How do I help my friend who has panic attacks?
May 7, 2011 5:16 PM Subscribe
My friend constantly has panic attacks. Is there any coping mechanisms that I can suggest or anything I can do or say as a friend to help him calm down?
It sucks because what will happen is, I'll make plans with this friend a week in advance to do something fun. The entire week leading up to the plan, he's all "hell yeah, can't wait till friday night!" Then come Friday at 8pm he'll call me and tell me he's either running late or decided not to come because he's "having a panic attack". This has happened probably 7 or 8 times now in the past year.
I'm not quite sure what this means, I've been with him when he has had said panic attacks before and it doesn't LOOK like he's having an "attack", he just gets very quiet and doesn't make a lot of eye contact and appears to be in deep concentration (he's otherwise very outgoing), though he can still talk and converse and function and says things like "hold on, I'm just having a panic attack". I'll ask what's wrong, if there's anything I can do, if I can get him some water, and he just says that it's nothing that is specifically bothering him, that he just gets these panic attacks and he always has and he just needs to let them pass. They usually pass in 20 minutes or an hour or so.
Like I mentioned, he is very outgoing and loves to go out and talk to people, but he seems to always have these panic attacks on weekends when we're either about to head on a big night out or even worse already out at a bar or party or concert. He refuses to see a therapist* but is on meds. I've known him for the better half of his life and while he has been stressed out about things before (school/career) he's never faced serious trauma or anything. My questions are:
- Is there anything I can do at the moment he has a panic attack? Do I rub his back and tell him he'll be okay? Do I try to change the subject and get him talking about something else so he can get his mind off of it? People who have panic attacks, how do you cope? What would you like your friends to do?
- How do I proceed with making plans with a friend who has panic attacks 25 percent of the time? He loves going out, he's the one who invites me most of the time, but - and yeah I'm probably going to hell for saying this - it just sucks getting my plans blown for this all the time.
People who have chronic panic attacks, please help me understand what my friend is going through.
*I anticipate someone answering with "your friend needs to see a therapist". Let me just say this now for the sake of getting it out of the way: Yes, I know.