Yelling at Someone During a Panic Attack (Why it Doesn’t Help)

In this brief guide, we will discuss yelling at someone during a panic attack, and how much damage it can do. We will also discuss what to do to help when someone is having a panic attack and what to say to someone having a panic attack over text.

Yelling at Someone During a Panic Attack

Yelling at someone during a panic attack can be extremely detrimental to the person’s psychological well-being, and yelling at them can cause their body to go into a fight-or-flight mode, which may make the panic attack much worse.

Some people think that yelling at someone during a panic attack may snap them out of their condition and they will stop spiraling, because the loud noise will interrupt their thought process and bring them back to reality, so to speak, but it is not so.

The truth is that the brain processes yelling or raised voices in the same way that it processes danger, and the structure of the brain that is responsible for the experience of fear, which is the Amygdala, is activated when someone hears loud noises.

Since someone having a panic attack is likely already experiencing increased activity in their amygdala, the chances of them worsening when someone yells at them are even higher, because they can start feeling more fear and that will only worsen their condition.

Another reason yelling at someone having a panic attack is not a good idea is because yelling at someone can cause an overproduction of cortisol in their system, and this hormone is responsible for causing the person to feel the physical symptoms of anxiety.

The common physical symptoms of a panic attack are vestiges of our primal defenses in the face of danger like predators or wild animals, and hormones like cortisol and adrenaline were meant to push the body into overdrive and enable human beings to get away from the danger.

While the wild animals and predators aren’t there anymore, the hormones are, and sometimes they start firing for no reason, when they mistake a circumstance for true danger, and yelling can add to this feeling of danger.

Ultimately, if you want to help someone having a panic attack, yelling at them to help them shake it off will not help, instead, talking to them in a calm steady voice might.

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a rush of physical and emotional symptoms that are characterized by intense fear and anxiety and a state of extreme arousal that may feel like an actual physical illness like a heart attack.

Panic attacks can make the person feel like they are dying, and the sense of impending doom is often a big sign of a panic attack.

The diagnostic criteria for a panic attack according to the DSM 5 is as follows:

“Recurrent unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or intense discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes, and during which time four (or more) of the following symptoms occur:

Note: The abrupt surge can occur from a calm state or an anxious state.

  • Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling or shaking.
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering.
  • Feelings of choking.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea or abdominal distress.
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chills or heat sensations.
  • Paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations).
  • Derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself).
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy.”
  • Fear of dying.”

“Note: Culture-specific symptoms (e.g., tinnitus, neck soreness, headache, uncontrollable screaming or crying) may be seen. Such symptoms should not count as one of the four required symptoms.

At least one of the attacks has been followed by 1 month (or more) of one or both of the following:

Persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences (e.g., losing control, having a heart attack, “going crazy”).

A significant maladaptive change in behavior related to the attacks (e.g., behaviors designed to avoid having panic attacks, such as avoidance of exercise or unfamiliar situations).

The disturbance is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or another medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism, cardiopulmonary disorders).

The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., the panic attacks do not occur only in response to feared social situations, as in social anxiety disorder; in response to circumscribed phobic objects or situations, as in specific phobia; in response to obsessions, as in obsessive-compulsive disorder; in response to reminders of traumatic events, as in post-traumatic stress disorder; or in response to separation from attachment figures, as in separation anxiety disorder).”

Things you shouldn’t say to someone having a panic attack

There are some things you should never say to someone who is having a panic attack, because they neither help nor make the attack go away, and sometimes they may make the person feel worse, and examples of such things are:

  • “It’s all in your head”
  • “You’re not trying hard enough”
  • “Just try to not think about the scary things”
  • “I get anxiety too, try this…”
  • “Have a drink/smoke”
  • “You’ll get over it if you tried really hard”
  • “Everything is okay”
  • “Calm down”
  • “You’re blowing it out of proportion”
  • “You’re faking this”
  • “You are doing this only because it is trendy”
  • “Stop being so emo”
  • “You’re being too dramatic”

Saying things that are reductive and condescending to someone who is having a panic attack can make their symptoms worse, and they can also make them feel more alone and ashamed of their issues and this may cause them to not seek the help they need.

Saying encouraging things to someone having a panic attack is not necessary, sometimes just being around them can help, and in some cases showing that you care or breathing with the person alone can help tremendously.

What to say to someone having a panic attack over text?

Trying to help someone that is having a panic attack over text can be very hard, but it is not undoable, and there are still some things you can say to someone having a panic attack over text.

When someone is having a panic attack and you can only text them, you need to ensure that you keep texting even if they are not being overly responsive, offer for them to send emojis once in a while or just random alphabets to let you know they are there, and keep texting them.

You can say things like the following to someone having a panic attack over text:

  • “You are fine, you will be fine”
  • “Smell the things around you, look at the colors you have around you”
  • “Focus on the sounds you are hearing”
  • “You can get through this.”
  • “Tell me what you need now.”
  • “Concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present.”
  • “Keep reading what I’m sending you, focus on this”
  • “You won’t feel this way forever just remember that, it will pass”
  • “It’s not the place that is bothering you; it’s the thought.”
  • “What you are feeling is scary, but it is not dangerous.”
  • “I am proud of you. Good job.”

You may not necessarily know what to say to someone having a panic attack over text, but the fact that you are there and trying to help may also mean a lot, and be more important than you providing constructive advice or telling them what to do and what not to do, so just be there if you don’t know what to say.

When someone is having a panic attack saying things to them over text can feel like you are not helping enough or that you could be doing more and you may even feel helpless, but sometimes, during a panic attack, even something as basic as text can ground someone.

It is a proven fact that being grounded and feeling connected to someone when you are having a panic attack can be helpful in some cases, so if someone has reached out to you while having a panic attack, you can help a lot with just being there on the text.

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we discussed yelling at someone during a panic attack, and how much damage it can do. We also discussed what to do to help when someone is having a panic attack and what to say to someone having a panic attack over text.

To someone having a panic attack, it may often seem like the world is ending or that they are dying, so when someone yells at them in the midst of that, it can not only feel insulting or condescending, it can also add to the feelings of losing control or add to the heightened emotional state.

If you have any more questions or comments about yelling at someone during a panic attack, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Yelling at Someone During a Panic Attack

What should you not say to someone who is having a panic attack?

Here are some thing you should never say to someone who is having a panic attack

“Calm down.”
“Everything is going to be fine.”
“You need to push through it.”
“Oh, here we go again”
“You’re only like this because it’s so trendy to be anxious right now.”
“I get anxious too!” 
“Have a drink, it’ll help you relax.”

Does anxiety cause anger outbursts?

Yes, anxiety can cause anger outbursts, although it is relatively rare. Sometimes, anxiety left untreated can lead to frustration, which can lead to anger outbursts, but again, this is much more rare than just panic attacks or emotional outbursts.

How do you calm down when having a panic attack?

To calm down when you are having a panic attack, try these tips:

Drink water
Put some ice over your forehead and hands
breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose.
breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth.
Count to 10

How do you talk someone out of a panic attack?

To talk someone out of a panic attack you need to ensure that you try to keep them calm and stay around them, but not necessarily touching them or trying to hold them.

You can also talk to the person having a panic attack about things that are not emotional in nature and something that will involve them in talking about something they know well or something they are very clear on.

You can also talk to the person having a panic attack about something mundane or routine, or you can ask them to count to ten, or do some breathing exercises with them.

Do Hugs help anxiety attacks?

No, hugs can increase the autonomic arousal of the individual, and make their anxiety attack worse sometimes, because even though research shows that hugging helps reduce stress and lowers the risk of anxiety, depression and illness, when someone is in the middle of a panic attack, or anxiety attack, they are experiencing a heightened emotional state as well as physical symptoms, so feeling constrained in a hug may feel suffocating to them.

Citations

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-not-to-say-to-someone-having-a-panic-attack-2584266

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.