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Tackling panic disorders at work

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Around 5% of those who suffer from panic attacks have felt disbelieved by family, friends or at work

More than nine out of 10 (92%) workers who suffer from panic attacks believe their employer could be doing more to support them, according to research by anti-anxiety device company bcalm.

The UK-wide study of 3,000 adults found that just 8% say their employers are very supportive of their condition, and 27% of panic attack sufferers say they get no support from their employer whatsoever.

When it came to discussing their panic attacks, 5% of sufferers have felt disbelieved by family, friends or at work.

Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, explained that panic attacks are an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to fear, stress or excitement. “A colleague experiencing a panic attack may feel unable to breathe, have shaky limbs, a pounding heartbeat and shortness of breath. They may feel as though they’re losing control or even think that they’re going to die,” she told HR magazine.

She suggested that employees who suffer from panic attacks should regularly communicate with managers and other team members. “Having frequent meetings or catch-ups creates space for people to discuss any issues they are facing and develop methods to tackle these problems,” she said. “If it’s the workplace environment itself that is triggering panic attacks a reasonable adjustment could be the option of working from a different location, such as from home.”

Director of bcalm Michael Sinclair agreed focusing on the working environment can help. “Almost three in 10 women and one in four men said that improving airflow at their place of work would help with their panic attacks,” he said. “This is consistent with two separate double blind medical studies in two different countries, done by two different investigators, which have demonstrated that carbon dioxide pollution filters help reduce panic attacks.

“So many offices have windows that don’t open. In such cases you’ll need a high power, expensive ventilation system to compensate and many businesses can’t afford this. Employers should encourage their people to get out and about – even a short break outside can help. Fresh air is so important for physical and mental health.