Is there anything a friend can do for someone experiencing a sudden panic attack? Or is it something that "this too shall pass" and you just comfort them and make sure they don't do anything dangerous, i.e. suicide?

My friend is experiencing tunnel vision, hyperventilation, heart palpitations, a sense of impending doom, sweating, uncontrollable crying. As a friend, this is scary for me to watch... but I know it's much scarier for the individual. What can I do to calm them down? (They are currently under a a tremendous amount of work, school, emotional, familial, health, financial and now political stress). I don't have any reason to think they would inflict harm on themselves (attempt suicide), but I hate to see them in such distress.


If your friend has had similar attacks in the past and he has been told by a general practitioner or a psychyatrist that those were panic attacks, just help him calm down and tell him that the feeling of impending doom, the sweats, dizziness, palpítations and difficult breathing are all part of the clinical picture of a panic attack. Convince him that if he tries to calm down, the symptoms will go away more easily. Prescription drugs (such as Alprazolam and Clonazepam) are helpful and if one of them is available it's certainly because it was prescribed by his doctor. In this case he has also received instructions on how to take it in an emergency.

Then again, if it's the first time a friend of yours is suffering an attack and you are not an MD, take him to an E.R. immediately. You may be wrong and it may be another type of medical emergency.


When in the middle of a panic attack, immediate relief of anxiety symptoms can come from taking a sedative type anti-anxiety medication such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan. These drugs are provided at least in the beginning of medical therapy, but are not for long-term use. So when you notice a friend is liable of experiencing panic attacks, it's advisable to have the medications listed above in case of emergencies.

Certain antidepressants can help prevent anxiety and reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks, but are not used for immediate relief during an attack. Frequently used antidepressants are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft.


  • That is by no means immediate relief. You're looking at an hour at least for it to take effect, and if you've ever seen a full-blown panic attack, you know they can't wait an hour. – Carey Gregory Dec 2 '16 at 22:57

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