Do you know people with anxiety always feel down, and they also struggle with their everyday life? Let’s learn more in this article on how you can positively influence a loved one struggling with anxiety. The good thing is that these techniques covered here are beneficial for everyone, especially those with anxiety.
Furthermore, these techniques are also essential to you if you are trying to help someone with anxiety. Let’s get started on learning effective ways you can use to help a person with anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a person’s natural reaction to stressful situations. Anxiety is that feeling of fear that you experience when you anticipate a stressful event. Although anxiety is a natural reaction, it can progress to an anxiety disorder if the response persists for over six months.
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What Causes Anxiety?
There are several triggers of anxiety. Even the word anxiety itself can cause anxiety in some people. Some of the common triggers of anxiety include a person’s brain structure, genetics, and environmental factors. The actual cause of anxiety remains unknown to date. Furthermore, researchers believe that some specific parts of the brain and decreased brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine can lead to anxiety disorder.
Six Types of Anxiety
About a third of Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety is a broad term, and many types of anxiety fall under this term. Six major types of anxiety are prevalent among different persons over the decades. Here are the six common types of anxiety in our society today:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This type of anxiety disorder is also referred to as chronic anxiety neurosis—people with this form of anxiety experience nervousness and uneasiness. The feeling isn’t, however, linked to any particular triggers of anxiety.
Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder whereby a person experiences recurrent panic attacks. The condition is characterized by unpredictable worry. Panic disorder is also characterized by unanticipated shock.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder comes from the term ‘social phobia’. You may be highly resistant to social interactions and social gatherings if you have a social anxiety disorder.
Phobias are extreme fears towards any subject, situation, or thoughts. Phobias are characterized by excessive anxiety and distress.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Extreme compulsions of actions and thoughts characterize this anxiety disorder know as OCD.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme anxiety and worrying over getting separated from a loved one or a caretaker.
How to Help a Person with Anxiety?
Now that you know the six types of anxiety. Let’s dive into the specifics of helping someone with anxiety.
1. Understand the Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety disorders aren’t only diverse, but these disorders also manifest themselves in multiple ways. Every person has their own experience of anxiety since anxiety varies from one individual to another. Thus, it is crucial to analyze and understand the signs of anxiety in the individual you want to help.
The ways you can help someone with anxiety will depend on their symptoms and signs. The brain of a person with anxiety is vigilant. Therefore, observe these common signs of anxiety given below:
- Being extremely tense
- Feelings of extreme danger
- Avoidance behavior
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Chest muscle fatigue
- Muscle twitching
- Increased sweating
- Problems with concentrating
- Panic/ anxiety attacks
- Inability to focus on everyday tasks
- Shortness of breath
- Being excessively tense
- Repeating certain actions
These symptoms of anxiety above don’t vanish within months or even years. However, these symptoms tend to worsen over time. Therefore it would help to check the symptoms of anxiety mentioned above in the person you want to help to overcome anxiety.
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2. Listen to the Person with Empathy
After understanding the symptoms of anxiety in a person, the next vital step to helping them is listening to their experiences with empathy. Empathetic behavior is an attribute that doesn’t come naturally but rather through practice and tolerance. Empathy is a vital skill when dealing with people with any mental condition, including anxiety.
The best way to help someone with anxiety is first to understand their emotional makeup. Next, show kindness and interest in helping the individual. The person will gain confidence once you demonstrate a willingness to help them deal with their anxiety problems. The better your understanding of the person, the more a transparent conversation can occur between you and that person.
Being an empathetic listener also shows you can recognize other people’s feelings and further analyze their anxiety triggers. Listening to what a person with anxiety is saying is also vital since it helps both you and the person you are helping to develop two-way communication. Simply put, empathy is a great skill you need to build confidentiality and trust between you and the individual you are striving to help.
3. Exclude Unhelpful Things
People with anxiety and other mental issues can’t decide between unhelpful and valuable things. Hence, you have to eliminate unnecessary items from the person’s attention and also help them concentrate on realistic goals.
Anxious people usually worry about unhelpful or unnecessary things. These people may also explain triggers and symptoms that don’t exist in the first place. Thus, you need to do your job well as a counselor.
It would help if you focused on helping the person understand the natural causes of their anxiety. Furthermore, teach the person what they should worry about and what they shouldn’t worry about. Describe these things from high priority to the least important things.
Most importantly, explain to the person with anxiety the severe effects of anxiety. Guide them in deciding the kind of help they need from you and the things that require the most attention.
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4. Know What Kind of Help to Offer to the Person with Anxiety
The best way to help a person with anxiety is to first listen to the side of their story. Based on the conversation you have with the person, you can know how to help that person. Take a step in advance if you think the person won’t be willing to engage in a conversation with you. Some persons with anxiety are hesitant to open up about their anxiety problems.
Engage the person with anxiety in a gentle conversation. Ask what help you can accord them in your discussion. Apart from that, let the person know that you are always willing and available to help them.
There are several ways you can use to approach an individual with anxiety. For instance, you can call the person if a person-to-person meeting isn’t feasible. You can also text or email them if they need help from you.
This idea works well, especially for persons with social anxiety disorder. People with phobias and social anxiety disorder usually avoid person-to-person conversations or interactions. Nonetheless, these people still need help.
5. Seek Out Ways of Managing Anxiety
Persons with anxiety should try to manage their anxiety symptoms along with seeking professional help. The clue to answering the “How can I help?” question lies in the patient’s behavioral patterns and everyday activities.
Unfortunately, many persons with anxiety tend to indulge in harmful activities to overcome their anxiety problems. Such dangerous activities include substance abuse, excessive drinking, drug overdose, and smoking.
As you may know, such habits are false short-cuts to dealing with anxiety. Indulging in such bad habits can worsen the existing anxiety symptoms. Therefore, encourage the individual struggling with anxiety to indulge in productive activities at home.
Various approaches can help a person with anxiety manage anxiety at home. Some of these approaches for managing anxiety at home include:
- Indulging in physical activities for at least half an hour every day helps the body release endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that aid in stabilizing mood and behavior.
- Deep breathing workouts.
- Developing a good sleep regimen.
- Refraining from taking brain stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and other drug-like substances.
- Practicing mindfulness to help an anxious brain to calm down.
6. Acknowledge Limitations
You could be willing to offer help to someone with an anxiety disorder or other mental health disorders. However, not every person with an anxiety disorder is ready to receive support.
Knowing your limitations is a vital step when dealing with persons with anxiety. Therefore, the essential thing in helping a person with anxiety is forging a close relationship with that person.
You could be having a close association with the person you are trying to help, but things can go out of hand due to personal issues. Therefore, it is good to have a good relationship with the person you are trying to help in this case. It won’t help, for instance, if the individual you are trying to help is just another neighbor, a colleague, or someone that you don’t know personally.
What Does Boundary Mean in Mental Health?
It is essential to establish a boundary between you and the person with anxiety. A boundary acts like a personal barrier that you don’t close, lest you invade another person’s personal space.
Setting up boundaries is a challenging thing. You can set limits by doing simple things, such as making clear statements. Furthermore, you can set boundaries by finding out what the individual is comfortable talking about.
For instance, the person may request that you don’t name other people in your conversations. Some individuals may not be satisfied with solutions that involve socialization. The more you know your limits, the more you simply have conversations with a person with anxiety.
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7. Don’t Pressure Them
Now you know what you can do and what you can’t do while helping a person with anxiety since you have already set boundaries. The next crucial step is to avoid forcing anything on the individual, especially if they aren’t comfortable doing what you are forcing them to do.
It is crucial to avoid being judgmental and remain patient while helping individuals with anxiety. Most importantly, ensure their wishes are your priority while offering help to these persons.
Since you are the counselor, you are in a normal state of mind. Hence, you should aim at helping persons with anxiety overcome their fears and deal with their anxiety triggers. However, not all options are suitable for all people with anxiety.
If you pressurize the person you are trying to help, they will feel that you are forcing them into an uncomfortable position. They will fear losing their confidentiality, comfort, and even dignity.
Pressurizing can also trigger anxiety attacks among people with anxiety. Furthermore, pressuring an individual with anxiety can worsen their anxiety symptoms. Ultimately, the person will lack the confidence to talk about their anxiety problems with anyone.
It helps to understand how the person feels if an anxiety disorder is part of their medical condition. Remember, the person didn’t choose to live with anxiety, and hence they are unable to control their anxiety problems.
8. Know when to Seek Help
Watching a loved one struggling with anxiety and going through this devastating mental problem can be painful. If you notice anxiety symptoms in an individual, consider talking to the person and advise them to seek medical care.
Self-help strategies might not be effective in treating severe symptoms of anxiety. Hence, it is imperative for persons with anxiety to seek professional help right away. If you notice that anxiety is troubling a loved one in their everyday life, then it means that their anxiety disorder is getting out of hand. Therefore, it would help if you advise the individual to consider seeking professional help.
Of all the ways you can offer help to someone with anxiety, professional help is the most effective way of helping a person with anxiety.
9. Support Their Feelings and Treatment Plans
Most people with anxiety know they have a severe mental problem. Even better, they know what they can do to solve their anxiety problems. If you are helping someone with anxiety, it is paramount to listen to their solutions and ideas. Both of you can come up with better solutions that could help in managing the existing anxiety problems.
The person you are trying to help is likely to share your feelings with you if you gradually develop a good relationship with that individual. The individual may even suggest some effective treatment plans. Moreover, listen to the person’s treatment goals, and see how you can incorporate their methods into your anxiety management plans.
Try to show the individual empathy even if their ideas don’t seem to fit into your plans. Talk to the individual gently whenever you are talking to them about anything. Try appreciating their views since appreciation works as positive reinforcement in this case. Request the person to explain the things that make them feel better.
Alternatively, you can ask the person to list some of the activities they enjoy doing. Some of these things could include their hobbies, such as going out, watching movies, or eating their favorite foods.
10. Exploring Treatment Options for Anxiety
Professional help is by far the most effective treatment option for anxiety. Experts can help you find the most effective treatment solution for the person you are helping. Nonetheless, one treatment option doesn’t fit all. Thus, you have to explore and research as many treatment options as possible for anyone with anxiety. Below are some of the best treatment options that work for people with anxiety.
1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Also known as CBT, cognitive therapy helps in rewiring anxious brains. CBT is evidence-based, and numerous studies show how effective CBT is in treating various medical conditions. CBT is a treatment that combats the thought patterns that lead to anxiety.
Negative thought patterns and inaccurate thoughts are potential causes of false perceptions among people with anxiety. CBT helps in lowering stress levels and reducing signs of anxiety.
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2. Anxiety Medication
Anxiety medications are prescribed with other therapeutic approaches, including CBT. Anxiety medications are the first option of treatment among persons with anxiety. These drugs are among the most effective medications for anxiety:
These are sedatives that ease the effects of anxiety medications. These sedatives also help with reducing muscle tension that results from anxiety disorders. Some of the drugs in this category include Valium, Ativan, and Xanax.
Buspirone is among the most effective medications for anxiety. Patients who have been using this medication have reported experiencing relief in their anxiety problems.
Antidepressants are a group of medications that most people with anxiety consider safer than other anxiety medications. These medications work by raising the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the brain chemicals that plays a role in balancing behavior, sexual activities, and mood. Some of the standard antidepressants that doctors prescribe to people with anxiety include Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.
These medications are effective in healing cardiac conditions. The medicines are also prescribed to persons with anxiety problems. One of the most common types of Beta-Blockers that doctors prescribe to persons with anxiety is Propranolol.
PS: It is important to note that anyone suffering from anxiety should take medications only under their doctor’s prescription.
11. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
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, don’t worry since you aren’t 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.
Share Your Role – 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.
The Top Dos and Don’ts of Assisting an Individual with Anxiety
Anxiety increases a person’s stress levels, making them susceptible to emotional outbursts, behavioral issues, and weird reactions to even the tiniest problems in a person’s life. Thus, you must understand the emotions of a person with anxiety. It is also crucial you know the specific dos and don’ts of helping a person with anxiety. Below are some of the things you should ask a person with anxiety:
What to Say to Someone Who Has Anxiety?
1. Are You Alright?
Asking this question can be very helpful to a person with anxiety. However, people with anxiety can’t express their anxiety problems. Furthermore, many individuals with anxiety aren’t comfortable seeking help or engaging in social interactions.
Asking this question helps break the communication barrier between you and the person you are striving to help. Moreover, the question gives the person a chance to explain their feelings for you to understand them better.
Although the individual may appear normal when asking this question, asking them how they feel will help them gain confidence to explain some of the things that could be bothering them. These are some anxiety signs that you should look for before asking this question, especially if you think that you will be a bit off by asking this question.
- Possible signs of depression
- Looking tense
2. I’m Here to Offer Help
Most persons with anxiety look forward to sharing their problems with someone. However, most of them opt to keep things to themselves. Whatever way you may look at this scenario, people with anxiety need help.
Letting a person know that you are ready to help them with their anxiety problems will provide the individual with the support and relief they need to share their concerns. Ultimately, such people will get help after opening up about their anxiety problems.
3. I Understand Your Worries
Persons with anxiety understand that this mental condition can be embarrassing for various reasons. However, a significant behavior among persons with anxiety is emotional outbursts, exaggerated reactions, and extreme fear. These signs are pretty unusual among ordinary people.
It can be a challenge for such persons to share their anxiety experiences with other people. It isn’t unusual for someone with anxiety to think that other people will ignore their situation or just laugh at them.
Nonetheless, other people need to acknowledge their problems. They should also appreciate people exhibiting signs and symptoms of anxiety, giving them positivity and courage to share their experiences with other people.
4. It Is Okay Not to Be Productive Each Time
We are living in a fast-paced world. Every person on earth is striving to save time and exhibit maximum productivity within the least time possible. However, this isn’t something that persons with anxiety can easily accomplish. Anxiety can slow someone down since it consumes energy and makes them incapable of doing their daily chores.
It is crucial to let a person with anxiety understand that anxiety is a burden with no time frame. Furthermore, make the person know that the condition they are dealing with isn’t normal. Hence, it would help if you understood that it is normal to have unproductive and productive days.
Persons with anxiety need to be easy on themselves, especially if they notice that stressors and worries surround them. Anxiety could resume once they experience an anxiety attack. Hence, people close to a person with anxiety need to let them know that they should have a balance in their lives.
5. We Are All in This Together
A person with anxiety needs help and support. Allowing such a person to tackle their anxiety problems alone can be a useless way of handling their situation. It takes two people to deal with a problem rather than one anxious individual.
Talking and sharing is a therapy for persons with anxiety. Let the person you are trying to help understand that you are there for them. Furthermore, prove to them that you can help them sort out their issues.
6. Anxiety Will Be over
A person with anxiety cannot even recall their anxiety-free days. Worse still, the person can’t even remember a time when they were living without anxiety.
Anxiety can be an overwhelming and challenging condition that makes people feel abnormal. Give a tender talk to someone with anxiety and remind them that their anxiety will be over.
7. I Will Always Love You despite Everything
Anyone with anxiety understands how this condition can trouble their life and their relationships. In most cases, people with anxiety can’t fulfill their promises. They have problems being on time, being responsible, and taking part in any constructive activity. Most people get frustrated and furious since people with anxiety always pace for no reason, and they also have trouble around.
Letting a person with anxiety know that they are loved can be a great relief. Letting the person you are trying to help see that people love them will inspire them since they will understand that they won’t lose their relevance no matter what happens.
What You Shouldn’t Say to a Person with Anxiety?
Although certain things can help someone with anxiety reduce the severity of their condition, some words can do more harm than good to a person with anxiety. Below are some of the things that you shouldn’t say to a loved one with anxiety:
1. Just Relax
No one can help a person with anxiety deal with their anxiety problem by telling them to relax or calm down. Telling an anxious person to relax has never worked in the past, and it will probably not work in the future.
The reason behind this is that anxious people can’t keep calm. Telling an anxious person to calm down is perhaps one of the most annoying statements to these individuals.
2. There Is Nothing for You to Worry About
Most people with anxiety don’t recognize the things they should worry about in their lives. They also don’t know some of the terrible mistakes they have made in the past. Most importantly, these people don’t recognize how annoying their behaviors are to other people.
However, anyone in their normal state of mind can perceive that there is nothing to worry about for a person with anxiety. It is impossible to behave in a usual way when anxiety hits you. Anxious individuals worry over anything and everything. Hence, you can’t tell such persons not to worry since they don’t know what they need to worry about in the first place.
3. What Makes You so Anxious?
The question could probably be the most challenging and uncomfortable question to ask someone with anxiety. There are many triggers of anxiety. However, pressure can occur most of the time without any specific reason for someone to become anxious. Therefore, trying to convince an anxious person that they are behaving weird can’t help solve their anxiety.
Persons with anxiety don’t want to be burdened with questions. They also don’t feel like explaining their problems. Instead, these people need someone who cares about them and doesn’t ask them lengthy questions.
4. I Understand What It Feels like
Never mention such a thing to a person with anxiety unless you are suffering from anxiety yourself. Believing that you understand what an anxious person feels can be a fallacy.
Trying to compare your experiences of anxiety to the individual you are supporting will not work.
5. Try Taking a Deep Breath
Breathing exercises can help combat anxiety if the affected persons have been practicing these exercises for months. A person who is breathing heavily due to anxiety can’t benefit from breathing exercises without any prior practice. Thus, you can’t tell such a person to take deep breaths once anxiety attacks hit them.
6. Try This to Relieve Your Anxiety
We have all been hearing about various solutions to dealing with anxiety. For instance, we know that over-the-counter drugs and other coping mechanisms can help deal with anxiety. Unless you have any scientifically proven clues, don’t recommend any anxiety relief options to an anxious person. Don’t suggest anything that won’t be effective in helping an anxious person.
7. Try to Sort Out Your Anxiety
Most individuals with anxiety have unsuccessfully tried to sort out their anxiety problems at some point. Nonetheless, these individuals haven’t succeeded in dealing with their anxiety problems. Telling an anxious person to try to deal with their anxiety problems can be ridiculous. They are helpless as far as their anxiety problems are concerned.
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Anxiety disorder can be a tough challenge for anyone. Fortunately, a loved one can help someone with anxiety. It is vital to have a better understanding of anxiety before committing yourself to help someone with anxiety. Describe the various professional and practical options to an anxious individual if you want to help the person. Most importantly, help them manage their anxiety problems.