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How To Help Someone With Anxiety Disorder

How Does Psychotherapy Treat Anxiety Disorders

How to Support Someone With Anxiety

Psychotherapy, or counseling, helps you deal with your emotional response to the illness. A mental health provider talks through strategies to help you better understand and manage the disorder. Approaches include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common type of psychotherapy used with anxiety disorders. CBT for anxiety teaches you to recognize thought patterns and behaviors that lead to troublesome feelings. You then work on changing them.
  • Exposure therapy focuses on dealing with the fears behind the anxiety disorder. It helps you engage with activities or situations you may have been avoiding. Your provider may also use relaxation exercises and imagery with exposure therapy.

Dont Say : Are You Ok

If your friend told you theyre feeling super anxious, they clearly are not OK. Constantly asking them for a status update can make them feel pressured to get better now. When we see someone we care about suffering, our instinct is often to try to fix it. But some things, including anxiety, cant be fixed by outsiders.

Learn To Recognize The Signs Of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

Read Also: How To Control Anxiety Naturally

Educate Yourself About Anxiety

More than 40 million American adults live with chronic anxiety. Its the most commonly experienced mental health condition in the US. Though its a highly treatable condition, sadly only about one-third of those with an official anxiety disorder diagnosis receive the treatment they need to manage their anxiety and live a full life.

There are various classifications of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder , panic disorder, social anxiety disorder , and post-traumatic stress disorder , to name a few.

Education is key if we want to get better at anything in life. This is especially true when looking for ways to help a loved one deal with the symptoms of their chronic anxiety. It can be extremely helpful to learn as much as possible about how to help someone with anxiety disorder. You can start by teaching yourself about what causes anxiety, common symptoms of anxiety, and effective management techniques.

Dont just learn by yourself, either. Learn alongside the person with anxiety who youre hoping to help. They need to know just as much information about their condition as you do. It might be helpful if they learn about some lifestyle changes that might help them decrease the frequency and intensity of their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Dont Forget To Take Care Of Yourself

Jobs for People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Supporting an individual with mental conditions such as anxiety can be pretty challenging. There are high chances you might get overwhelmed in the process of helping an anxious loved one. However, dont worry since you arent alone. Several people have unsuccessfully tried to help people with anxiety.

However, it takes patience and effort to help someone with anxiety. Therefore, you should first take care of your mental priority before embarking on helping such individuals. Kindly consider these points below to help you take care of your mental health.

Avoid Burdening Yourself Be easy on yourself and strive to save the energy you need to deal with your life.

Try sharing your part with other people close to the individual you want to help. A group approach works faster in this case. The process will also give you effective results while dealing with a person with anxiety.

Get a Support System Absorbing plenty of information can end up stressing your brain. Try sharing your ideas, feelings, and details with a person whom you trust.

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Provide Safe And Comforting Physical Touch

Im a big advocate for skin-to-skin contact. We live in a culture thats starved for physical affection. We all crave it, and we all need it. A warm hug, a cuddle session on the couch, or holding hands tells your loved one, When youre with me, youre safe.

Skin-to-skin contact isnt just for newborns, and it often isnt sexual. Offering safe and affectionate physical touch is a powerful way to calm anxiety. Skin-to-skin contact reduces heart rate, which is one of the physical manifestations of anxiety. Physical touch also has the power to erase feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

Of course, physical touch will look different depending on the person youre comforting. It could be holding hands with your spouse and looking them in the eye. It could be a tight, 60-second hug with a friend .

It should go without saying, but before you touch anyone struggling with anxiety, even your spouse, ask their permission. Since anxiety is an alarm signaling a lack of control, reaching out to touch someone without their permission could make them feel like theyre not in control of their own bodies. In an effort to help, you may make things worse. Gently extend your hand as an offer for them to take your hand. Kindly ask, Will you walk with me for a moment? Or you might ask, Do you mind if I put my hands on your shoulders? or Can I hug you? If someone isnt interested in your touch, dont take it personally. Respect their independence and move on to the next step.

Heres How To Deal With Health Anxiety According To Therapists

Your brain is incredibly gullible. While it usually does a good job at perceiving threats and protecting you from them, it often cant tell the difference between real and imagined fear. They both trigger similar physical and psychological responses, which is why roller coasters and scary movies can be both terrifying and thrilling.

Those false signals can also make you feel extreme anxiety when you have an unusual skin bump, a bout of random chest pain, or hear news of a monkeypox outbreak.

Before you know it, youre paging Dr. Google in a desperate attempt to ease your worries about having a serious illness or disease. Instead, you read a laundry list of vague symptoms that leaves you thinking you have cancer or are seconds away from a stroke.

When this cycle becomes excessive to the point that it affects your daily life or ability to function, its a diagnosable psychiatric condition: illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondriasis.

Anxiety itself is really the fear of the unknown and tolerance of uncertainty and thereâs a lot about our health that we dont know, said Thea Gallagher, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. It tends to really thrive and survive on the fear of what could be.

Heres how to tell if your health anxiety is a problem in its own right.

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Try A Grounding Exercise

During a panic attack or anxiety episode, people might feel disconnected from the world around them. Grounding is a great way to refocus someones attention back to reality.

Here are some grounding techniques to try together:

Feel the floor beneath your feet

Gravitys a trip, yall. Since we cant concentrate on everything at once, our selective attention doesnt typically notice things like the feeling of the floor beneath our feet or the chair were sitting on. So, ask your friend if you could take a moment together to just notice the physical world thats holding them up.

Focus on your breath

Breathwork is where its at. Exercises like Sama Vritti can calm the mind and reduce racing thoughts. Try to inhale for 5 seconds then exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat as needed.

Listen to the world around you

Lyons recommends turning your friends attention to a repetitive sound or music. Just make sure its slow and soothing, like the hum of a heater or the sound of a soft piano piece. The consistency and repetitions can be very comforting.


Meditation is worth the hype. Its a great way to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety. Ask your friend to participate in 10 minutes of silent meditation or guided imagery. Psst. Heres a Greatist guide to meditation for anxiety.

Learn The Signs Of Anxiety

How To Help Someone with Anxiety

Anxiety manifests in different ways in different people. However, there are similar symptoms that can co-occur. While the following isnt an exhaustive list by any means, it does represent some of the most common symptoms associated with anxiety. People with anxiety often experience:

  • Repetitive feelings of nervousness, fear, or panic
  • Constantly feeling wound up or on-edge
  • Restlessness and jitteriness
  • Headache
  • Nausea

People with chronic anxiety may also experience muscle tightness, dry mouth, sweating, irritation, overgeneralizing, and a sense of impending doom. They may feel that the worst is always about to happen, even if theres no logical reasoning for that type of thought. At times, they may even experience a panic attack.

Also Check: Does Anxiety Ever Go Away

Dont Say: I Know What You Mean I Had A Panic Attack When I Saw Seattle Rent Prices

Panicking about the absurd cost of that tiny studio apartment makes sense because you need a roof over your head and cant magically increase your salary. Panicking about taking a bus because youre afraid of having a panic attack on said bus doesnt.

Theres a difference between the uncomfortable but rational anxiety we all get in stressful situations and the sometimes debilitating but illogical anxiety super anxious people like me get in situations that arent actually stressful or threatening.

People with anxiety disorders experience anxiety over things others wouldnt and with such intensity that it interferes with our ability to function and do things we enjoy. So unless you have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, comparing your anxiety to someone elses isnt helpful, and it can make us feel like youre minimizing our experiences.

What Can I Do To Help My Spouse Or Partner

Anxiety symptoms can put a major burden on relationships. In addition to seeing your partner experiencing high levels of fear or stress, you’re also likely to have more than the typical share of every day responsibilities. Here are four things you can try:

  • Set goals: You and your partner can agree on key goals, and you can recognize accomplishments. For example, if you and your partner agree that you’re both feeling isolated, you could plan to attend one social occasion together every month.
  • Support treatment: Research treatment options with your partner, and encourage treatment. There are a number of effective types of treatments for anxiety, and a number of them actively involve the partner and family members. Find a therapist in your area.
  • Ask how you can help: Don’t feel like you should be able to read your partner’s needs without asking. Ask what you can do to help, and listen closely to what they say.
  • Put yourself in their shoes: Acknowledge that you don’t understand what your partner is feeling when they experience a major bout of anxiety such as a panic attack.

It’s also very important to take care of yourself. This is not selfish. You can’t help your partner or support your family when you are completely overburdened. You could start by:

Also Check: How To Calm Down My Anxiety Attacks

How Are Anxiety Disorders Diagnosed

If you have symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk to your healthcare provider. Theyll start with a complete medical history and physical examination.

There are no lab tests or scans that can diagnose anxiety disorders. But your provider may run some of these tests to rule out physical conditions that may be causing symptoms.

Dont Say: Have You Tried Meditation/yoga/cutting Caffeine/exercising More

How to Support Someone With an Anxiety Disorder

Meditation and yoga and deep breathing and all of the other anti-anxiety trends that have taken pop culture by storm might be helpful for some people, maybe even your ultra-anxious friend. But they also might not.

Extreme anxiety can feel consuming, which means that small things like taking a few deep breaths might not be enough to counter panic in the moment. Anxiety can also make someone feel so restless that sitting quietly and letting their thoughts float away is pretty much impossible.

Everyone with anxiety has different relaxation techniques that work for them and some people need to do something active, like go for a run, instead of sitting and breathing calmly. Others may need to work with a therapist. Dont offer unsolicited advice unless youve been trained to treat people with anxiety disorders or you have one yourself and want to share your experience.

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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

Take Care Of Yourself

Its important to remember that your goal is to help the person with anxiety, not fix them or solve all their problems. Helping someone through anxiety isnt always easy and doesnt typically have one direct path, which can feel a bit stressful and overwhelming for the caregiver.

Some important reminders are that by offering to help, youre doing your best. Its also important to model self-care, by tending to yourself when your own resources are starting to feel depleted.

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How Do You Calm Someone With Anxiety

When you notice someone feeling anxious you can:

  • Provide validation. Dont dismiss their anxieties. This can just make matters worse. Instead, validate their feelings and make it clear that you hear them.
  • Encourage grounding. Try grounding techniques together like deep breathing. This can help bring the person into the present moment and out of an anxious spiral.
  • Determine your support role. Try to distract your friend with activities, do helpful tasks for them, or simply be there for them and provide a positive presence.

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