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The Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Someone with Anxiety

Do's and Don'ts of Helping Someone with Anxiety

Do’s and don’ts of helping someone with anxiety image - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Story At-A-Glance
  • Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders worldwide and can be caused by various reasons such as stress, hormonal disorders, or genetic predisposition. It leads to physical symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue, as well as behavioral symptoms such as restlessness and compulsive behavior.
  • With the stress of the modern lifestyle, several individuals fall prey to anxiety, which can often be a precursor to depression. How to prevent depression has, therefore, become a frequently Googled phrase.
  • Early therapeutic intervention is the best way to help someone with anxiety. Psychotherapy combined with a healthy lifestyle, and medication in some cases can treat anxiety effectively. Hence, if someone in your life suffers from anxiety, encourage them to seek treatment and support them on their path to better mental and emotional health.

Introduction – Anxiety Is More Common Than You Think

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental disorders in the world. According to studies, the prevalence of anxiety ranges between 13%-28% in most Western countries. Hence, there is a high chance that one in five people around you is suffering from anxiety.

Despite being such a common disorder, anxiety can be hard to detect. Also, there are limited resources that address how to help someone with anxiety.

If someone in your life suffers from anxiety, you can expedite their recovery by offering emotional support and a healthy living environment. You can play a significant role in improving the mental health of your loved ones battling this disorder.

What Exactly Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a condition wherein an individual suffers from unusually intense feelings of worry or unease about things that are yet to happen.

These feelings usually persist for 6 months or more. It differs from regular anxiousness by resulting in severe physical and emotional reactions, such as headaches, nausea, and panic attacks. It is, therefore, a condition that demands treatment or therapy, as it adversely impacts the sufferer’s mental and emotional health.

How To Identify That Someone Has Anxiety

Someone Has Anxiety

Anxiety symptoms in men and women can be physical or behavioral. If someone you know is exhibiting excessive worry or stress, they may be suffering from anxiety. Here are some of the symptoms that you should look out for to identify anxiety disorders.
  • Physical Symptoms of Anxiety – Frequent headaches, nausea, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, fatigue.
  • Behavioral Symptoms of Anxiety – Frequent irritability, compulsive behaviors like washing hands excessively, impatience, fear of social encounters, avoiding stressful situations.

Internally, someone who is living with anxiety may feel that their life is out of control. What are perceived as ordinary tasks or situations by a healthy person may overwhelm them. They may be suffering from poor concentration and constant fear of the future. Hence, it is crucial to support and help those suffering from anxiety in every way possible.

How To Approach A Loved One Who Is Suffering From Anxiety

If you know someone who is living with anxiety, you must approach them with kindness and respect. Instead of blaming them for overreacting to simple situations, ask them how you can help.

Say that you have noticed their discomfort and want to help them overcome it. Always stick with gentle questioning and do not force therapy or treatment upon the individual. The road to recovery can be a long one and will require patience on your behalf.

The Don’ts of Helping Someone With Anxiety

Do not blame
Before we get into how to help someone with anxiety, here are some things that you should avoid while trying to support the individual.

  • Do not blame them for not being in control of their emotions or for overreacting.
  • Avoid forcing them to reveal what is triggering their anxiety.
  • Do not push therapy or treatment upon them, suggest it politely.
  • Do not try to remove all triggers of anxiety from the individual’s life. This will not enable them to learn to cope with these triggers. Hence, it will be detrimental to their mental and emotional health in the long run.

In the process of trying to help someone living with anxiety, you need to draw some boundaries. You should neither try to push that individual too hard nor should you stretch yourself to help them out.

If you jeopardize your mental health while supporting the other person, you might make matters worse for both of you!

The Do’s of Helping Someone With Anxiety

Regarding how to help someone with anxiety, your support and kindness, paired with therapy, is the right approach. Here are some ways to help the person suffering from anxiety on their path to recovery.

1. Offer Validation Without Judgment

Do you want someone who is living with anxiety to open up to you? Then you must approach them with an open mind. If they sense judgment in your voice when you speak about their behavior, they might retreat into a shell.

Remember, anxiety is a medical condition and the individual does not choose to feel a certain way. So, tell them that it is understandable that certain thoughts are worrying them and that some situations seem overwhelming.

Offer them the validation that they are not overreacting. Tell them that you understand their difficulty and that it is a valid condition that requires intervention. This will encourage them to open up to you and to seek treatment.

2. Create A Calming Environment

Create A Calming Environment
Certain sounds, visuals, and even colors can aggravate anxiety symptoms in men and women. While the individual seeks therapy to learn to overcome their anxiety, you can support them by offering a calm environment. If someone you live with is suffering from anxiety, you can add soothing elements like plants, candles, and calming artwork to the home.

Also, add soothing colors such as white, blue, and green to your home décor. Living in a peaceful environment will allow the person to recover faster from their pangs of anxiety. While this will not treat their anxiety, it will ease their symptoms while they seek professional treatment for the disorder.

3. Encourage Therapeutic Activities

Music and art therapy are two effective ways to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. According to some studies, music reduces anxiety in patients who are about to undergo a medical procedure. Similarly, music can have a calming effect on anyone living with anxiety.

Art is another therapeutic activity that helps the mental and emotional health of those suffering from anxiety. It allows the individual to express their feelings that they are not able to articulate otherwise. Studies also indicate that equine therapy, or spending time with horses, has been found to help those suffering from anxiety. Patients find solace in the company of animals that are living yet non-judgemental.

4. Encourage Seeking Professional Help

A trained medical professional knows best how to help someone with anxiety. Early medical intervention in the form of psychotherapy and medication is the most effective treatment for anxiety. Hence, you should encourage the individual to visit a psychotherapist who can help them manage their anxiety better.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective approach for managing anxiety symptoms in men, women, and children. It involves tracking behavior patterns and analyzing how to correct them to deal with anxiety triggers.

If you are worried about how to prevent depression triggered by anxiety, prescription antidepressants will help. The doctor may prescribe the same based on the severity of the symptoms.

5. Help Them Identify Anxiety Triggers

seeking therapy
If you are wondering how to help someone with anxiety, who is already seeking therapy, you can help them identify their triggers. If you spend significant time in the proximity of the individual, it might be easy for you to identify their behavioral patterns. Do they often get anxious before an important work meeting or a family event? Are they more anxious around certain people or in a particular social setting? Helping them identify their anxiety triggers will allow them to modify their behavior patterns more effectively. However, remember not to sound harsh when suggesting a trigger. Instead of saying, “Your work makes you anxious.” try saying, “Maybe something in your work environment is triggering your anxiety?”.

6. Share Resources Without Being Forceful

While researching how to help someone with anxiety, you may come across several informative resources. These could include behavior tracking tools, support groups, websites with helpful information, etc. Share these resources with the individual suffering from anxiety without forcing them to look at them. The idea is to make these resources readily available for them to access whenever they are ready.

Also, if you are worried about how to prevent depression in the individual, it may be a good idea to speak directly with their therapist. This is particularly important if you are worried that the person may be harboring suicidal thoughts. The therapist will know the best course of intervention that will not aggravate the patient any further.

7. Show Support Throughout Their Journey

Anxiety symptoms in men won’t disappear immediately after starting treatment. There will be good days and bad days. What they need is your support to overcome the rough phases and panic attacks.

The one-word answer to how to help someone with anxiety is patience. The knowledge that you are there to support them at their lowest is often enough. Think of it like any other physical illness. How would you support a patient then? By being around while they brave the storm, right? The same is true for anxiety. Simply be there to offer a lending hand, a kind ear, or reassuring words when the person needs them the most.

Frequently Asked Questions on How To Help Someone With Anxiety

Before understanding how to help someone with anxiety, you need to understand the causes of anxiety. Anxiety can be caused by ongoing stress at work or in one’s personal life. It can also be caused by a traumatic experience in the past, hormonal disorders, or physiological disorders such as heart disease. It can even be hereditary in some cases.

If someone is suffering from extreme anxiety or a panic attack, allow them space to breathe. Clear the area around them and remind them to take deep breaths. Once their breathing has returned to normal, ask them if they need anything. Offer them a glass of water and stay around to make sure they are ok. Let the person relax for some time till they start feeling better.

A healthy diet, regular physical exercise, and getting enough sleep are some of the ways to alleviate anxiety naturally. Meditation, breathing exercises, and relaxing activities help to keep the panic attacks at bay. Furthermore, while women are more open to the idea of aromatherapy, it can also help alleviate anxiety symptoms in men.

While anxiety may be ingrained in the genetic makeup of certain individuals, it is treatable with therapy and medication. With the right medical intervention and psychotherapy, people with a history of anxiety disorders can enjoy optimal mental and emotional health.

Those who suffer from perpetual anxiety, often fall prey to depression. Hence, the best course of action to prevent this is to seek psychotherapy at an early stage. If the symptoms of depression are already evident, the individual might be prescribed antidepressants along with therapy.

Conclusion

If your loved one is suffering from anxiety, and you’re wondering how to prevent depression from clouding the person’s life, therapy and support are the answers. A supportive environment at home, therapeutic activities, psychotherapy, and medication can help treat anxiety effectively. All you need to do is gently encourage the individual to accept the same. So, stay strong, together, you can get through this challenging phase!

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