It is natural to want to help someone you care about when they are struggling with anxiety – but it can also be intimidating. The anxious person feels completely overwhelmed and may even battle panic attacks. Sometimes people with anxiety don’t have a clear understanding of their condition and may not be able to tell you how exactly you can help them.
Before you try to help your anxious loved one, it is important to gain an understanding of anxiety. Anxiety is not a flaw. Nearly everyone experiences feeling anxious at some point because it is an emotion that is naturally ingrained into us to help us see potential threats, keeping us on alert.
People with anxiety or anxiety disorder, however, deal with patterns of anxiety that tend to snowball – often overthinking while worrying about something that has happened in the past occurring again or worrying about the future. They may use avoidance coping to avoid stressors instead of dealing with them, such as avoiding talking about topics, going places or doing certain things. This can be difficult to see and may push people away, but there are ways you can help, including learning how to talk to someone with anxiety.
How to Talk to Someone With Anxiety
Here are some tips on how to talk to someone with anxiety.
Learn about anxiety and the different forms, from social anxiety to health anxiety. Increase your understanding about generalized anxiety disorder and symptoms that go along with it. Learn about anxiety treatment and look for supportive suggestions you can offer. By pouring your time into educating yourself, it will show to your anxious friend and can help.
You probably already know that listening is important but it can be challenging to listen to someone who has fears that you do not relate to. Strive to listen with an empathetic ear without getting annoyed or frustrated. Keep listening even if you feel like you can’t any longer and avoid making assumptions or judgements while you do so. Always remain patient and calm while listening to someone with anxiety.
Be Gentle and Empathetic
Be honest and straightforward when you do speak and/or offer suggestions but remember to be as gentle as you can. Be careful to not minimize their struggles by making statements like, “It’s really not a big deal,” and, “You have no reason to be worried or anxious.” These statements are not only unhelpful but can be hurtful to a person who is already struggling. Most people with an anxiety disorder are generally aware of the fact that their anxiety is not always rational. Pointing out this fact can lead to more negative feelings, self-judgement and discomfort.
It is also important to recognize that some people with chronic anxiety are not willing to change. For example, a person with agoraphobia (the fear and avoidance of places that may cause a person with anxiety to panic) may not be willing to “face their fears.” Remember to be understanding and not try to force them to do something they are not willing or comfortable to do.
Instead, ask how you can help them. Rather than guessing what kind of support they need, ask! Some people benefit from strong support that may look like helping them break their coping strategies down into more manageable steps or discussing in depth how they can work through difficult situations but prefer to have their independence and autonomy acknowledged. Others may prefer more emotional support, knowing that you are there for them through everything and they don’t have to worry that you might abandon them since anxiety can push people away.
You may be able to help them learn to identify triggers of their anxiety and help them to come up with ways to combat them. Anxiety triggers may include:
- Relationship problems
- Work stress
- Health problems
- Social events
- Poor sleep
- Changes in routine
Offer to be an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner who supports an anxious person can increase the chance of positive outcomes.
Encourage basic self-care habits, including maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and staying active. Many of these habits are forgotten when a person struggles with a mental health condition. Good self-care habits can have a big impact, helping one to manage stress, increase energy and lower risk of illness in addition to increasing mood.
If your loved one experiences unsurmountable anxiety and/or panic attacks, anxiety can be managed through a combination of self-care and professional help. You can offer to help them find a treatment facility, such as Atlanta Recovery Place. Therapy, medication or a combination of the two treatment methods can help with a person battling anxiety.
Remember to not pressure a person to seek treatment but if they agree therapy could be beneficial, offer your support and willingness to help them take the first steps.
Let Atlanta Recovery Place Help You or Your Loved One Today
Reach out to the trained and caring professionals at Atlanta Recovery Place today to find out how we can help your loved one through this obstacle and on the path to greater well-being.