How to Support a Person with Panic Attacks or Anxiety

PanicI came across this article by Helen Nieves and thought it would be useful to share her tips on how to help someone you know who is having panic attacks or suffering from anxiety.

What are Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

Anxiety is a part of life and normal to experience at some point or another. It’s a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. When you have an anxiety disorder, the anxiety becomes excessive where you have difficulty controlling it and interferes with daily life. The anxiety remains with you for months and can lead to phobias and fears which impact your life. Anxiety continues even after the stressor is gone. It is a fear that is accompanied by feelings of impending doom.

Common signs of anxiety are diarrhea, irritability, restlessness, headaches, sweating, upset stomach, muscle tension, anger, rapid heartbeat, and unable to concentrate, just to name a few. There are several anxiety disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Anxiety disorder is very common.

A panic attack brings on sudden attacks of fear with no reason. It triggers physical reactions with no real danger or threat. It can happen with no warning and at any time. Symptoms usually peak within 10 minutes. A person usually fears that they will have another panic attack and often avoid situations where they may occur. Agoraphobias may develop because the person may be afraid to leave their home because nowhere seems safe.

Symptoms of panic attacks include feelings of impending doom, fear of losing control, trembling, hyperventilation, chest pain, headaches, tightness in your throat, trouble swallowing, hot flashes and sweating, just to name a few.

There are many types of treatment for anxiety and panic attacks. Finding the right professional to help you cope with these disorders is important. There are many medications a doctor can prescribe to you to help manage with the symptoms. There are also natural supplements, relaxation training, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, group therapy, and support groups which can help reduce the symptoms.

Lifestyle changes such as stress management, exercising, removing stimulants and sugar from your diet, changing your perspective to situations, and changing your attitude from controlling things or the need to please others can also be of help to manage with anxiety or panic attacks.

1) Providing Support:

If you or someone you know takes care of a person who has panic or anxiety attacks, I would advise you to know as much as you can about the disorder. Ask the person with this disorder to share with you their thoughts and their feelings about the disorder during an attack and when they feel calm. The following is a list of tips that may be helpful in supporting a loved one or friend who suffers from these disorders:


2) Listen:

You should just listen and do not try to solve the attack. You cannot fix it or take the attack away.

3) Support:

Learn how to support your loved one or friend when they have an attack. Find out from them what will help and what they need you to do during an attack.

4) Organize activities:

Let the person organize activities that you can do together. If they set their own parameters, they may be more willing to try them.

5) Compromise:

Be open to adjustments that can help in making an outing successful and comfortable. Make adjustments for other similar activities that make the person uncomfortable such as taking stairs instead of an elevator.

6) Respect:

Never belittle or downplay the attack. This is a real disorder. Do not dismiss their attack or try to solve their problem though realization.

7) Understand:

When a person is going through an attack, rationality and listening is not what they are concentrating on. You have to understand that you cannot make the experience go away by trying to rationalize the situation to them.

8) Believe:

The worst thing you can do is to act as if they are lying an attack. This is not the case. Be there for them and let them know that although you do not understand what they are going through, you are there for them. Do not try to force them out of an attack because it could make the attack worse. Let the attack happen until their bodies relax on their own. If that doesn’t happen, get them to the nearest emergency room.

9) Professional care:

Never give someone suffering from anxiety or panic attack any type of prescription medication that has been prescribed to you. They may have other health conditions or may be taking medications that you may not be aware of that might have a negative effect on them. If you want to help, take them to see their physician or psychiatrist who will prescribe them with medications.

10) Acknowledge:

When a person suffering from an attack tells you that they want to move forward or try activities despite their attack, acknowledge it and support them in this success for trying. If they had a hard time with the activity due to an attack, support them and help them try again at another time when they feel ready.

11) Seek counseling:

It is important that you seek professional counselling because living or taking care of someone with any type of disorder is going to bring up your own emotions. You can also encourage the person with panic or anxiety attacks to seek counseling or to participate in a program such as group therapy, support groups, or gradual exposure therapy.

12) Be a friend:

Be gentle, encourage and provide comfort while helping them to focus on the task at hand. This is a specific role and make sure that you are able to provide them with this. Not everyone can provide them with the support, help, encouragement, and understanding that will help them with their attacks.

Can you imagine a life without panic?  If you or someone you know suffers from panic attacks or anxiety, then please get in touch to make an initial appointment. You can phone or text me on 07980 967 293 or email me here.

I offer a safe, confidential psychotherapy and counselling service in Levenshulme, Manchester. Together, we can work towards the panic free life you deserve.


What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional AbusePhysical abuse is tangible. If you are hit by someone, then that’s physical abuse. If you hit someone, then that’s physical abuse. So what is emotional abuse? In the article below, Maria Bogdanos outlines her interpretations of emotional abuse. And they’re pretty spot on.

Emotional abuse is elusive. Unlike physical abuse, the people doing it and receiving it may not even know it’s happening.

It can be more harmful than physical abuse because it can undermine what we think about ourselves. It can cripple all we are meant to be as we allow something untrue to define us. Emotional abuse can happen between parent and child, husband and wife, among relatives and between friends.

The abuser projects their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others.

In the following areas, ask these questions to see if you are abusing or being abused:

  1. Humiliation, degradation, discounting, negating. judging, criticizing:
    • Does anyone make fun of you or put you down in front of others?
    • Do they tease you, use sarcasm as a way to put you down or degrade you?
    • When you complain do they say that “it was just a joke” and that you are too sensitive?
    • Do they tell you that your opinion or feelings are “wrong?”
    • Does anyone regularly ridicule, dismiss, disregard your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and feelings?


  2. Domination, control, and shame:
    • Do you feel that the person treats you like a child?
    • Do they constantly correct or chastise you because your behavior is “inappropriate?”
    • Do you feel you must “get permission” before going somewhere or before making even small decisions?
    • Do they control your spending?
    • Do they treat you as though you are inferior to them?
    • Do they make you feel as though they are always right?
    • Do they remind you of your shortcomings?
    • Do they belittle your accomplishments, your aspirations, your plans or even who you are?
    • Do they give disapproving, dismissive, contemptuous, or condescending looks, comments, and behavior?


  3. Accusing and blaming, trivial and unreasonable demands or expectations, denies own shortcomings:
    • Do they accuse you of something contrived in their own minds when you know it isn’t true?
    • Are they unable to laugh at themselves?
    • Are they extremely sensitive when it comes to others making fun of them or making any kind of comment that seems to show a lack of respect?
    • Do they have trouble apologizing?
    • Do they make excuses for their behavior or tend to blame others or circumstances for their mistakes?
    • Do they call you names or label you?
    • Do they blame you for their problems or unhappiness?
    • Do they continually have “boundary violations” and disrespect your valid requests?


  4. Emotional distancing and the “silent treatment,” isolation, emotional abandonment or neglect:
    • Do they use pouting, withdrawal or withholding attention or affection?
    • Do they not want to meet the basic needs or use neglect or abandonment as punishment?
    • Do they play the victim to deflect blame onto you instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes?
    • Do they not notice or care how you feel?
    • Do they not show empathy or ask questions to gather information?


  5. Codependence and enmeshment:
    • Does anyone treat you not as a separate person but instead as an extension of themselves?
    • Do they not protect your personal boundaries and share information that you have not approved?
    • Do they disrespect your requests and do what they think is best for you?
    • Do they require continual contact and haven’t developed a healthy support network among their own peers?


    Does any of the above ring true for you? If you are in abusive relationship, either being abused yourself or you are the abusor, then it’s time to come to All Ears, which is a professional counselling service in Manchester. You will be supported in a safe environment to explore what is happening for you. People don’t abuse or be abused for no reason, and it’s the underlying stuff you’ll need to get to grips with if you want things to change for you.

Why not book an appointment, either by calling me on 07980 967 293 or you can email me here. For details of fees, follow this link.

10 Signs of Being in an Unhealthy Relationship

Man in Question MarkHave you ever wondered about the relationship you’re in and how healthy it is? Here’s an article I came across written by American Psychoptherapist, Nathan Feiles. It outlines 10 signs of an unhealthy relationship.

Technically, a relationship needs to only be defined by the people who are in the relationship. What is a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two people may be completely different than a “good (or healthy) relationship” for two other people.

However, there is a difference between a relationship having its own shape and character, and a relationship that is either harmful or generally unhealthy for one or both partners. These relationships can be difficult to spot from the inside because one or both partners grow accustomed to the life of the relationship. Denial can also be a factor due to fears of change, failure, or otherwise. So while it may seem like it should be obvious when you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it isn’t always so simple.

Here are some signs of concern within relationships. Note, the presence of one or more of the following signs doesn’t necessarily mean you should end your relationship. These are things to keep an eye on, and if they persist, may need further attention in order to improve the state of your relationship.


1) Hitting

Relationships are going to have their share of arguments and disagreements. This is normal. However, when one or both partners crosses the line into hitting, even if it’s just one punch and not an all-out brawl, this is a concern. One punch is still abuse, no matter the gender of the aggressor.


2) Name-calling

Arguments are rarely pleasant (though at times relationships tend to feed off of them, for better or worse). Name-calling, however, crosses the boundary from a heated disagreement into hostile disrespect and disregard for your partner. Name-calling is verbal abuse, is contemptuous, disrespectful, and only tears your partner down. It doesn’t have a productive quality to it for the relationship.


3) Lack of support

While it’s not possible for each partner to always be supportive in the desired moments, it becomes problematic when goals, achievements, desires, and other forms of personal life fulfillment are constantly met with resistance and negativity by your partner. While a partner can’t always be expected to be supportive of everything, a healthy relationship generally has a sense of overall support between the partners. Without this, resentment and frustration eats away at the relationship.


4) Forced to answer to your partner

There’s a difference between coordinating with your partner out of common respect for each other, whether it’s for scheduling social or work events, coordinating child care, or otherwise, and having to actually receive permission from your partner to see friends, spend money, etc. This is a form of being controlled, and often appears in the form of one partner controlling the other’s spending, who the partner associates with, and keeping tabs on everything the partner does. This is also a form of psychological abuse.


5) Feeling angry or resentful of your partner

It’s one thing to be angry or annoyed with your partner, at times. This is normal in relationships. However, if there’s a general sense of resentment and anger towards your partner that overarches your relationship, this isn’t healthy. Something is going on that needs to be addressed before it erodes the relationship.


6) Pressure to abandon children of previous relationships (often in second marriages)

Second marriages, especially when children from previous marriages are involved, can add dimensions to relationship conflicts and boundary violations. These can range from forcing a partner to choose between them and the partner’s kids from a previous relationship (seeking relationship priority), and actually forcing a partner to change wills, assets, and other end of life plans into their inheritance priority and control. There’s usually an indication of abandonment if the partner doesn’t comply. While some people give in to this, whether out of fear of abandonment, or otherwise, this is a form of insecurity, entitlement, manipulation, and control that is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.


7) Ultimatums and threats

Healthy relationships tend to have healthy forms of communication. Ultimatums and threats signal frustration and resentment — an attempt to dominate and control the partner. There is more going on in the relationship that needs to be addressed if ultimatums and threats are being made.


8) Dictating discussions

Whether it’s through stonewalling or directly dictating when discussions end or begin, this is another form of control. This represents not only control, but a breakdown in communication. Dictating endings leaves one partner destroyed and impotent, and sets up a superior/inferior dynamic. While this dynamic can technically work for some relationships, it’s not a sign of a healthy relationship, as it sets up a destructive dynamic where one rules the other (forcing conversations on your partner before they’re ready to have them is also a problematic relationship behaviour). The idea is to re-visit the conversation when both are ready. But if one hopes to end the conversation without revisiting the issues, the problems will remain present in the relationship.


9) Cheating

While this may seem obvious to some, people who experience an unfaithful relationship don’t always see cheating as a relationship issue as much as a sign of personal shortcoming or failure — that their partner had to make up for their shortcomings by going outside the relationship. This kind of rationale often covers the fear of losing the relationship. It is taken on as a personal issue, rather than an interpersonal relationship issue (or even as the cheating partner’s issue). While relationships can recover from cheating, cheating is a sign of something unhealthy within the relationship dynamic. The cheating partner may carry significant responsibility of the act, however if the relationship was functioning at a healthy level, cheating likely wouldn’t come into the picture.


10) Embarrassment of your partner

This shows up in various ways, but may come in the form of resisting having friends or family meet your partner, intentionally avoiding mentioning your partner in conversations, or speaking negatively about your partner to people who aren’t close with you (as opposed to venting relationship frustrations to a close friend, which is a normal way to cope with stress). These are indications of desire to keep your partner away, rather than joined with you.

There are other issues that aren’t listed here, but the main themes that signal an unhealthy relationship are forms of abuse, control, and blatant disrespect and disregard of the partner (it can be from one partner to the other, or back-and-forth between both partners).

It’s important to keep in mind that relationships can become healthy again, often with the help of couples counselling. An unhealthy relationship doesn’t automatically mean it’s time to break up. However, if the issues continue, or there is an unwillingness from your partner to work together on these relationship issues, then a decision will eventually need to be made.

If you can identify with what’s written in this article, maybe it’s time for you and your partner to come to couples counselling? If you’d like to know more or to book an appointment email me or give me a call on 07980 967 293.

We can work together to help you make those positive changes for a healthy relationship.

Sound good? What are you waiting for?


What is a victim role?

VictimWhat is a victim role?  by Linda Hatch PhD

I came across this article and thought I’d post it on here for you to read.Being a “victim” has a bad name. When we call some one a victim it’s like we’re saying they are a whiner, that they lack backbone. But being stuck in a victim role is far more complicated than that.

First of all there are times when we really are victims. Anyone can fall victim to an assault, an unforeseen calamity, or identity theft.

When we are the victims of these kinds of things it is psychologically important to accept that we are in fact a victim. It would be unhealthy to deny that we are vulnerable and can get hurt. At these times it is a sign of strength to look for sympathy and support.

Getting stuck in a victim identity

A victim identity is what Eckhart Tolle describes as the ego identity, the story that we tell about ourselves (in Stillness Speaks, 2003, p. 31). It is a way of defining our sense of self based on resentment and grievances.

Getting stuck in a victim identity means it is difficult to give up this definition of ourselves. It is our claim to fame and we feel that without it we would be nowhere.

Victim conditioning in childhood

Many adults with inadequate coping skills, boundaries and emotional controls have had early childhood experiences in which they actually were victimized. They have often been abused either verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually. Sometimes they were abused by being ignored, neglected or emotionally abandoned.

These experiences leave them with a low self concept and a lack of basic trust. Trust in themselves, trust in others and, if you will, trust in the universe. It is as though they feel “I will always be disappointed and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

What is the impact of the victim identity on relationships?

Defensive Self-righteousness

Whether it is true or not, the victim identity brings with it the expectation that you will be hurt or controlled by your significant other, or by anyone for that matter. This in turn leads to very defensive reactions to anything and everything that could potentially be seen as a slight or criticism.

I have seen many people who do not know how to take issue with a negative characterization of themselves. They can’t seem ever to say “No, you’ve got me all wrong!” Instead they become defensive and often combative, saying in effect “I’m better than you, look what a mean person you are.”

Emotional reactivity

When a victim lashes out and blames you for being the bad guy it is hard to want to sympathize with them. In fact in that situation you are likely to feel like you are the one being abused.

At this point the victim feels they need to reject you, avoid you or control you so that they won’t experience the feeling of being inadequate. In fact they experience any number of normal situations that arise in relationships as unduly harsh and become overly reactive.

Retreating into addiction

Feelings victimized can trigger resentment and self-loathing. The person in the victim role naturally looks to escape such negative feelings and reaches for an addictive drug which helps relieve anger, loneliness and shame.

Often the person in the victim role will engage in an addictive behavior such as sexual acting out in secret, as an escape and sometimes as a way to get even. The victim may feel “I deserve this,” or “this is all I have,” or “if I’m bad I’ll be really bad.”

How to respond to someone who adopts a victim role

When someone experiences him or herself as a hopeless, helpless victim it is a catch 22. If we accuse them of playing the victim they feel shamed and become even more defensive. If we ignore them then we are seen as uncaring or hurtful. If we defend ourselves we are seen as denying their pain, and so on.

Counselling and learning about healthy communication can help in the long run to enable people to catch themselves when they are responding based on old conditioning.

In the meantime try the following:

 Being non-judgmental

 Responding ourselves in the ways we would like them to respond

 Giving the “victim” a vote of confidence

This last one can be surprisingly effective. It means letting the person know that we have confidence in them to surmount obstacles. The vote of confidence helps them to see that they are not as weak or helpless as they believe.

If you can identify with being in the victim position or can identify stepping into psychological games with victims and you’d like to work on steppping away from this, please give me a call on 07980 967 293 or get in touch by emailing me here.

Counselling and psychotherapy offers a supportive space for people who want to want to move to a healthier and happier place.