How to Help Someone Who Has an Anxiety Disorder

Reviewed Mar 2, 2017

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Summary

There are many ways to support someone who has an anxiety disorder. Remembering to listen, show compassion, and think about the basics is a good place to start.
 

When a friend or family member has anxiety, it can be worrisome and upsetting. Do you wonder how you can help? Do you wish you knew what to do? Beyond suggesting the help of a professional, how can you help someone who has anxiety?

Listen

Be willing to listen. It is powerful to lend an ear and allow someone to talk. You can ask about what is hardest right now. You can see if there are things he has thought of to deal with the issue. Perhaps he wants you to go grocery shopping with him. Perhaps he would like you to go with him to an appointment. Really try to hear what he is worried about and let him know you are willing to listen and support him.

Support treatment goals

Actively support someone facing difficulties by finding out about the treatment plan. Has her therapist suggested relaxation exercises? Is she encouraged to get regular exercise? Has she decided she needs to give up caffeine? If so, you can help your friend or family member by focusing on the positive aspects of treatment suggestions. Offer to do these things with her. Offer to learn what she is learning.

Be nonjudgmental

It is easy to be insensitive to the struggles of someone facing anxiety problems. The use of terms like crazy and talking about things like a padded cell can be hurtful. Anxious people are often sensitive people. Choose your words carefully. Show your compassion. Encouragement is powerful. Keep a positive attitude. Express your unconditional support.

Society’s views of mental illness have been slow to change, despite the fact that we know the brain is an organ just like our heart. If someone has a heart condition, we easily support the idea that medical attention may be required. Why does society think differently about the brain, and the ways it can become ill? We can change this by being there for our friends and family who struggle with mental illness. Refuse to find mental illness jokes funny if at their expense. Remind others that everyone struggles from time to time.

Help with the basics

  • Offer child care if it’s needed, to allow help with counseling appointments.
  • Offer to call clergy if a friend might benefit from spiritual support.
  • Offer to make a meal or pick up some groceries.
  • Offer to call a friend’s workplace. Perhaps help with paperwork if a friend needs a leave from work.
  • Call and check in.
  • Offer to go for a walk.
  • Connect a friend with a support network that may help. For instance, an anxiety support group, or an informative website can be helpful.

Try not to overdo it

Being a friend to someone needing support is a unique opportunity to grow as a person, and foster trust and closeness. You will help the most by helping him remember his strengths. Remind him of struggles in the past that he survived. Help him remember the last time he had a problem, and what it took to move forward. Rather than thinking of someone with anxiety as impaired or sick, think of someone as struggling and on the way back to feeling whole again. Keep encouraging positive changes. Stay strong yourself so you can be strong for others.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

There are many ways to support someone who has an anxiety disorder. Remembering to listen, show compassion, and think about the basics is a good place to start.
 

When a friend or family member has anxiety, it can be worrisome and upsetting. Do you wonder how you can help? Do you wish you knew what to do? Beyond suggesting the help of a professional, how can you help someone who has anxiety?

Listen

Be willing to listen. It is powerful to lend an ear and allow someone to talk. You can ask about what is hardest right now. You can see if there are things he has thought of to deal with the issue. Perhaps he wants you to go grocery shopping with him. Perhaps he would like you to go with him to an appointment. Really try to hear what he is worried about and let him know you are willing to listen and support him.

Support treatment goals

Actively support someone facing difficulties by finding out about the treatment plan. Has her therapist suggested relaxation exercises? Is she encouraged to get regular exercise? Has she decided she needs to give up caffeine? If so, you can help your friend or family member by focusing on the positive aspects of treatment suggestions. Offer to do these things with her. Offer to learn what she is learning.

Be nonjudgmental

It is easy to be insensitive to the struggles of someone facing anxiety problems. The use of terms like crazy and talking about things like a padded cell can be hurtful. Anxious people are often sensitive people. Choose your words carefully. Show your compassion. Encouragement is powerful. Keep a positive attitude. Express your unconditional support.

Society’s views of mental illness have been slow to change, despite the fact that we know the brain is an organ just like our heart. If someone has a heart condition, we easily support the idea that medical attention may be required. Why does society think differently about the brain, and the ways it can become ill? We can change this by being there for our friends and family who struggle with mental illness. Refuse to find mental illness jokes funny if at their expense. Remind others that everyone struggles from time to time.

Help with the basics

  • Offer child care if it’s needed, to allow help with counseling appointments.
  • Offer to call clergy if a friend might benefit from spiritual support.
  • Offer to make a meal or pick up some groceries.
  • Offer to call a friend’s workplace. Perhaps help with paperwork if a friend needs a leave from work.
  • Call and check in.
  • Offer to go for a walk.
  • Connect a friend with a support network that may help. For instance, an anxiety support group, or an informative website can be helpful.

Try not to overdo it

Being a friend to someone needing support is a unique opportunity to grow as a person, and foster trust and closeness. You will help the most by helping him remember his strengths. Remind him of struggles in the past that he survived. Help him remember the last time he had a problem, and what it took to move forward. Rather than thinking of someone with anxiety as impaired or sick, think of someone as struggling and on the way back to feeling whole again. Keep encouraging positive changes. Stay strong yourself so you can be strong for others.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

There are many ways to support someone who has an anxiety disorder. Remembering to listen, show compassion, and think about the basics is a good place to start.
 

When a friend or family member has anxiety, it can be worrisome and upsetting. Do you wonder how you can help? Do you wish you knew what to do? Beyond suggesting the help of a professional, how can you help someone who has anxiety?

Listen

Be willing to listen. It is powerful to lend an ear and allow someone to talk. You can ask about what is hardest right now. You can see if there are things he has thought of to deal with the issue. Perhaps he wants you to go grocery shopping with him. Perhaps he would like you to go with him to an appointment. Really try to hear what he is worried about and let him know you are willing to listen and support him.

Support treatment goals

Actively support someone facing difficulties by finding out about the treatment plan. Has her therapist suggested relaxation exercises? Is she encouraged to get regular exercise? Has she decided she needs to give up caffeine? If so, you can help your friend or family member by focusing on the positive aspects of treatment suggestions. Offer to do these things with her. Offer to learn what she is learning.

Be nonjudgmental

It is easy to be insensitive to the struggles of someone facing anxiety problems. The use of terms like crazy and talking about things like a padded cell can be hurtful. Anxious people are often sensitive people. Choose your words carefully. Show your compassion. Encouragement is powerful. Keep a positive attitude. Express your unconditional support.

Society’s views of mental illness have been slow to change, despite the fact that we know the brain is an organ just like our heart. If someone has a heart condition, we easily support the idea that medical attention may be required. Why does society think differently about the brain, and the ways it can become ill? We can change this by being there for our friends and family who struggle with mental illness. Refuse to find mental illness jokes funny if at their expense. Remind others that everyone struggles from time to time.

Help with the basics

  • Offer child care if it’s needed, to allow help with counseling appointments.
  • Offer to call clergy if a friend might benefit from spiritual support.
  • Offer to make a meal or pick up some groceries.
  • Offer to call a friend’s workplace. Perhaps help with paperwork if a friend needs a leave from work.
  • Call and check in.
  • Offer to go for a walk.
  • Connect a friend with a support network that may help. For instance, an anxiety support group, or an informative website can be helpful.

Try not to overdo it

Being a friend to someone needing support is a unique opportunity to grow as a person, and foster trust and closeness. You will help the most by helping him remember his strengths. Remind him of struggles in the past that he survived. Help him remember the last time he had a problem, and what it took to move forward. Rather than thinking of someone with anxiety as impaired or sick, think of someone as struggling and on the way back to feeling whole again. Keep encouraging positive changes. Stay strong yourself so you can be strong for others.

By Rebecca Steil-Lambert, MSW, LICSW, MPH
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
Reviewed by Maria F. Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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