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How To Help Someone Who Has Anxiety

What Friends And Family Do That Is Not Helpful

How to Help Someone with Social Anxiety

Your friends and family are often trying their best to help. The following list includes things that they do that might be keep your fears and anxiety going in the long-term.

Following the rules
  • Some people with anxiety have set up their whole lives in such a way that they can avoid situations that cause anxiety. For example, these individuals will not go into certain situations without a companion or a safe person with them. Others will have rules about what to do at home, like asking everyone in the house to wash a certain way or telling them when and how to answer the phone.
  • Although it might seem helpful to have your family assist you in coping with your anxiety, what they are actually doing when they follow your rules is helping you to AVOID anxiety.

REMEMBER: Avoiding anxiety only works in the short-term. Facing your anxiety is the only way to effectively manage it in the long-term.

Keeping you out of danger

REMEMBER: Anxiety is uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant, but it is not dangerous. It is a normal and necessary system in the body.

Pushing too much

REMEMBER: Although it is important for you to face your fears, it is best to do it gradually and at your own pace.

Dont Buy Into The Common Myths About Anxiety

We have a lot of misconceptions about anxiety in our culture. As a result, we can give really bad advice to people were trying to help. Here are a few of the common phrases people with anxiety often hear:

  • Just chill out.
  • Try some yoga or deep breathing.
  • Anxiety is a disease.
  • Anxiety is a genetic disorder that was passed down to you from your parents. Its just the way you are!
  • Anxiety means something is wrong with you.
  • Anxiety only affects lazy, weak or undisciplined people.
  • If youre anxious, youre probably hiding something from your loved ones, from God or from yourself.
  • Anxiety is just stress. We all worry. Get over it.

Now, you might not say those things word for word, but I bet youve heard a similar rationale beforeor at least felt it. The truth is, anxiety is caused by about a million different factors converging together to create a chaotic ecosystem. And while things like yoga and breathing can help, healing from anxiety takes more than just a 10-minute meditation with some essential oils. Dont belittle or minimize the anxiety your loved one is feeling.

Anxiety Relief Checklist

While there’s no quick fix for anxiety, there are practical steps you can take today to find relief.

Understand That Anxiety Looks Different On Everyone

Anxiety can manifest as a deep tiredness and can also cause sleeplessness. It can be experienced as restlessness, agitation, and an inability to concentrate. It causes irritability for some, and irrational fears for others. Anxiety can also be experienced as frightening chest pains and uncomfortable muscle tension. The diverse and sometimes misunderstood symptoms of anxiety are real. Let your friend know you care and want to know about their experience.

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You Can Support Someone Struggling With Anxiety By Holding Space For Them

There are three steps to supporting someone who is struggling, explains Whitney Goodman, LMFT, Show up, listen, be patient and perhaps most importantly, alwaysask before giving advice. In other words, the best thing you can do for someone struggling with anxiety is hold space for them.

What does it mean to hold space for someone?

Heather Plett, the author of the book Pathfinder, explains

Holding space for someone means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey theyre on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

There are different types and levels of anxiety, but the underlying foundation of them all is the same: excessive worry and fear that can make daily life feel like a battle.

In an effort to help out, we did some research and pulled together expert advice about exactly what to say to hold space for someone when their anxiety is getting particularly severeas well as a few responses you should avoid too.

Dont Constantly Talk About Their Anxiety

Helping Someone Who has Anxiety

When you are with the person, or when you are talking to them over the phone, avoid constantly bringing up their anxiety or asking questions about it. Instead, keep the conversation flowing and let them talk about it if they want to. That way, they wont feel uncomfortable and pressured into discussing their anxiety when they dont want to.

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Know What Is Not Helpful

According to Saltz, its important to understand that continuing to be the one to say dont worry about that because is not actually helping, even if your friend or loved one thinks it is. You can’t make someone stop seeking reassurance, but you can tell them it’s actually making the situation worse, she says.

Another mistake to avoid, Richardson says, is taking on the role of a clinical professional. “Even if you have experience with anxiety, you don’t always know what’s best for someone else,” she says.

Instead, Richardson recommends being supportive and transparent and let your friend or loved one know you’re there for them. “You can also share what might have worked for you, but then give them space and unconditional positive regard as they navigate their own journey,” she says.

Its also important to avoid judging and blaming a loved one when they are feeling anxious. Even when youre the most frustrated, stop, take a breath, and step back. They need to see that you love them unconditionally, even when anxiety is high.

I Love You No Matter What

Those of us with anxiety understand that being among our friendship group or family circle can be a nuisance. We are sure that it is sometimes infuriating having to go to the store after a full day of work because you are out of milk and your anxiety-ridden loved one has not been able to bring themselves to leave the house all day. Sometimes we worry that we have become too much of an annoyance for our friends and family, and that they do not care about us anymore. It is a great relief to be told I love you, no matter what, because that assures us that our anxiety will not stop people from caring about us.

It is not always easy to work out how to best help somebody with anxiety, especially when they are going through a hard time. This list is intended to be a guideline, but as I said in my previous article, the best advice I can give is to learn what the individual anxiety sufferer finds helpful, and taking it from there. The important thing is to be compassionate. Believe me when I say that the anxiety-sufferer in your life will appreciate that compassion immensely.

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Remind Your Loved One That Theyre Worthy Of Being Well

One of the most important things you can do to help a friend whos struggling with anxiety is remind them that theyre worth being well. They deserve to live a full, rich and joyful lifefree from the crippling restraints of anxiety. Were complex creatures with many layers of needs, including:

  • A nutritious diet
  • Close, supportive and intimate relationships
  • A broader sense of community and belonging
  • Meaningful work
  • Healing from past trauma

If your loved one is struggling in any of the above areas, encourage them to take steps to get well. Try a fitness class together. Cook some healthy recipes. Help them dream about a new job opportunity. If theyre not interested in joining you, set an example and seek to begin your own wellness journey. Sometimes our loved ones will follow the roads that weve carved for ourselves. Whatever area need some attention, keep reminding your loved one that theyre worthy of a better life.

Recognize What Can Help

How To Help Someone with Anxiety

In addition to receiving professional medical help, individuals struggling with anxiety are encouraged to seek out ways to help manage their symptoms at home. There are a variety of approaches and activities people can try as part of an overall treatment plan, including:

  • Regular exercise or any type of physical activity.
  • Limiting alcohol and caffeine
  • Challenging negative thoughts and focusing on what you can control
  • Limiting worry time, but not fighting it

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What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder

This condition mostly happens to children or teens, who may worry about being away from their parents. Children with separation anxiety disorder may fear that their parents will be hurt in some way or not come back as promised. It happens a lot in preschoolers. But older children and adults who experience a stressful event may have separation anxiety disorder as well.

Be The First Positive Thing They See Or Hear

The quality of a persons day can be decided within the first five minutes of waking up, explains Robin Haslam, national and international addiction and mental health counselor, and General Manager of 1000 Islands Wellness. If you know someone who is feeling especially anxious during this quarantine, find a way to make sure the first moments of their day are positive. Send them a text bright and early, or before you go to bed so they can see it when they wake up. Its critical for those feeling anxious to know that theyre not alone.

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The Dos And Donts Of Helping Someone With Anxiety

If someone in your family or one of your friends has been experiencing anxiety or has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you will want to know the best ways to support them. Leaning how to help someone with anxiety can be daunting at first, but once you understand their concerns, you should be able to communicate well.

Mental health conditions can sometimes be tricky to manage, but when it comes to helping and supporting someone with anxiety, we have outlined some useful anxiety dos and donts so that you can make sure that the steps that you take help them to start feeling better once again.

Offer Support In A Helpful Way

Five Ways to Support a Loved One with Anxiety or ...

When people receive treatment for anxiety disorders, their clinicians often give them homework assignments or coping mechanisms to help them manage their anxiety. It could be something like deep breathing, for example.

Some of what you offer is help focusing. I am here for you. What did the therapist say to do? Hudak said. Give support and redirection.

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What To Say To Someone Experiencing Anxiety Or A Panic Attack

Everyone experiences anxiety differently, but if you’ve ever been around someone who is having a panic attack, suggesting “Try not to worry” is not the best idea.

You can say things that make anxiety worse, Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness , told TODAY. People dont like to be dismissed.”

Theres A Cup Of Tea Waiting For You At Home

To get personal again for a moment, one thing my anxiety does is stop me living in the now, because my mind goes into strange, hypothetical scenarios that fill me with dread. At times like that, one of the best things anybody can do is remind me of really good, simple, real things that are there for me to enjoy now or in the near future. Some other good ones are: youll see the cats soon, you have time tonight to crochet two more rows of your project, and theres a new episode of Murdoch Mysteries to watch.

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What Is A Panic Disorder

If you have a panic disorder, you get intense, sudden panic attacks. These attacks often feature stronger, more intense feelings than other types of anxiety disorders.

The feelings of terror may start suddenly and unexpectedly or they may come from a trigger, like facing a situation you dread. Panic attacks can resemble heart attacks. If theres any chance youre experiencing a heart attack, go to the emergency room. Its better to err on the side of caution and have a healthcare professional check you.

During a panic attack, you may experience:

  • Sweating.
  • Chest pain.
  • Feeling of choking, which can make you think youre having a heart attack or going crazy.

Panic attacks are very upsetting. People with panic disorder often spend a lot of time worrying about the next panic attack. They also try to avoid situations that might trigger an attack.

Be Calm And Present: How To Help Someone With Anxiety Attack

How To Help Someone With Anxiety or Depression


Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, can be very frightening for both the person living through the episode as well as onlookers. If you’re with someone when they have a panic attack, there are things you can do to help, even if you don’t have any professional training. Here’s how to help someone having an anxiety attack.

What Does An Anxiety Attack Look Like?

The symptoms of an anxiety attack can mirror symptoms of other serious medical issues, which can make it seem life-threatening. A true panic attack is generally not life-threatening, but if a person experiencing the attack does not understand what’s happening, the fear of imminent death or a true medical emergency can exacerbate their attack. Even if they do know that they’re having a panic attack, the attack can be very difficult for them, and they may need support to get through it. Symptoms usually come on very quickly and can include all or some of the following:

  • Rapidly beating, pounding heart
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sense of doom
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in limbs
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness feeling faint
  • Experiencing chills or overheating

How To Help Someone With Anxiety Attack

If you are with someone who is having an anxiety attack, there are several things you can do.

9. Continue support until help arrives or until the person tells you they’re okay.

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Tell Them To Turn Off The News

Its important to stay informed. But, in an effort to process the legitimate information, and avoid the sensationalist debris, Dr. Masand advises scheduling time to consume news, and restricting how much. Tell them to devote 10-15 minutes in the morning and the evening to staying informed, he says recommending such reliable sources as the CDC, Medscape, or the National Institute of Health. Your choice of what medium you use is as important as the amount of time you decide to engage with it, he says. For the rest of the day, encourage them to keep him or herself busy with work, watching TV, playing video games, or whatever activity puts them at ease.

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