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How To Deal With A Person With Anxiety

What Is An Anxiety Attack

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Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are episodes of intense panic or fear. They usually occur suddenly and without warning. Sometimes theres an obvious triggergetting stuck in an elevator, for example, or thinking about the big speech you have to givebut in other cases, the attacks come out of the blue.

Anxiety attacks usually peak within 10 minutes, and they rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during that short time, you may experience terror so severe that you feel as if youre about to die or totally lose control. The physical symptoms are themselves so frightening that many people think theyre having a heart attack. After an anxiety attack is over, you may worry about having another one, particularly in a public place where help isnt available or you cant easily escape.

Make Them Feel Accepted

In your attempts to figure out how to help your partner with anxiety, you might inadvertently make it seem like your love is conditional. They might feel they need to get or be better to keep you by their side. When dealing with how to help your partner with anxiety, be mindful of this slippery slope.

A spouse with anxiety and anger can easily think they are not good enough for you.

So, make sure to let them know otherwise. Help them understand and feel they are accepted, even when anxious. Aim to help them think you want them to feel better, not because they dont match your idea of a good partner, but because you want them to be happier.

Understand The Signs Of Anxiety

Anxiety can manifest in many different ways and levels of severity. But the symptoms or signs are often the same. While not an exhaustive list, the following physical symptoms, anxious thoughts, and behaviors are some of the most common.

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Feelings of panic, fear, or nervousness
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Believing the worst will happen
  • Problems falling or staying asleep

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What Causes Generalised Anxiety Disorder

The exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, although its likely that a combination of several factors plays a role.

Research has suggested that these may include:

  • overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
  • an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • the genes you inherit from your parents youre estimated to be 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
  • having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
  • having a history of drug or alcohol misuse

But many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.

The Donts: What To Avoid

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As a partner of someone with anxiety, your goal is not to make the anxiety worse, avoid panic attacks, control the symptoms, and avoid this leading to depression. Whether you like it or not, you are part of your partners treatment.

And why do you do it? Because of love. Why do you keep fighting? Because you know that if the tables were turned, your partner would do the same for you. In sickness and in health, right? Here are some tips you could follow on what to avoid if your partner has anxiety.

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Dont: Act Like You Know Everything

Its good that you did your research about anxiety to understand better what your partner is going through. But dont act like you know everything about anxiety and everything your partner is feeling.

No one understands better the anxiety of your partner but themselves. You have to respect that, and you have to be there to listen, not to judge. Respect your partner on how they deal with their emotions, offer your support, dont enforce what you believe you know.

Also, remember not to take everything personally. If your partner is not in a mood to talk, dont think its your fault. Dont add fuel to the fire and react anxiously or angrily because this isnt healthy for relationships. Give your partner some space and wait for things to calm down before talking.

People with anxiety do not like change, so do not force your partner to change. In any case, that change is needed it must be done slowly and with support. Take little steps and always seek the help of mental health professionals.

How To Handle People With Anxiety Problems

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Ward, LMFT, SEP, PCC, MA. Rebecca A. Ward, LMFT, SEP, PCC is the Founder of the Iris Institute, a San Francisco, California-based business focusing on using somatic expertise to teach individuals and groups the skills to deal with dilemmas using interventions, including her own Original Blueprint® method. Ms. Ward specializes in treating stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist , a Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner , and a Professional Certified Coach accredited by the International Coach Federation . Rebecca holds an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marymount University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from The George Washington University.There are 29 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 77,879 times.

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What Does Anxiety Feel Like

According to Bourne, while people may experience anxiety in different ways, in many cases it affects a persons entire being psychologically, physically, and behaviorally and it crosses over into something truly distressing.

Psychologically, anxiety involves subjective feelings of uneasiness or apprehension, he says. Physically, anxiety might include bodily sensations such as rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, dry mouth, or sweating. And behaviorally, it could lead a person to avoid ordinary situations, stop communicating about feelings, or fail to make decisions.

In its most extreme form, anxiety can cause you to feel detached from yourself or even fearful of dying, going crazy, or thinking irrationally, Bourne adds.

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Find Ways To Make Use Of Any Insight They Have Into Their Anxiety

How to deal with Anxiety & Anxiety Attacks

If your loved one has insight into their anxiety, you can help them spot when their anxiety-driven patterns are occurring. I find it helpful when my spouse notices that Im expressing my anxiety about work by being irritable with her or by being too fussy. Because we know each others patterns so well and have a trusting relationship, we can point out each others habits. Not that this is always met with grace, but the message sinks in anyway.

If youre going to do this, its a good idea to have their permission first. Keep in mind that people who have insight into their anxiety often still feel compelled to give in to their anxious thoughts. For instance, a person with health anxiety might logically know that going to the doctor every week for multiple tests is unnecessary, but they cant help themselves. If your loved one lacks insight into their anxiety or has trouble managing compulsions, its probably best to encourage them to see a clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety.

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Dont Judge Or Criticize

From the outside, youll be able to see lots of ways in which your loved one could improve their life. However, when theyre depressed or anxious, it can be almost impossible for them to think rationally about these topics. So, whether youre trying to figure out how to help your spouse with depression or how to help your friend with depression, avoid negative judgments and critical comments at all costs.

In particular, you should avoid platitudes masquerading as advice, such as You just need to remember that the glass isnt half empty, its half full!.

Before you say anything, make sure it doesnt accidentally imply that the person is making a choice to be anxious or depressed.

Mental health issues are just like any other, physical health problem they are involuntary. Suggesting otherwise can make your loved one feel guilty, misunderstood or isolated. All of these feelings make depression and anxiety symptoms worse, not better.

Dont Be Silly Everybody Is Too Busy With Their Own Lives To Focus On You

A friend thought that pointing this out would relieve my irrational thoughts. Sadly not. At the time, I was worried that everyone in the room was judging me negatively. Social anxiety is an all-consuming disorder. So while deep down I knew that people werent focused on me, it still didnt stop the taunting thoughts.

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How Anxiety Can Impact Your Relationship

If you are dating someone with anxiety, it is likely your partner spends a lot of time worrying and ruminating on everything that could go wrong or already be wrong with the relationship. Here are some examples of thoughts and questions that might be running through their brain:

  • What if they doesnt love me as much as I love them?
  • What if theyre lying to me?
  • What if theyre hiding something from me?
  • What if theyre cheating on me?
  • What if they want to cheat on me?
  • What if they like someone else better?
  • What if my anxiety ruins our relationship?
  • What if we break up?
  • What if they dont text me back?
  • What if Im always the first one to reach out?
  • What if they ghost on me?

Most people have at least a few of these anxious thoughts. They are a normal part of being in a relationship, especially a new one.

People with anxiety issues or an anxiety disorder, however, tend to have these anxious thoughts more frequently and more intensely.

Our minds take over and go directly to the worst-case-scenario, said Michelene Wasil, a therapist who is familiar with anxiety on both a personal and clinical level.

The anxious thoughts cause physiological symptoms, including shortness of breath, insomnia and anxiety attacks. Someone with anxiety can react to relationship stress with a fight-or-flight response, as if the stress were a physical attack.

Unfortunately there are many anxiety-motivated behaviors people encounter in relationships. Here are a few more examples to look out for:

Going To Therapy Yourself

how to stop a panic attack

Whether your partner accepts or resists your suggestion to go to therapy, you should do it yourself. It will help you develop the skills necessary to understand and cope with your partners anxiety. A therapist can also teach you how to more effectively support your anxious partner.

When you are dating someone with anxiety, its easy to forget about taking care of yourself. By going to therapy, you can ensure you are still focusing on your own mental health.

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Practical Tips For Helping A Friend With Anxiety

Helping someone with anxiety can be intimidating. Often, the anxious person feels completely overwhelmed by their anxiety, especially if they experience panic attacks or find themselves gripped by anxious thoughts .

If your anxious friend doesn’t understand their anxiety yet, they may not be able to give you a clear answer about what you can do to be helpful to them. Use the ideas below as a starting point. The same advice applies whether the anxious person you’re trying to help is a friend, your spouse/partner, or another family member. You can always show this article to your anxious friend or loved one and get their feedback on what applies to them and what doesn’t.

If you’re looking for suggestions for how to help someone with anxiety attacks in particular, you’ll find a specific section on that at the bottom of this article. Much of the advice below also applies to how to help someone with depression. There is a lot of overlap between depression and anxiety, and many people who experience one experience the other.

1. Educate yourself about what can help anxiety.

In addition, there are specific types of anxiety strategies that are suited to being done with an accountability partner:

2. Help your anxious friend break free of avoidance behavior.

Common examples of such behavior include avoiding:

  • Making phone calls
  • Getting started on a task that feels intimidating
  • Repairing mistakes

How To Help Your Anxious Partner And Yourself

    Living with anxiety can be tough your thoughts might race, you might dread tasks others find simple and your worries might feel inescapable. But loving someone with anxiety can be hard too. You might feel powerless to help or overwhelmed by how your partner’s feelings affect your daily life.

    If so, you’re not alone: Multiple studies have shown that anxiety disorders may contribute to marital dissatisfaction.

    “We often find that our patients’ … partners are somehow intertwined in their anxiety,” says Sandy Capaldi, associate director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Anxiety is experienced at many different levels and in different forms from moderate to debilitating, from generalized anxiety to phobias and its impacts can vary. But psychiatrists and therapists say there are ways to help your partner navigate challenges while you also take care of yourself.

    Start by addressing symptoms.

    Because an anxiety disorder can be consuming, it can be best to start by talking with your partner about the ways anxiety affects daily life, like sleeplessness, says Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in New York. Something as simple as using the word “stress” instead of clinical labels can help too. “Often people may feel a little more comfortable talking about stress as opposed to … anxiety ,” Borenstein says.

    Don’t minimize feelings.

    Encourage don’t push.

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      What Do Fear And Anxiety Feel Like

      When you feel frightened or seriously anxious, your mind and body work very quickly. These are some of the things that might happen:

      • Your heart beats very fast maybe it feels irregular
      • You breathe very fast
      • You have hot and cold sweats
      • You get a dry mouth
      • You get very tense muscles

      These things occur because your body, sensing fear, is preparing you for an emergency, so it makes your blood flow to the muscles, increases blood sugar, and gives you the mental ability to focus on the thing that your body perceives as a threat.

      With anxiety, in the longer term, you may have some of the above symptoms as well as a more nagging sense of fear, and you may get irritable, have trouble sleeping, develop headaches, or have trouble getting on with work and planning for the future you might have problems having sex, and might lose self-confidence.

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