How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone? (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss ‘How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone?’ through some tips and recommendations.

Even though there are many tips you could follow, everyone can experience panic attacks in a different way and what could work with someone may not work with other sufferers.

How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone?

If you wonder ‘How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone?’ here are some recommendations:

  • Talk to the person in a soft and calm tone of voice.
  • If you know they take medicine when having a panic attack remind them to take it.
  • Ask them to focus on an object and describe it to you.
  • Speak to them in short, simple sentences.
  • Remind them this will be temporary.
  • Help slow their breathing rate by breathing with them. Taking deep, slow breaths counting until 10.

In contrast, if you have helped someone close to you get over a panic attack you know helping them over the phone can be quite challenging or simply not ideal.

However, you can use your voice to guide them and help them calm down by saying things like:

  • “You can get through this.”
  • “I am proud of you. Good job.”
  • “Tell me what you need now.”
  • “Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present.”
  • “It’s not the place that is bothering you; it’s the thought.”
  • “What you are feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous.”

It is important to understand anxiety and panic attacks so try to do your research about it and know the symptoms. For instance, sweating, trembling, shaking, chest pain, feeling paralyzed, suffocated, or trapped, among others.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when helping someone go through a panic attack over the phone.

There may be silence

Not every panic attack sufferer will be able to articulate words and even more so, some may not even produce them when the words simply won’t come out.

This isn’t because they don’t want to but they just can’t. However, being on the phone with them doesn’t mean you have to pressure them to talk, just accept there may be silence.

Moreover, they will be aware of your presence on the other side of the phone and it may be enough for them to feel supported, just stay on the phone with them even if you don’t know what to say.

Breathing with them

Hyperventilating is one of the characteristics of someone having a panic attack so helping them shift their breathing pattern is important.

Breathing becomes superficial for them and many get desperate and frustrated because they can’t get enough air in their lungs.

If you notice they are having trouble breathing or breathing really fast, ask them to take some deep breaths and guide them to do it with you.

You may not notice any changes at the beginning, but just keep breathing with them until their breathing pattern changes.

Reassurance

If you have ever experienced how you could call a friend who was always there for you when you were sad or upset then you may understand how it feels to receive reassurance on how someone is there for you, even if it is over the phone.

Panic attack sufferers can feel alone and they will probably end up feeling guilty for reaching out in the first place.

Many panic attack sufferers feel completely vulnerable and terrified the other person will get tired eventually and leave them.

Just make sure to let them know you are there no matter what, this means so much more than you could imagine. 

Encourage them and tell them how much you love them

It is important to encourage them to stay strong, that you are proud of them and you believe in them, and always remind them how much you love them.

Also, remind them of the panic attack it’s only temporary while encouraging them to breathe.

Moreover, you could validate their distress and how their response is not in their heads or product of their imagination.

You can say something as ‘I can’t imagine what you are going through but know I will be here if you need to talk about it’.

Personalize the call by using their name

As recommended by Sky Taylor from themighty.com, “Every now and then, add in the person’s name you’re talking to into the conversation.

I know that when I’m having a panic attack and I hear someone say my name before they tell me something, it means a lot.

It makes me feel heard, validated, cared about, and reminds me you’re here for me. It also reminds me I am not my anxiety.” 

Try to shift their focus

You may have experienced or seen someone crying and someone else making jokes to try to make them feel better.

On many occasions, it can be a risky move because some people may think you are not taking their feelings seriously and some others will laugh with you forgetting for a second about how they actually feel. 

When someone is having a panic attack, their attention is focused on it.

Try shifting their attention by talking about a funny story you two share or some future plan (i.e. a trip or vacation).

What we should not do

There are certain things we should avoid when helping someone having a panic attack over the phone.

For instance, you may feel compelled to tell them to calm down or relax but it is not as simple as saying it and there is a huge probability that their anxiety will only get worse.

Also, we may feel like we need to know why they are panicking by asking a lot of questions but they probably just know as much as you do at that moment.

In addition, you may have heard them once or many times over the phone and you may believe they are used to the panic attacks.

However, it doesn’t matter if they are on their 30th panic attack, they are never used to it. Avoid saying things like ‘Just handle it like last time’ or telling them to ignore it. 

Moreover, be patient, and even if you are having a bad day or you are busy at the moment, don’t act irritated or frustrated since they are in a vulnerable state looking for help and it seems like you are leaving them alone.

Also, avoid judging them or telling them they should go to therapy or look for help even if it is the case, try to do it as a recommendation instead and offer your support whatever their decision is. 

Why is this blog about How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone important?

As we discussed here on how to help someone having a panic attack over the phone, it may not seem to be an easy thing to do but there is nothing to be afraid of.

Remember there may be silence but it is not necessarily a bad thing, also, try to help them breathe to shift their breathing pattern, reassure them you are there for them, that it is something temporary, encourage them to stay strong, and let them know how proud you are. 

Moreover, remember to stay calm, be patient, talk to them in a soft tone of voice, and avoid giving in to panic, frustration, being irritated, or frustrated towards them.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to help someone having a panic attack over the phone

How do you help someone having an anxiety attack over the phone?

If you want to help someone having an anxiety attack over the phone, do remind them their attack is just temporary and will pass.
Also, remind them they are not obligated to stay where they are. Encourage them to breathe and if possible, try to breathe with them.
Have a conversation with them but without asking too many questions, try to ask them to describe the place where they are with details and describe what they see.

How do you calm someone having a panic attack?

If you want to calm someone having a panic attack try the following:

– Stay with the person and try to keep calm (don’t freak out).

– Offer to get the medicine for them if they usually take it during a panic attack.

– Avoid making any assumptions, instead, ask if they need something.

– Speak to the person in short and simple sentences, avoid making too many questions at the same time.

– Be predictable.

– Help them breathe by synching their breathing pattern with yours, slowly counting.

– Remind them they are safe and it is temporary.

What should you not do when someone is having a panic attack?

Here are some things to consider on What you should not do when someone is having a panic attack:

– Freaking out (Try to stay calm).

– Do not limit their movements because it can make them feel claustrophobic.

– Avoid calling emergency services or an ambulance unless it is a
matter of life and death. As scary as a panic attack might be, it is not life-threatening.

– Avoid asking too many questions because it can make things worse.

What to tell someone who has anxiety?

You could tell someone who has anxiety that you are there for them if they need you.

In addition, you could try to empathize with them saying “I don’t really know what it feels to go through what you are going through but I am sure it must be overwhelming and exhausting.

Let me know if there is anything I can do to help”.

What should I do during an anxiety attack?

Here are some recommendations on what you could do when having a panic attack:

– Remind yourself to breathe using deep breathing techniques.

– Recognize you are having a panic attack instead of fighting against it.

– Close your eyes and imagine your happy place.

– Practice mindful meditation.

– Describe the scenery, objects, people around you to shift your attention.

What we recommend for Panic disorder

Panic Courses

  • Panic courses are a cost-effective way to seek help for panic attacks. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.

Professional counselling

  • If you are suffering from a panic disorder, then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if you are having panic attack and they are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night.

References 

Healthlinkbc.ca: “Helping Someone During a Panic Attack”

Taylor, S. (2018, Mar.) 7 Ways to Support Someone Having a Panic Attack Over the Phone. Retrieved from themighty.com.

Tinari, G. (2014, Jun.) How to Handle Someone Else’s Anxiety or Panic Attacks. Retrieved from medium.com.

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