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How To Respond To Someone With Anxiety

Dont Compare Normal Stress And Fear To Panic

How To Respond To Anxiety | New Life Church

Maybe youve felt stressed or terrified in a dangerous situation. You might even have anxiety yourself.

These experiences arent quite the same as a panic attack, though. Avoid trying to draw comparisons between your different experiences. Unless you also get panic attacks, you probably dont entirely understand how they feel.

If you have experienced extreme fear, let that memory inform you on what your friend is going through. Remind yourself they arent just afraid or stressed.

They may also feel:

  • unable to manage whats happening
  • physical pain or discomfort

How To Help Someone Having A Panic Attack

A panic attack is a brief but intense rush of fear.

These attacks involve symptoms similar to those experienced when facing a threat, including:

Panic attacks differ from a typical fear response because theres no actual threat involved.

The body is saying theres danger, when in reality theres none present, explains Sadie Bingham, a clinical social worker who specializes in anxiety and provides therapy in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Panic attack triggers arent always easy to identify, so people who have one attack often worry about having more, especially in public.

Panic attacks usually feel very uncomfortable and cause significant distress. Many people believe theyre experiencing a heart attack or other life-threatening issue.

If you know someone who experiences panic attacks, there are several things you can do to help them in the moment.

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Another way to connect with someone whoâs feeling anxious is by leading with a comment about your own anxiety or stress. âThis normalizes discussing your feelings and can make them feel more comfortable opening up about their own mental health,â Sara Sharnoff Tick, MS, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle.

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Just Don’t Think About It

“This implies that their anxiety can be solved easily. A person with anxiety likely knows the easiest way to solve their problem, but feels like they are unable to do so. It takes a good amount of vulnerability for a person with anxiety to share the inner workings of their mental processes. Eventually, they may stop coming to you and sharing what is distressing them.” says Romanoff.

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Your doctor is a good source of information and can discuss with you whether what youre experiencing may be anxiety or depression. They can also refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Any of these health professionals can help you with an action plan, whether or not you are diagnosed with anxiety, depression or both.

Anxiety and depression are like any other conditions there are ways to treat and manage them.

Lifestyle changes, such as spending time with supportive friends and family, regular exercise, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and cutting down on alcohol and other drugs are all worthwhile changes that can help to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.

Psychological treatments, including cognitive behaviour therapy, are effective in treating anxiety and depression and are often recommended first, particularly for mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Your doctor may refer you to see a psychologist or other counsellor for this type of treatment.

For some people, antidepressant medication might also be an option. Antidepressants can be effective for both anxiety and depression. They usually take at least 2 weeks before they start to help, and it may also take some time for your doctor to find the medication and dose that is most effective for you.

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Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety

There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
  • Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.

During therapy, continue to show your support by:

  • Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
  • Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
  • Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
  • Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.

What Are Anxiety Triggers And How Might They Affect Your Relationship

Some anxiety occurs at what seems like random times. But other people have triggers. Triggers are events or situations that may cause a surge in anxiety.

  • Someone with social anxiety may have a hard time with public spaces or crowded parties.
  • Someone with panic attacks may have anxiety when they feel strange physically.
  • Someone with generalized anxiety may have more anxiety right after an unexpected occurrence.

Triggers are different both for different people and different forms of anxiety. Learning your partner’s triggers will help you know how/when to care for your partner and potentially how to avoid triggering the anxiety yourself.

Most partners that have struggled with anxiety for a while can tell you their triggers. Make sure you’re open to listening and avoid being judgmental, even if a trigger feels strange or irrational. Anxiety is irrational. It doesn’t make it any easier for them to control.

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Quick Read Anxiety Support 101

  • Theres a difference between normal, everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
  • If an anxious friend decides to confide in you, show you support them.
  • Validate, rather than minimize, their experience.
  • If you dont have an anxiety disorder, avoid offering advice without listening to your friend.
  • Tell them youre there for them, ask how you can help and listen to what they have to say.

Its never not awkward telling someone I have anxiety disorders. And Ive had to tell a lot of people: friends, family, supervisors, dates.

Opening up to others can be validating and freeing, but its always stressful at first because I dont know how theyll respond. Being stereotyped or treated insensitively when youre struggling can be nerve-wracking, especially if you already get down on yourself for having anxiety.

What Ive learned in my many years of coming clean is that most people mean well. They dont want to say the wrong thing, but it can be hard for them to know the right thing to say if they dont know much about anxiety.

While everyone experiences anxiety, people experience differing degrees of severity, says Ty Lostutter, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and treats patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union.

Anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us safe and motivates us, Lostutter says. It only becomes a problem when someone becomes overly anxious and it interferes with daily life.

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  • Instead, make them feel safe, distract them from their worries, and keep them in the present.
  • You should never tell someone with anxiety to stop feeling worried or that they are irrational.
  • Avoid calling someone with anxiety “crazy” or “insane” or that they’re simple an “anxious person.”

While most people get worried about things from time to time, some people have anxiety disorders that are characterized by a disproportionate amount of anxiety. An anxiety disorder can interfere with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis, for an extended period of time.

“The problem with anxiety is that it may contribute to difficulty thinking clearly, communicating distress in effective ways, and finding solutions,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Sometimes, even people with the best intentions can make a situation worse by saying the wrong things to someone with anxiety.

“Telling a person who is feeling anxious to calm down or stop feeling anxious can make a bad situation worse. It’s like telling someone who is standing in the rain to stop feeling the rain,” says Jeffrey M. Cohen, PsyD, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Here are some of the things you should and should not say to someone with anxiety. Being prepared can help you be a better source of support for a friend, partner, colleague, or acquaintance who is experiencing anxiety.

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Tips For Men Coping With Anxiety And Depression

There are lots of things you can do to look after your health and wellbeing, so find an approach that best suits you. For example, try to stay active and make plans for the day they dont have to be grand plans, just small things like going for a run or talking to a mate.

Try to include activities or hobbies that you specifically enjoy. At first, you may not enjoy them as much as you did before, but if you keep active and persist, the enjoyment should eventually return.

Its important to look after your body by staying physically active, eating healthily and getting plenty of sleep. Try not to drink alcohol or take other drugs to block out how youre feeling and what is happening. This is not a positive long-term solution and can make the anxiety or depression worse.

The important thing is to find the right options and the right health professionals that suit you.

How Do You Accept A Compliment With Social Anxiety Disorder

If you have social anxiety disorder , you might have a hard time gracefully accepting and giving compliments.

For example, when someone positively comments on something about you, your tendency might be to dismiss and downplay the compliment. For instance, when a coworker tells you that you did a good job on a project, you might respond by saying something like, “Well, anyone could have done what I did.”

You might think you’re being humble, or perhaps you genuinely don’t feel that you deserve the praise. When you negatively respond to compliments, it implies that you don’t value your work, your appearance, your homeor whatever it is that you have been complimented on. Over time, this negativity will erode your confidence.

Learning how to graciously take a compliment is an important social skill, but particularly if you are dealing with social anxiety.

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Is It Panic Disorder

If you feel constantly stressed and anxious, particularly about when your next panic attack may be, you may have panic disorder.

People with panic disorder may avoid situations that might cause a panic attack. They may also fear and avoid public spaces .

“There’s no quick fix, but if your attacks are happening time after time, seek medical help,” says Professor Salkovskis.

Read more about panic attacks, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.

Offer Support In A Helpful Way

How Do You Recognize and Respond to Stress?

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 With Anxiety

If your loved one feels comfortable discussing their anxiety, use active listening techniques to show you understand how they feel and that it makes sense. You could use phrases such as:

  • How can I help you?
  • I’ve noticed you’ve been anxious recently, and I’m worried about you
  • No matter what, I’ll always be here for you
  • Do you want to go for a walk and talk about it?

Understand Differences In How Anxiety Manifests

Because of evolution, were wired to respond to fear by either fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate. For instance, my spouse tends to freeze and will bury her head in the sand rather than deal with things that make her feel stressed and panicky. I tend more toward fighting, and will become irritable, excessively perfectionistic, or dogmatic if I feel stressed.

When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, its easier to understand someone who is feeling scared and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them. By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.

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Useful Ways To Respond To Anxiety

Anxiety is an emotional response thats oriented in the future. Its a response to a perceived threat. When you think that something bad will happen that you wont be able to cope with, youll become aroused inside, encouraged to protect yourself.

When you struggle with this difficult emotion you become good at distancing yourself from those situations and activities that bring it to the surface. You try to not think about uncomfortable things and instead focus on calming activities. While this response is useful sometimes, when using these tactics regularly they can interrupt your life, making it difficult to function.

For this reason, you need to identify and practice numerous proactive responses when this emotion emerges. While you wont always be able to control how youre feeling, you can find ways to respond to it more effectively. This is a better tactic than spending a lot of time and effort trying to avoid it.

Here are some suggestions to help you clarify this emotional challenge, reduce any discomfort you may be feeling, learn to think in more useful and realistic ways, and be able to move forward with your life.

Know What Youre Working With

When you experience anxiety you should take a moment to notice what youre feeling and thinking, as well as what sensations and urges youre experiencing. This will help you determine how to better understand and relate to this emotion.

Practice Emotion-Focused Coping

Be Realistic

Accept Meaningful Challenges

Don’t Put Pressure On Them

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While it is important for you to not enable their behaviours, it is also imperative that you dont force the person to go to places or enter scenarios that they are extremely anxious about.

This is something that they should work gradually towards with professional therapeutic support. If you attempt to push them too far, it could damage the trust in your relationship and cause them a significant amount of stress.

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Why Would You Be Anxious About That

“This response implies that they should not be anxious and their response is unjustified. By saying this, you’re positioning yourself against the person, instead of aligning with them against their anxiety,” says Romanoff.

Anxiety is a condition that often has causes beyond the person’s control. According to the National Institute of Medical Health, genetic factors, childhood trauma, and health conditions like heart arrhythmias or thyroid problems could contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

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