More than 13 per cent of people are susceptible to panic attacks, which can be very intense and distressing. So what are the symptoms and how best can you respond?

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1. Educate yourself: Attacks can last between five and 30 minutes, with symptoms including rapid breathing, sweating, a racing heart, shivering and feeling sick.

2. Stay calm: ‘If you’re having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you reassuring you that it will pass,’ Paul Salkovskis, professor of clinical psychology and applied science at the University of Bath.

It’s important to ride out the attack and not look for distractions; just remaining calm yourself can provide comfort.

3. Be reassuring: Panic attacks can be highly distressing; some people describe feeling as if they are having a heart attack or that they might die. It is important to reassure the person experiencing an attack that they are not in danger. The symptoms, attributable to the body’s fight or flight response, typically peak within 10 minutes.

4. Encourage deep breaths: Encourage the person to breathe slowly and deeply. Some experts advise counting out loud or asking them to watch while you calmly raise your arm up and down.

5. Be careful not to be dismissive: Your ‘don’t panic’ may be well-intentioned, but try to avoid any potentially dismissive language and phrases.

6. Try a grounding exercise: Grounding techniques, or other ways to feel connected to the present, can be effective – focus on the texture of a blanket, smelling something with a strong scent – and even stamping your feet.

7. Ask them what they need: People can often feel exhausted after a panic attack. Gently ask them if you can get them a glass of water or something to eat.

Guardian News & Media