If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you probably know how crippling it can be. Most people will experience some level of anxiety at some point; however, for those of us living with an anxiety disorder, it can negatively impact our quality of life.
Some anxiety can be a normal response to stressful situations, but if you’re experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings every day, this could indicate an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that is characterized by feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety that are so severe they interfere with an individual’s daily activities.
Types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
Those who struggle with debilitating anxiety might have trouble coping or find it difficult to ask for help.
If you know someone who deals with anxiety and you’re wondering how you can help them, here are a few tips to assist you.
8 Ways to Help Someone With Anxiety
1. Understand What Anxiety Entails
One of the most important things you can do to help someone with anxiety is educating yourself on anxiety and more specifically, the anxiety disorder they struggle with. Spend time researching what can help anxiety and different resources you can share. It’s also important to recognize the symptoms of anxiety.
Common symptoms include:
- Persistent worry or fear
- Feeling nervous, restless, tense, or on edge
- Rapid heart rate
- Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
- Sweating or trembling
- Trouble sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
It’s important that you understand how serious anxiety is. Making time to try to understand anxiety is a good way to show your care. It’ll also help if you can learn the person’s triggers.
2. Reassure Them
For a person living with anxiety, offering reassurance is essential. For example, if you’re dating someone with anxiety they may question whether you truly like them or why you choose to be involved with them.
This can be overwhelming for both you and the person you’re dating.
We’re constantly worrying about how someone feels about us or what their true intentions are.
Let them know that you care and want to be a part of their life.
While reassurance is important, make sure you’re not enabling them because this can make anxiety worse.
3. Encourage Them to Seek Treatment
Sometimes an individual’s anxiety is so severe that they need professional help. This usually looks like a combination of medication and therapy. Some people may be apprehensive to receive treatment for various reasons such as shame or fear.
You can help by talking to them about the benefits of getting help as well as helping them find a therapist and/or doctor.
Keep in mind that you can’t force someone to get help.
4. Acknowledge Their Feelings
Anxiety is a real issue. Never try to minimize a person’s experience just because you don’t understand it.
Acknowledging a person’s anxiety can look like saying, “I see you’re struggling right now. I want you to know I’m here to support you. What can I do to help?”
By acknowledging the anxiety, you’re letting them know that you’re aware of their struggles and you want to help.
5. Encourage Healthy Coping Skills
There are various self-help strategies a person with anxiety can try. These include the following:
- Relaxation techniques
- Grounding exercises
- Talking to their support system
- Challenging anxious thoughts
6. Encourage Them to Face Their Fears
The last thing anyone with anxiety wants to do is stand face-to-face with their fears. If a person is avoiding places or certain situations, it’s important for them to slowly expose themselves to these things.
Talk with them about starting small and doing something that’s not too scary. For example, if they fear going to public places, they can try going to a public place once a week and staying until their anxiety starts to simmer down.
7. Take Care of Yourself
When you care about someone, it’s common to get so wrapped up in helping them that you neglect yourself. When it comes to helping an individual living with a mental health condition, it can take a toll on your own well-being.
If you find that you’re constantly pouring into them and it’s negatively impacting you, it’s time to set boundaries. You can also use this time to make self-care a priority. Remember that caring for someone else doesn’t have to mean completely forgetting about yourself.
8. Ask Them How You Can Support Them
Sometimes the best way you can help is by asking them what they need. Hold space for them as they open up to you and keep in mind that it’s not always easy to ask for help.
They may need help with tasks such as grocery shopping or picking up their medication. Or they could just need you to lend a listening ear.
Asking them how you can offer support leaves room for the two of you to have an honest conversation. Ensure that while you’re talking with them you extend compassion towards them and listen without judgment.
What’s most important when it comes to offering support is that you’re empathetic and try to understand what they’re going through.
Living with an anxiety disorder is tough and it can be even more challenging if you feel like you’re going through it alone. Letting someone with anxiety know that they have your support will make a huge difference in their life.
Remember to be patient with them and allow them to move at their own pace.