Worst thing you can say to someone having a panic attack is “are you okay?” First of all, a person balled up and sobbing in public is clearly not “okay.” Secondly, drawing further attention to their situation by asking them to detail it out to you is also bad.
Step one: get them a drink of water. Drinking water has a weird calming effect on people.
Step two: say “it’s okay” or some other generic form of reassurance. Just don’t ask them to talk about it.
Step three: move them to the darkest and quietest location around. If impossible call for a cab and get them out. Panic is tied to a kind of over-stimulation. So get them in the space of least stimulation and then try to calm them up again.
When it comes to suffering, we’re all clearly different. But for me, as a panic attack sufferer, it is a particular kind of suffering. I once broke six bones in my wrist and had to have them reset, which means a doctor takes broken bones and shoves them back into alignment. Hurts, fucking right it does. But would I take that over the emotions laced to a panic attack? Hell yes!