The truth is, it’s hard to be there for someone you care about if they are struggling with anxiety. You can’t see the pain they are going through, so it may seem impossible at times to know how to help them through their struggles. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to be there for your loved one, and social support can be a great boon to them during their times of struggle.
How to help someone with anxiety
Educate yourself about anxiety
You’re already well into this step just by reading this article. If you’re reading this, it means you care about someone and are trying to learn how to help them.
There are lots of things a person can do to help themselves in the midst of anxiety:
- Exercise and physical activity
- Breathing exercises
- Finding treatment
Don’t encourage the bad habits
Anxiety disorders make a person think unrealistic thoughts (that they themselves likely know are unrealistic) and send them into a vicious circle of bad habits to try to ease their stress. They may avoid things like phone calls or doing housework, and this may bring temporary relief but the burdens of everyday life will eventually build up and overwhelm them all at once.
Anxiety starts as a natural response to things that may be unpleasant or even dangerous. If you avoid anything that may give you anxiety because of your disorder, it means you may be missing important (but still difficult) parts of human life. In turn, this may only increase anxiety over time.
Be there for them
Sometimes all a person needs is someone to vent to. When we care about someone, we want to fix all their problems, but sometimes the people we care about are already overwhelmed and don’t want someone to come in and fix everything for them. What you can do is listen to them, encourage them, and remind them that their feelings are valid and important.
The different anxiety disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder
- Selective Mutism
- Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
It’s important to learn these symptoms so you can be there for your loved one.
- A sense of impending danger or doom
- Feeling nervous or restless
- Increased heart rate
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disruptions in sleep patterns
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Avoidance of things associated with anxiety
Anxiety disorders are difficult to pinpoint. Your loved one may not have any idea what the cause of their disorder is. Like any other mental health conditions, an anxiety disorder is likely a result of a complicated of biological and environmental factors completely unique in each case.
Risk factors that do make someone more likely to develop an anxiety disorder, however, may include the following:
- Traumatic events
- Personal or family history of anxiety or mental health conditions
- Substance abuse
Other health conditions also potentially linked to anxiety include:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disorders including COPD or Asthma
- Drug abuse or drug withdrawal
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pain