Supporting a friend or family member with an anxiety disorder can be challenging. However, as a trusted individual in their life, your presence and willingness to listen can be incredibly healing. According to Karol Darsa, PsyD, a trauma psychologist and founder of the Reconnect Center, friends and family play a crucial role in helping individuals cope with anxiety disorders by providing support, acceptance, and reassurance that they are not alone. This support is particularly significant considering that many individuals with anxiety tend to keep their condition hidden due to social stigma, which can lead to feelings of isolation and heightened anxiety in the long term.
Benjamin F. Miller, PsyD, a primary care psychologist and adjunct professor of psychiatry and public mental health and population sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, emphasizes that anxiety is a genuine health issue that can be treated. Dismissing anxiety or failing to take it seriously can further stigmatize the person and discourage them from seeking help.
Identify the Signs of Anxiety
Witnessing a loved one going through panic attacks and facing daily anxiety can be distressing. However, there are actions you can take to help. It begins with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding effective ways to support your loved one.
Familiarizing yourself with the signs of anxiety can help you recognize when someone you care about is dealing with fearful thoughts or emotions. These symptoms can be categorized as follows:
Common physical symptoms reported by individuals with anxiety include:
- Being easily startled
- Restlessness or edginess
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Trouble sleeping
- People with anxiety often exhibit specific thought patterns such as:
- Repetitive feelings of nervousness, fear, or panic
- Expecting the worst to happen
- Constantly feeling wound up or on-edge
- All-or-nothing thinking
- Overgeneralizing based on a single event
- Seeking constant reassurance
- Doubting or second-guessing themselves
- Irritability or frustration
If you have a loved one with an anxiety disorder, you can consider the following strategies to provide adequate support:
- Validate Their Feelings: Acknowledge that it is acceptable for them to experience their emotions and that you understand their struggles. Show them that you are there for them in a nonjudgmental manner.
- Avoid Telling Them to Calm Down: Simply instructing someone with anxiety to stop feeling anxious can be counterproductive. Instead, let them know that you are available to talk and offer assistance in any way they need.
- Encourage Focus on Controllable Aspects: Help your loved one recognize that while they may not have control over the entire situation, there are aspects within their control. Engage in conversations that highlight what can be changed and what cannot, assisting them in gaining perspective.
- Assist Them in Building Coping Skills: Educate yourself about effective coping tools and skills for anxiety. Encourage your loved one to utilize these tools when they are feeling anxious, providing them with the means to calm themselves during difficult moments. Discourage them with bad coping skill such as alcohol or drugs. However, this can lead to further complications.
Suggest healthier coping strategies like mindfulness, meditation, exercise, or self-care practices.
- Motivate Them to Seek Treatment
The good news is that anxiety is a treatable condition. While making positive lifestyle choices, such as focusing on priorities, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise, can often alleviate symptoms to some extent, there are instances where professional intervention becomes necessary. When mental or physical symptoms of anxiety become frequent, severe, and significantly impairing, seeking assistance from a trained and skilled therapist becomes crucial.
Therapists possess the expertise to provide valuable information and techniques that are effective in treating anxiety. Guiding an anxious individual towards professional help is an essential aspect of supporting someone with an anxiety disorder. Optimal treatment can substantially reduce anxiety symptoms and facilitate the individual’s return to an everyday and fulfilling life.
If you or your loved one is struggling with anxiety, consider reaching out to Mr. Rajat Chakrabarty for therapy. Click here to book your initial appointment.