It’s important to keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out how to help someone with anxiety that this is a condition that won’t usually respond to logic or reasoning. People with anxiety typically try to shut themselves off from others. They are not just going to “snap out” of their anxiety; it’s not something they can turn on or off.
Anxiety can set up a self-perpetuating cycle within the person suffering from it. Whatever the initial cause of the anxiety, it serves to make the person sensitive to anything like that original cause. Then, any time something like it is around, the person feels anxious. Also, anxiety makes the sufferer more likely to think negatively about anything and anyone around them. The chemistry changes in the brain that come with anxiety set up this negative thinking cycle and make it harder for the person to think positively. This, then, makes it harder for them to control the anxiety.
Anxiety can also lead to physical symptoms that in and of themselves cause anxiety. These physical symptoms can feel exactly like very serious medical conditions. This stimulates the person with anxiety to be very sensitive to any physical feelings that are like those symptoms. As soon as he or she feels one of these symptoms, the anxiety automatically kicks in.
The anxiety begins taking up more and more of the person’s life. It takes on an existence of its own and stimulates its own anxiety. So, the person becomes anxious about being anxious, on and on in a deadly cycle.
With all of this in mind, then, let’s take a look at how to help someone with anxiety.
Learn All You Can
You need to learn all you can about anxiety. The more you know, the better. Learn about symptoms, causes, what to expect from the person suffering from anxiety. Know what the possible treatment options are and share this with the person you’re working to help. This may be a great step for the person on their way to recovery from anxiety. The more you and the person with anxiety knows about this condition, the better you’ll be able to figure out how to help someone with anxiety and the better they’ll be able to recover.
One of the most important things, and one of the most difficult, is to let the person with anxiety know he or she can talk with you without being judged. This is important because the person with anxiety may think no one will care about how he or she feels, or if they do, they’ll reject the person once they find out how terrible and awful he or she really is. You need to tell them directly you won’t judge, won’t turn your back on them, and will listen over and over again, even if the person says the same thing. After all, many anxieties have the same basis.
This can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you investigate how to help someone with anxiety. Two main reasons for this difficulty are: Everyone has their own biases and prejudices about people who suffer from any emotional disorder. You will have to put your own aside and be neutral, at least. The other reason this effort is hard comes because the person with anxiety will have a hard time trusting you at first. You may want to push the person to talk because you know it will help. Don’t push. This will likely drive the other person away. Be willing to be frustrated. You know they need to talk, but they don’t understand that at first. Be patient, be gentle.
Spend Time With Them
Simply being with the person with anxiety can help them. Your presence can be reassuring. It will let the person know you’re really interested in them. As they see you staying around, they think more about that and less about being anxious.
Be sure you don’t continually bring up their anxiety. Knowing how to help someone with anxiety is also knowing when not to mention it. Sometimes, just asking how they’re doing with their anxiety can trigger that anxiety.
Give Them Your Phone Number
This is not as simple as it sounds. Chances are your friend or family member will already have your number. What this means is to tell them it’s okay to call anytime. And mean it. Anxiety doesn’t occur just in the daytime. It may strike in the early morning hours when you’re sound asleep. And this is a time when anxious people may feel most alone. Be willing to talk with them for as long as they need to at the most inopportune times. Just knowing someone is as close as their phone can help many people feel more calm.
Watch Your Own Anxiety
One thing that may happen as you wonder how to help someone with anxiety is you’ll feel anxious also from listening to them and not seeing immediate results from your efforts to help. There probably won’t be immediate improvement. Anxiety is a difficult problem to handle. Not seeing improvement can cause you to begin thinking negatively about yourself, your abilities, and your friend or family member. Keep in mind others, including especially the person with anxiety, can be affected by your state of mind.
Be Prepared To Forgive The Other Person
Anxiety can make people quick to become irritable and even attacking. This can happen as you work on how to help someone with anxiety. You may be misunderstood or even seen to be threatening to the other person, especially at first. And then, when they do come to understand you’re trying to help them, they may expect quick results and become irritated and angry when they don’t get them. This may cause them to lash out at you. Be ready for this and ready to forgive.
Accommodate and Set Limits
In the beginning of your efforts aimed at figuring out how to help someone with anxiety, you will probably be faced with accommodating them in some areas. The anxious person may want a lot of reassurance at first that you won’t go away, that you mean what you say, and will do what you tell them you will. While you’re building up the trust in you that other person needs, it’s all right to give in some. But there comes a time when limits are necessary, also.
How do you know when it’s time for these limits? There is no general rule. You have to rely on your observations of the other person. But there will come a time when reassurance that you’re there for the long run shouldn’t be needed. That’s the time to set limits.
This will require strength on your part. Once you set limits of any kind, the person’s behavior may get worse for a time before it starts getting better. This is a testing time to see if you mean what you say. It’s also an indication that the person is used to getting his or her way and will resist change. Stay consistent! This spurt of worse behavior will change fairly quickly.
Most of the time, a person who suffers from anxiety will spend a lot of time in their own heads, examining their thoughts, getting lost in negative thinking, and evaluating themselves. This can lead them to withdraw from everyone and everything around them. Encouraging them to get active with you can help them stop being so withdrawn and introspective. It gives them something to think about instead of the negative thinking that just goes around and around in their heads. Distraction of this kind is good. In addition, being physically active will help make positive changes in their body chemistry that will reduce the negative changes that can come with anxiety.
Celebrate with the anxious person any small positive change they make. You may have to point out to them whatever these changes may be, because they will be so wrapped up in the negatives circulating through their heads, they can’t see them. Let them know how proud you are of the hard work they put in to make these changes. Let this pride show in your face, in your mannerisms. Anxious people are continually evaluating what others think about them. It’s all too easy for them to misinterpret facial expressions unless they’re very clear. Even when the other person experiences set-backs due to something they do or something in their environment, find a positive aspect of it to emphasize. Work hard at not letting your frustration show.
Anxiety is the most frequent of the emotional disorders. It also is one of the most treatable. There are many options available for successfully dealing with this disorder. Not only can professionals help people deal with what’s going on with them, you also can help those close to you who have this disorder learn to handle the symptoms better. It’s a wonderful thing to see your friends and loved ones overcome anxiety.
What to Do When Someone You Love Is Anxious https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-age-anxiety/201203/what-do-when-someone-you-love-is-anxious-0
How to Help Someone with Anxiety https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/03/26/how-to-help-someone-with-anxiety/
Spouse or Partner https://www.adaa.org/finding-help/helping-others/spouse-or-partner
Steps You Can Take to Help Someone With Anxiety Disorder http://www.psychguides.com/guides/how-to-find-help-treating-an-anxiety-disorder/