Are you wondering how to assist someone who is experiencing anxiety? It’s not just you. You probably know someone who suffers from anxiety because it affects millions of individuals and is unaffected by gender, age, background, or anything else.
The challenging aspect of generalized anxiety disorder is that it can manifest as a variety of reactions and symptoms that we all encounter as part of our natural defense mechanisms. It’s crucial to keep in mind that worry can be beneficial in moderation. However, persistent, chronic anxiety may be crippling and significantly impact how we function in our day-to-day lives.
There are various things you may do to support someone who regularly feels anxiety that interferes with social interaction, work, education, or family life.
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Become informed about anxiety
More than 40 million adult Americans suffer from persistent anxiety. In the US, it is the mental health problem that people suffer most frequently. Sadly, only around one-third of people with an official diagnosis of an anxiety disorder receive the therapy they require to manage their anxiety and live a full life, despite the fact that it is a condition that is highly treatable.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder (SAD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to mention a few, are some of the several categories of anxiety disorders.
If we want to become better at anything in life, education is essential. This is especially true when trying to figure out how to assist a loved one in managing the signs of their ongoing anxiety. Learning as much as you can about how to support someone with an anxiety problem can be quite beneficial. You can get started by educating yourself on the factors that contribute to anxiety, its typical symptoms, and practical management methods.
Additionally, don’t only learn on your own. Along with the anxious individual you’re trying to help, learn. They require the same level of knowledge about their situation that you do. They could benefit from learning about some behavioral modifications that could help them reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms and enhance their quality of life.
Discover the Symptoms of Anxiety
Different people experience anxiety in different ways. Similar symptoms, nevertheless, might also co-occur. Although by no means comprehensive, the list that follows does include some of the more typical signs and symptoms of anxiety. People that are anxious frequently go through:
- repeatedly experiencing anxiety, fear, or panic
- constantly tense or tense-feeling
- Unease and restlessness
- rapid or erratic heartbeat
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Angina (chest aches) (chest pains)
- prone to becoming startled
- difficulty sleeping
Muscle tension, a dry mouth, perspiration, irritability, over generalizing, and a sense of impending doom are other symptoms of persistent anxiety. Even when there is no rational basis for such a belief, they could always feel as though the worst is about to happen.
Do Not Tell Them to Relax
Even though it could seem like a harmless remark, it’s not a good idea to encourage a person who suffers from anxiety to just stop feeling what they’re feeling. The person you care about may appear to be in good spirits on the outside, but they are likely going through intense distress, terror, and physical signs of worry like sweating or a beating heart that feel very real to them.
According to professionals, saying things like “Stop worrying” might make people feel dismissed and misunderstood, which could have an adverse effect. Additionally, if individuals experience judgment and invalidation, they could be discouraged from getting support or tackling their anxiety issues. Simply state, “I’m here if you’d want to talk about what’s on your mind,” or “I see you’re feeling nervous,” as an alternative. What can I do today to be of assistance?
Aiding Them in Self-Help
The University of Toledo Counseling Center advises participants to concentrate on their immediate physical environment (such as the room they are in) and then name:
Finding out about practical coping mechanisms and abilities is another method to help a loved one who suffers from anxiety. By doing this, you can “encourage kids to use the tools when they are anxious”. By doing this, you are assisting them in learning how to help themselves calm down when they sense their anxiety getting worse. For instance, you could instruct them in “grounding exercises” to help them refocus on the present moment rather than the source of their anxiety.
- Five items are visible.
- Four sensations (such as a chair on my back or their feet on the ground)
- Three things they can hear.
- Things they can smell.
- One positive statement about themselves
- Additionally, if they’re open to discussing their options for treatment, you might suggest that they attempt cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT, which is given by qualified mental health experts, aims to assist individuals in recognizing and altering the unfavorable thought and behavior patterns that put them at risk for severe anxiety.
Give Assistance, But Don’t Assume Control
Since avoidance is a fundamental aspect of anxiety, on occasion we could feel compelled to “help out” by taking care of our avoidant loved ones and unintentionally encourage their avoidance. For instance, if you have to make phone calls for your anxious roommate because they find it so unpleasant, they will never overcome their avoidance.
Support, which is defined as anything that stops short of really doing it yourself, is a useful general notion to bear in mind. Support does not entail doing things for someone else. For instance, if your loved one schedules the appointment, you can volunteer to attend the first treatment session with them. Or, if they’re unsure about how to choose a therapist, you may come up with some ideas, but allow them make the decision.
When someone’s anxiety is accompanied by severe depression, this rule might not apply. If they are unable to get out of bed, they may be so shut down that they require immediate assistance in order to survive. Additionally, family members with anxiety disorders sometimes go into pure survival mode and require more direct assistance to complete tasks. However, in less dire situations, it’s preferable to provide assistance without dominating or providing excessive reassurance.
Avoid Stigmatizing Someone Who Has a More Significant Anxiety Disorder
What can we do to help those who have more serious problems? People with conditions like panic disorder, anxiety and depression combined, post-traumatic stress disorder, or obsessive thinking (especially thoughts associated with eating disorders) may feel as though they are really going mad. It could seem impossible for you to assist them. You still have several options for showing support.
Reassure someone that your general opinion of them hasn’t altered when they are going through a lot of anxiety. They are still the same person; they are only going through a brief difficulty that has gotten out of hand. They are not damaged, and they remain the same person. By engaging in or supporting the person’s interests and activities, you can help them maintain a connection to their positive facets of themselves.
Likewise, Look After Yourself
Recognize that your intention is to assist rather than heal or calm the person’s concern. Check to make sure you’re not assuming too much responsibility because that is a sign of worry. Remember that the focus of your support doesn’t have to be specifically on anxiety.
For instance, exercise is quite beneficial for reducing anxiety; therefore, you may just suggest that you go for a stroll or attend a yoga session together. Limiting your help in some ways is also acceptable. It is much more likely that a 20-minute stress-relieving conversation during a stroll will be beneficial (and less taxing) than a two-hour marathon debate.