively common that when a person falls into a panic attack or anxiety crisis, others do not know how to react. In that sense, it is common for them to try to tell you to calm down.
These indications are counterproductive: if the person could calm down just by wanting to calm down, they would do so immediately and not go through the attack. In this way, an anxious person is encouraged to block that feeling, making him or her even more frustrated because he or she cannot eliminate that kind of mental content immediately.
It can also add to the burden or tension that can make them feel reprimanded for not getting out of the situation. The reaction is probably not positive because it increases nervousness and the sense of overwhelming and suffocating.
2) Help Him Focus on a Fixed Stimulus Other Than His Feeling of Suffocation or Suffering
Someone suffering from an anxiety attack experiences a series of very intense symptoms on which he usually concentrates.
One way to help them would be to try to focus on a different kind of stimulus. In this sense, it may help keep them in eye contact with you and help them focus on aspects such as your breathing to mimic it.
You can also try to distract them in other ways, for example, by talking to them so that they focus on what we say instead of the symptoms.
3) Try to Help Them Breathe More Deeply
One of the strategies that can help a person in the middle of an anxiety attack is to help him control his breathing. In such a crisis, one of the most important symptoms is hyperventilation.
In this sense, it can help try to get the other person to pay attention to you and try to breathe deeply, both on inhalation and exhalation. If available, use a paper bag so that you can concentrate on filling and emptying the bag.
4) Speak Clearly and With a Calm Voice
Although the person in the middle of an anxiety attack may react with some hostility, the truth is that speaking with a firm and calm voice and a clear way can help to lower the level of activation, mainly if they process and understand what we are saying.
If you feel like these few tips aren’t helping, it is advisable to seek professional help.