There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness—particularly anxiety and panic attacks. Many people insist they aren’t real disorders, dismissing those who suffer from them with the too-often repeated phrase, “it’s all in your head.”
While mental illness is a difficult subject to talk about to begin with, this pervasive attitude about panic attacks makes it even harder for those dealing with the attacks to talk about them. But that’s not stopping BuzzFeed’s Kelsey Darragh from opening up about how she combats her own panic and anxiety disorder.
When Kelsey’s boyfriend, who does not have the disorder, asked Kelsey how he can aid her when she’s in the throes of an attack, she put pen to paper and jotted down a list of all the things he can do to help her get through it.
Now, she’s shared the list online to help others who struggle with the same thing and those who want to help them.
Kelsey’s list of 15 realistic things you can do to help a loved one through a panic attack :
1. Know that I am scared and won’t be able to explain why, so please don’t freak out or be annoyed with me.
2. Find my meds if they’re nearby and make sure I take it.
3. Breathing exercises are going to frustrate me but they are vital. Try and get me to sync my breathing with yours.
4. Make gentle suggestions of things we could do together to distract my panic. (Don’t tell me what I need/should do—and listen when I say no to something).
5. For dissociative panic= remind me that this has happened before and this too shall pass! It always does, but it’s scary AF when it’s happening, so maybe tell me some fun facts about me or our life together that will make me smile or laugh.
6. Sips of water can be helpful but don’t tell me I need to eat or drink because, trust me, I feel like I’m going to vomit.
7. Keep breathing with me!
8. If we can leave where we are – take me home!
9. Please be really really nice to me. I’m not feeling like myself and I’m embarrassed. Feeling guilty already for putting you through this so please don’t get frustrated with me.
10. Sometimes a really big, loose, long hug will make me feel safe.
11. Helping me breathe will be hard but so key!
12. If it’s really bad – call my mum or sister or BFF on the phone for me!
13. Tell me not to fight it – rather, let it pass through me. The more I try to control it [or for you to try and control it] the worse it will be.
14. Empathize with me! You may not get it, but you get me!
15. Once it passes (like hours later), open up a dialogue with me about it. How’d you do? What can we do next time?
Twitter was genuinely thankful for the tips:
This is so helpful. I totally get you. Thanks for sharing— Sonia Kulkarni (@Soniakulkarni) May 14, 2018
Hey @kelseydarragh I’m a psychotherapist and I saved this list to show some of my clients and ask them to explore making their own. Thanks for sharing ??— BCH (@brittchiggins) May 12, 2018
@ConnorTKelsey this is really useful , haven’t had one in about 6 months but just incase ❤️?— laura holliday (@LauraHday) May 15, 2018
I'm saving this for when people I know have a panic attack around me?— Dropble (@Dropble) May 16, 2018
They were also very supportive of Kelsey:
God bless you girl! I know you'll emerge stronger, bolder and happier out of this....— Vishal D (@DViShall) May 14, 2018
Thank you. You got this girl. You are getting stronger believe me.— Margaret Hasegawa (@margie49er) May 17, 2018
And noted her boyfriend’s willingness to help:
This is awesome kudos to your BF for wanting to know— Rez112 (@Rez1124) May 11, 2018
You’re really lucky that you have someone who wants to help you.— Maeen ♔ (@maeen26) May 14, 2018
You’re really lucky.. i was on the bathroom floor one night cause the cool from the tile, and I texted my guy asking him to call and talk to me, he ignored me. Continued to ignore me, then after I redirected my energy to him, he told me he needed time.. while I was “dying”.— Kat (@Kaaat0888) May 15, 2018
Some commenters, who suffer from similar attacks, shared tricks and techniques that help them get through it:
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
I get anxiety attacks on the tube to and from work and struggle to breathe properly when it occurs. I play a cricket game on my phone which aims to reach a certain score. Its mathematical and a distraction so helps me get through. Water and fresh air are other remedies that help.— FIZMO (@FUZZY_1992) May 16, 2018
This has helped me through some tough times maybe it could help you both too pic.twitter.com/yfxLzInF0h— Andy Roberts (@murdle1270) May 13, 2018
I find that intimate touch from my wife helps. Not sexy touch but skin to skin, empathetic touch. Rub my back under my shirt, rub my head, put your hand on my cheek. This helps much more in the latter stages of an attack, when I’m trying to reconnect but can’t quite do it yet.— Scott Donnelly (@sdonnelly002) May 12, 2018
If you need help dealing with an anxiety or panic attack, or you’d just like to learn more about the disorder, call the Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 1-800-64-PANIC (72642).