5 Helpful Tips To Help Someone With Anxiety
This article is reviewed by a team of registered dietitians and medical doctors with extensive, practical clinical and public health experience.
Anxiety is one of the normal human emotions and we all get to experience it sometimes, especially when under stress. However, it is a little different for people with anxiety disorders as they can feel like they are drowning in their fears.
How can you help? There are strategies for managing anxiety that you can practice with your loved ones if you have noticed their anxiety.
5 Helpful Tips To Help Someone With Anxiety
Tips for helping someone with anxiety include:
- Learn the signs
- Do not enable avoidance or force confrontation
- Maintain communication
- Talk to a professional
- Take care of yourself
About 18.1% of the US adult population suffers from anxiety disorders annually, making it the most prevalent mental disorder. Despite several treatments being available for anxiety management, only about 36.9% are receiving treatment. Anxiety is also linked to other mental health disorders such as depression.
Sometimes, a person with an anxiety disorder might experience a panic attack featuring fear and intense panic. They might have obvious triggers or it might come on suddenly, without warning.
Treatment for anxiety disorders includes medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicine. Some also use supplements such as CBD to help them relax as much as possible. Combining medication with psychotherapy could produce better results than medication alone.
If you have got a loved one with anxiety, your support could be instrumental in them getting better.
Five Ways to Help Someone with Anxiety
Learn the Signs
You cannot truly know what to do to help the person if you cannot tell when someone needs help. Everyone’s different and your loved one might not display all these signs but knowing them should help you identify when your loved one is struggling with fearful feelings.
Signs of anxiety can be grouped into physical symptoms, anxious thoughts, and anxious behaviors.
Some physical symptoms of anxiety to look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
Anxious thoughts patterns that people with anxiety might express include:
- Constantly worrying
- Jumping to conclusions off a single event
- Expecting the worst-case scenario
- All or nothing perspective
Behavioral patterns that could let you know that your loved one is struggling with anxiety include:
- Compulsive behaviors such as repeated hand washing
- Second-guessing themselves
- Constantly needing reassurance
- Avoiding uncomfortable or feared situations
- Easily irritated, defensive, or frustrated in uncomfortable or feared situations
Your loved one does not have to display all the symptoms and behaviors above. Like with most emotions, everyone responds differently to anxiety. However, if you notice one or more of these, it could be a sign that they need your help.
Do Not Enable Avoidance or Force Confrontation
Sometimes, your loved one might not be quite ready to face their fears. It is essential that you do not force them to face their fears before they are ready to.
If you push too hard, you could break your relationship with your anxious loved one and make things worse. However, just because you are trying to preserve the relationship does not mean that you should enable avoidance.
Consistently helping your loved one avoid uncomfortable or fearful situations might be enabling their anxiety and stopping them from improving their mental health. Avoiding uncomfortable situations does not help them improve with time. Instead, they would have limited room for expression and their anxiety could worsen.
Encouraging your loved ones to face their fears could help them eliminate their cause for concern. Even with panic attacks, it is usually best to ride it out instead of avoiding such situations. Breathing exercises might also help.
It is all about striking a balance. You do not want to encourage the anxiety and at the same time, you should not be forcing a confrontation.
Consider getting professional help to help them build the courage they need to face their fears. You could suggest that the person sees a professional therapist. It takes some of the burdens off you so that you can focus on being helpful in other ways.
It is essential to ensure that your loved one understands that you are there for them. You could let them know that you have observed that they seem anxious about something lately and you are willing to help.
People struggling with anxiety might appreciate a loved one reaching out to them. You can ask them to share with you ways that you can support them.
Everyone’s needs are different and you can only help them deal with their anxiety when you pay attention to how they want to be helped.
Sometimes they might need your help breaking up a seemingly large task into manageable bits. Other times, a distraction might be the right remedy and can help take their mind off those thoughts.
Your anxious friend might also just need a friend to speak to. Talking about diverse topics might help them feel better. Try not to make your discussions only about their anxiety. Listen to what they have to say and let the conversation flow normally and drift from one topic to another. However, if they would like to speak on their anxiety let them express themselves and share their fears with you.
Try not to belittle their experiences. Telling them to get over it is not helping. Their source of anxiety does not have to make sense to you. Their experience is very real to them and you will need to be sensitive to their plight if you want to help.
Phone calls, video calls, and texts, every couple of days can help you keep in touch and monitor your friend’s progress with anxiety. You can also let them know to contact you anytime they feel overwhelmed.
Talk to a Professional
There is only so much that you can do to help a loved one with anxiety and sometimes encouraging them to seek professional help is the best course to take.
If you notice that anxiety is affecting important areas of your loved one’s life such as school and work, it could be time to discuss speaking to a therapist.
They might not feel too excited about the idea of speaking to someone. Instead of trying to force them to seek help, remind them that they do not have to commit to it after the first visit.
Let them understand that a visit to their therapist could be like a routine medical exam but for their mental health. After the first visit, they might develop the motivation to follow through with the treatment.
Your therapist could help your loved one manage their anxiety through:
Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and behavioral therapy focuses on helping them handle anxiety better. Medications such as antidepressants might also be part of their treatment.
You can still support their treatment journey by asking them about their experience or suggesting a different therapist if the first one does not work out. Joining in on a therapy session could also help you learn more helpful skills.
Take Care of Yourself
It will be incredibly difficult to provide adequate support if you are falling apart too. Taking out time to care for yourself is important if you want to help someone with anxiety.
When you have been the support for too long without getting any support yourself, you could feel overwhelmed. Ensuring that you are looking after your own physical and mental health is vital.
Consider setting boundaries and provide as much help as you feel able to. Do not take on more work when you feel overwhelmed. You could also lighten the load by getting help from someone else.
Share your feelings and anxiety with someone else too. You could also get help from support groups.
Wanting to help a loved one with anxiety is only natural. However, since everyone’s needs are different, having an open conversation with them about their condition and how they would like to be supported is essential.
Knowing what sign to look out for helps you identify when your loved one needs your attention. Discuss getting professional help if you notice that anxiety is holding them back from important parts of their life. Combining medicine and therapy might help a person experiencing anxiety.
However, helping someone with anxiety should not feel like a prison. Take time to care for your physical and mental health. You could find help from friends and in support groups so that you do not feel overwhelmed.
+ 9 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- Anxiety Disorders Prevalence. (n.d.). [online] . Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/file_148008.pdf [Accessed 26 Nov. 2019].
- Adaa.org. (2020). Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. [online] Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- . (2021). How to Help Someone with Anxiety. [online] Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety?amp=true [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- Mind.org.uk. (2020). Helping someone with anxiety and panic attacks. [online] Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/for-friends-and-family/ [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- Nhsinform.scot. (2020). How to deal with panic attacks. [online] Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/how-to-deal-with-panic-attacks [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- Greater Good. (2018). Seven Ways to Help Someone with Anxiety. [online] Available at: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/seven_ways_to_help_someone_with_anxiety [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- Priory Group. (2021). The dos and don’ts of helping someone with anxiety. [online] Available at: https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/the-dos-and-don-ts-of-helping-someone-with-anxiety [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- Bhatt, N.V. (2021). Anxiety Disorders Treatment & Management: Approach Considerations, Pharmacotherapy for Anxiety and Panic Disorders, Psychotherapy for Anxiety and Panic Disorders. [online] Medscape.com. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286227-treatment [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].
- MHA Screening. (2021). How can I help a loved one with anxiety? | MHA Screening. [online] Available at: https://screening.mhanational.org/content/how-can-i-help-loved-one-anxiety/ [Accessed 13 Jul. 2021].