At a glance

The best way to be able to communicate with a person who is having a panic attack is to stay calm and not panic yourself.

While some people will tell you “I am having a panic attack”, it is common for people to not tell you. It is also common for people to not realise that they are experiencing a panic attack (they often think they are having some kind of physical health issue).

- A person with lived experience of a mental health condition

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The signs of a panic attack that you might see include sweating, shaking or trembling. The person may have difficulty breathing, chest pain, feel that their heart is racing, feel faint or be unsteady on their feet.

If you are calm, then you can support someone by:

  • asking them to describe what is happening, and whether they have had a panic attack before
  • listening to what they are saying and asking what they might need
  • being reassuring and let them know they are safe and that you will stay with them until the panic attack is over
  • encouraging them to slow their breathing down
  • being patient
  • showing support until the panic attack has passed.

Remember when someone is having a panic attack, anything you say needs to be said clearly, slowly and using short sentences.

Note: Some of the signs of a panic attack are the same as a heart attack. If the person does not think that they are having a panic attack or the symptoms continue to get worse, then you should call 000.

Resources

Panic attacks first aid guidelines
These guidelines explain the symptoms of a panic attack and outline how you can assist someone who is having a panic attack.
Type: Guideline
Reading time: 3 pages
Produced by: Mental Health First Aid Australia

Tools kit – Panic Attacks
This fact sheet explains how to help people experiencing panic attacks. It is written for the person having the panic attack, but covers the steps to support a person through it.
Type: Fact sheet
Reading time: 4 pages
Produced by: Lifeline

Current as at: Monday 24 February 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch