Lots of people grapple with anxiety, which can manifest in a variety of ways. One of the most terrifying aspects of an actual anxiety disorder are panic attacks, which can be triggered by a variety of things and actually shut down a person's body. People often go to the hospital thinking they're having a heart attack, when what is actually happening is a panic attack. That's how scary and painful they are.
Buzzfeed writer Kelsey Darragh went viral for her comprehensive list on things that can be done to help during a panic attack for her boyfriend, but which she thinks could benefit anyone in a relationship with somebody who has anxiety. If you haven't experienced it, it can be hard to know what to do. Someone in the grips of an attack will most likely be unable to articulate what they need. So, a list of dos and don'ts ahead of time is very helpful.
Darragh's handwritten list starts off with, “Know that I am scared and won’t be able to explain why, so please don’t freak out or be annoyed with me."
She also tells him to grab her meds if they're nearby and make sure she takes them.
One of the most important things is breathing, which she brings up over and over. She asks that he tries to lead her in breathing exercises and sync her to his breathing pattern, which will hopefully be much calmer.
Darragh writes that she can handle gentle suggestions for distracting activities, but if she says no to something he should listen—and not tell her what she should do.
Often during an attack, she'll have a dissociative moment, meaning she feels disconnected from her life or body. Darragh asks that her boyfriend remind her of nice things in their lives together that will make her laugh, so she can remember who she is and where she's at.
The list continues! Darragh asks that he be really nice to her during a panic attack, because she feels guilty and embarrassed for putting him through the whole ordeal, and those feelings just make it worse.
Sometimes she wants a "big, loose, long hug" to "feel safe."
In general, a lot of Darragh's tips boil down to "let me live." It's hardest to deal with a panic attack when you fight it or feel bad about yourself for having one.
"Empathize with me!" she writes."You may not get it, but you get me!"
And just as importantly, Darragh says that in the aftermath (several hours later) they both need to talk about how things went, in case there's something better that can be done later.
The response to the post has been huge, with almost 10,000 retweets and hundreds of comments from other people who experience anxiety and who have their own tips for how to deal with it from the outside.
If you’re somewhere inside then go outside and try stabilizing your breathing. Fresh air will always help.— Shelby (@shelbychelvy) May 12, 2018
Focus on something, preferably a bright color and continue to focus your breathing.
I found this picture a while back and I practice it every time. pic.twitter.com/9756KSpEDQ
talking quiet and trying to keep space between me and strangers is really helpful. having a playlist with calming music is helpful for me so having quick access is really good but idk if that helps for you— sage 46 (@bgltsantiago) May 11, 2018
Usually after the worst is through I have some songs / tv shows / etc. that help me feel better and more like a person in my body.— al (@bleachersnow) May 11, 2018
Also quiet and a lot of space from people (not complete isolation) physically when it happens. Definitely no touching for me, grounding words help!
I use the 54321 method to pull me out of panic attacks/dissociating. Find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, two things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Works in all but the most serious cases 😁— Britley ❄️ (@britley_adler) May 18, 2018
My anxiety attacks can be quite dissociative (with seizure like effects), a big thing I've found helpful is to firmly massage localized areas (like my shoulders). I concentrate on the pressure, its grounding without having to think & not too overstimulating. Your bf can do it too— C Y Δ N ::::::: (@cyanophytae) May 15, 2018
When I’m having a dissociative panic attack, I ask that when you address me you say my name and you also tell me little specific things about who I am, like my favorite candy or pizza condiments— fuck🌈 (@miahalexas96) May 12, 2018
There were also a lot of people who were learning about the severity of panic and anxiety attacks for the first time.
I had no idea panic attacks could last hours. I thought it was like 10-15 mins.— • myth • (@GlassMyth) May 13, 2018
Yep! - it's also the aftermath of an attack affecting you for hours afterwards, causing confusion, dissociation, fragility, fatigue, poor concentration, etc. It's an intense experience that can take a lot out of you and leave you feeling off, even hours after it passes.— C Y Δ N ::::::: (@cyanophytae) May 15, 2018
no probs! i mean, attacks range in intensity depending on the person and the situation... some attacks certainly might pass after a short amount of time and not every attack needs hours of processing afterwards, but it does happen✌️— C Y Δ N ::::::: (@cyanophytae) May 16, 2018
because it's so important and it's easy to hyperventilate or hold your breath during an attack which can lead to collapsing— Kristabelle (@KristabelleDyer) May 28, 2018
Though Darragh's list is very specific to her condition, it's a great example of how having open conversations when you're not in crisis can mean you get the support you need down the line. Have an honest talk with your partner today!