It may be hard for you to fully understand what it’s like to have anxiety. But that doesn't mean you have to feel helpless if someone you love is struggling with anxiety.
Here’s a list of what you can keep in mind if someone you care about struggles with anxiety:
1) It’s important that YOU remain calm while they aren’t.
The last thing they need is to feel bad for you. What they need is someone that’s calm, relaxed, and physically there for them as they get through it.
2) It doesn’t make sense.
The anxious feelings/thoughts won’t stop just because they’re irrational. If it doesn’t make sense to them, it sure isn’t going to make sense to you. So don’t try to figure out what’s going on. They know it’s irrational and if they could tell themselves to “get over it”, they would!
3) Ask them what they need.
They may appreciate silence. They may not want to talk to you in the midst of the storm. They may appreciate if you take them to a quiet place and sit in silence by them as they ride it out. Or you may have someone that likes physical contact and validation. Either way, ask them what they would prefer.
4) Don’t continuously ask them if they’re “okay”.
If they’re having an anxiety attack, you can ASSUME they are not okay. No need to ask them that. What you could say is:
"What do you need from me?"
“Do you want to go to a quiet place?”
“Remember to breath in expanding your belly.” Click here to learn the correct way of deep breathing.
“I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
“Take your time.”
“This feeling will pass.”
5) It can be unpredictable.
They may be having a great time one minute in a crowd of people and the next minute they need to “flee”. What triggers their anxiety isn’t always predictable.
6) Do some research.
Do some research about anxiety to better understand what they’re going through physically and mentally. Click here to learn about anxiety and the symptoms they may be experiencing.
7) They are as capable to achieve great things as you are.
Just because they have an anxiety disorder does not make them any different in terms of achieving greatness! This is not a limitation.
8) Encourage them to seek help.
A new report, published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found negative stereotypes often prevent people with mental health issues from seeking treatment. Remind them that there’s no shame in what they’re going through and to seek professional help.
Learn more about what to expect in therapy.
(n.d.). Retrieved December 2, 2017, from https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/fight-or-flight-response