Freespira named one of Fast Company's 2023 Most Innovative Companies.

Freespira in Newsweek: Read Doug's patient story here.

Panic attacks: How to explain what it’s like (and why you should)

Mother and daughter at home having a  talk at home

Panic attacks can turn your world upside down. When they happen, the sudden intense fear creates real physical symptoms. You might feel cold (or hot), nauseous, or like you can’t breathe. It can feel like you’re dying.

And even when you’re not having one, panic attacks still affect you. The fear of an attack may make certain places or activities feel unsafe. You might avoid driving, airplanes, elevators, crowded places, or even wide-open places. Your world shrinks.

Yet often other people just don’t get it. Those who have never had a panic attack might think you’re being dramatic, crazy, or both. They may think you’ll be fine if they just push you a little to get over your fears. But you know it’s not that simple.

It can help to talk to trusted friends or family about your panic attacks. Here are some things it may help to share:

How panic attacks feel for you

Describe both the physical and emotional symptoms you feel when you have a panic attack. You might shake uncontrollably or sweat a lot. You might feel trapped and unable to move. Or you might feel dissociated like you’re outside of your body. Explain that even if it looks like you’re overreacting, what you’re feeling is very real, and you can’t control it.

What you’d like them to do if they’re with you

Would you like them to give you space, or stay close? Would it be helpful for them to squeeze your hand? If you feel like you’re having a heart attack or dying, should they call 911?

What fears you have related to panic attacks

A loved one may intend to encourage you. But if pushing you to do something you’re afraid of in hopes of helping you to “get over it” isn’t helpful, tell them so, and ask them to stop. Explain your fears or triggers and ask them to support you by being patient with you.

What you are doing to manage your panic attacks.

Keep in mind that whether or not they’re going about it the right way, a good friend wants to help. If panic attacks or panic disorder is keeping you from living your life fully, it may reassure them to know that you’re getting treatment.

If you haven’t tried treatment yet, or haven’t found the right fit, share what’s stopping you. While talk therapy and medication can be effective, they aren’t for everyone. Newer treatments, like FDA-cleared Freespira, have low or no side effects and are easier for some patients to use.

Freespira is a medication-free treatment option you can complete at home on your schedule. It can reduce or eliminate panic attacks in just one month.

African American mother is playing piggyback riding with her young daughter while having a summer picnic in the public park for wellbeing and happiness concept

Stop wishing and start living. Yes, really.

The universe speaks when you stop and listen

Don’t ignore this important symptom.

Woman with their dog camping in the woods on a beautiful autumn day

Quick: What do you do if a panic attack strikes?