The feelings of being misunderstood, overlooked and even mocked do not help those who live with anxiety and suffer from panic attacks. Believing the myths of what panic disorder is and not taking the time to understand how it really impacts a person diminishes the self-esteem and ability to cope with symptoms of those with the disorder.
All they want is to be understood. Don't hesitate to ask them questions about what it is like to live with the condition. They want you to know the truth and not criticize them for their imperfections.
There are five specific things people with panic disorder want you to know.
1. I can't just "control" it
People with panic attacks are not trying to seek attention. Actually, they would rather you not see them when they are their most vulnerable. The truth is they cannot control what is happening. They are totally and 100 percent completely out of control.
Through treatment and medication the symptoms can be managed better, but it is ultimately out of their control. Remember that if they could stop the symptoms, they most definitely would.
Be patient with them and remind them you are there to help them as the symptoms come.
2. My symptoms are different than his/hers
Attacks normally start with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety that escalates into fear as additional symptoms start to increase. Chest pain, accelerated heart rate, nausea, shortness of breath, hot flashes and shaking are just a few of the symptoms a person may face during an attack.
An episode can occur at the start of just one of these symptoms. Some people may even experience multiple symptoms due to the fact that their anxiety is different than that of another person.
3. Panic attacks make me feel like I'm literally going to die
As a person begins to experience a panic attack, they lose all control of their ability to think reasonably. Their fears and unique symptoms cause them to believe they are experiencing an attack that needs medical assistance.
While experiencing a panic attack, a person needs space to keep calm. They are not capable of talking to you or "breathing" until the symptoms start to slow down.
Asking them to talk about what is happening can increase the anxiety and make them hyperventilate.
Breathe with them. You can talk to them, so do that. They will be able to talk once their breath is less shallow and they get a little more comfortable.
5. The attacks themselves are not always the scariest part
The intense fear of the physiological symptoms depletes by the moment, but many people who experience these attacks would agree that the worst part is living with the fear.
The attacks occur so suddenly and cannot be controlled by anyone or anything, disempowering the one experiencing them.
Psychologist Rick Warren told Huffington Post that people with panic disorder often worry about the next panic attack and try to avoid situations that can induce it.
This makes an individual's everyday life hard because they live not only with a medical condition that cannot be easily treated but also in constant worry. They worry about when the next attack will be, who will be there and what others will think afterwards.
Love them, support them and don't make them feel alone during this time. There is no possible way for you to experience what they are going through, so listen to their needs and do the best you can to exceed those needs.
Your support, understanding and constant love will help them manage life with a panic disorder.
Tana is a student with a passion for words. She believes that written words can touch people in ways unimaginable. In her spare time she enjoys singing, hiking, cuddling in a fuzzy blanket, and spending time with her friends and family.