My girlfriend has bad panic attacks where she can’t control her breathing and sometimes passes out. This happens even when I’m there. I hate not being able to help! When I realised that I couldn’t find a way to stop them completely (she has only ever passed out one time with me there) it started scaring me.
What I do is I lie her down on her back and lie next to her on my side. I drape my thigh across her lower abdomen and hold both of her hands while resting my head gently in the crook of her neck so she can feel my breathing.
I take as much care as I can to avoid her chest area out of fear of impeding airflow.
I try to talk to her but often I have to stop when my voice cracks and having me scared too won’t help at all.
I need to be able to help my girlfriend when she is having severe panic attacks… what is the best physical reassurance I can give, and what can I say to help her?
First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your situation. It really sucks watching a loved on suffer… feeling helpless is the worst. And I applaud your desire to help her in any ways possible, including reaching out here. So bravo bro!
I’ve have had panic attacks in front of loved ones so I know how embarrassing and humiliating it can be for her. It sounds like she doesn’t really yet have a handle on her situations. Most likely her attack continued to get worse even with you there because she didn’t know what was happening. The fastest route for her recovery is going to be a little education and little courage in herself.
The more she learns about panic attacks and over all anxiety the sooner she’ll regain her control on her break downs. So what you’re doing is great… going online to find resources is perfect. For you and for her!
I’ve already written an entire course on this topic so I won’t waste too much time here breaking down how she can recover all by herself, but I will give you some quick basics.
Touch base with the family doctor.
If she can afford it, or has free access then defitenly also touch base with a counsellor or psychologist or even a psychiatrist. Having a doctor explain what her body’s doing will go a long way to ease her anxiety about the whole thing. I will add this one note, and this is just my opinion, which is that it’s wise to not jump immediately to a pill or drug solution. Anxiety and panic are driven and fuelled by our thoughts, beliefs and focus. Taking a drug that influences how we feel doesn’t fix how we think. And so even if she does start an anxiety medication her recovery will still require some healthy inner game work which she can learn through a book, course, teacher, mentor, or doctor. So please let her know and give her a hand if you can.
Anxiety and panic attacks are perfectly curable without drugs or special supplements or even lengthly counselling.
The trouble with anxiety is that it’s driven by our thoughts. She might be triggered by some external circumstances, but the gas that fuels her episodes comes from HER. She’s doing this to herself.
So what she needs MOST is perspective and a willingness to learn.
She also needs to accept responsibility for her own recovery. And trust me, anyone can over come it quickly and forever. I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced it myself. Drop me an email anytime by the way.
Once she’s decided to REALLY fix this for herself then you can help her life find solutions through books, podcasts, videos, audio books, etc.
One of the best books is WHEN PANIC ATTACKS by David Burns.
Only when she DECIDES to take control will she be most open to doing the hard inner work that it takes for true recovery.
We’re all biased without knowing it.
We all assume that what we think is correct, without testing it. And it’s this error in our thinking that amplifies our fears and worsens our panic.
I will end with this… anxiety is not a disease. It’s just the amygdala in our brain with it’s foot on the gas. It’s our thoughts that keep the gas on, or which tells the amygdala to pump the breaks.
She needs to grow an awareness of her thoughts in order to change. Because we FEEL what we focus on. The fastest way to turn off the amygdala is to do those things that are scaring us and surviving.
That dark room is spooking us? Just walk into it and prove to the body that you’re going to be fine.
Scared of that test? Study and take it.
Scared of having a panic attack in front of family and friends? Force yourself to have one in front of them. Prove to yourself that you’re tougher than you give yourself credit for. Prove to your brain that there’s actually nothing to worry about. Prove to your body that being fearful of fear is silly and that there’s nothing that can destroy you.
Scared of hyperventilating? Then hyperventilate and watch how you don’t die.
This is called “flooding” and it seems scary, but it’s harmless.
Anxiety causes us to FEEL sensations, not symptoms. Symptoms come from disease. Anxiety is not a disease.
She will be okay, I promise.
Help her to see that millions of others share her fears and worries and pain, and they all survive. And she will too. And she’ll even thrive if that’s what she wants.
I guess my last note would be that if you’re willing you should also go read some books and watch some youtube videos so that you can build your own knowledge as way of loving support.
I wish you both luck and recovery!