Watching your teen go through an anxiety attack can be scary and stressful. You might not even know why they are panicking. All you know is that their breathing has increased, their thoughts are racing and they are having a hard time calming down. It’s important to stay with them and support them through this time of intense anxiety. Here are some ways you can help them to cope.
1. Stay With Them
The first rule to keep in mind if your teen is having a panic attack is to stay with them. It’s also important to keep calm yourself as your own fear, worry and anxiety can only amplify their situation. Instead, be physically present with your teen, and call for additional help if you need it. This also helps your teen feel supported and can bring them out of their own, troubling thoughts.
2. Pay Attention to Breathing
One of the most helpful things a person having an anxiety attack can do is pay attention to something physical—something outside of their own thoughts. Since their breathing has likely increased, try getting them to focus on this. Breathe slowly along with them, as this might help their own pace. This will help calm other overwhelming physical symptoms (such as increased heart rate) as well.
3. Remain Encouraging
One of the most important things to keep in mind is to remain positive and encouraging while someone is having an anxiety attack. Do not tell them to calm down or that their panic is irrational. Even though it might not make sense, rationalizing or being negative with a teen having an anxiety attack can only compound their stress and fear. Instead, choose simple, encouraging phrases like “it’s ok,” “you’ll be fine” or “I understand.”
4. Ask Simple, Straight Forward Questions
When someone is having a panic attack, do not ask complex questions or make complicated statements. Instead, use short, encouraging statements (ie: “it’s ok?”) or ask them what they need. As they start to calm down, ask them what they need and let them guide you.
5. Seek Additional Help
A panic attack should be taken seriously, and if you need additional help, do not hesitate to call 911. If this is the first panic attack your teen has experienced or they haven’t reached out to a mental health professional yet, be sure to help them connect with one once the anxiety has subsided.
Feature image Alessandra