Occasional anxiety may occur for anyone at some point in their life. We may all face difficulties and challenges in our life that cause stress or worry from time to time. However, if a loved one has excessive worries or fears consistently and doesn’t seem to go away, they may be living with an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders. Studies show one in three adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Symptoms of anxiety can interfere with an individual’s day-to-day life in every aspect, including work, school, and relationships. There are five major types of anxiety disorders; however, they all share the symptoms of excessive fear and worry, which can make an individual’s daily life difficult to manage. Excessive worries and fears characterize generalized anxiety disorder. Some common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include:
If you have a loved one or close friend living with anxiety, you might be aware of the challenges they face in their daily lives and how they may affect their relationships. You may want to help them, but you may be unsure how to or what to say.
Fortunately, with the right support and treatment, anxiety disorders are highly treatable. If your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, it may help to be supportive and better understand what they are experiencing, so you may be able to help. The first positive thing that you can do is open up the topic of anxiety for discussion. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health disorders, broaching the topic of anxiety may seem difficult. Still, it may help to be a source of support for your loved ones to go to when they are experiencing anxiety.
They Might Be Glad You Brought It Up
Talking to your loved ones about their anxiety may make them feel a bit of relief. Because of the stigmas our society faces revolving around mental health, they may have found it difficult to open up about their experiences with anxiety, so it’s important not to pressure them to talk about things if they don’t want to this may make their anxiety worse.
If they do want to talk, having an open and honest conversation with your loved one provides an opportunity for you to listen without judgment as they divulge some potentially sensitive issues. Engaging in active listening allows you to reflect on moments that you’ve shared when they may have been experiencing anxiety and have a better understanding of the challenges they may be facing.
This open conversation may help you see how you can best support them in times of need. If your loved one is opening up to you about their difficulties, it’s important to be empathetic to them. When it comes to discussing their mental health concerns, you can say things that may help and things that you may want to avoid saying.
Things You Can Say to Someone Experiencing Anxiety
If someone close to you is experiencing anxiety and you want to be a source of support to them, there may be things you can say that may help them. It’s important to speak calmly with no judgment when you speak to someone who is experiencing anxiety. If you would like to help, here are some things that you can say to them to get a better idea of what they are experiencing and understand how you may help them.
What can I do to help you at the moment?
Naturally, we may want to help a loved one when experiencing anxiety, but we may not know exactly how to. Everyone experiences anxiety differently, and what may work for one person may not necessarily work for another. Instead of offering advice or making assumptions on what may help them, it may be best to ask them what they need and how you can best help. Some people may want advice, some may want someone to listen to them, and others need some time alone. The best way to help them is first to ask how.
Will it help if I sit with you?
Sometimes people experience severe anxiety, and they may not be able to communicate effectively. It may help to ask if you can sit there with them, and they can give a simple head nod or shake instead of speaking. It may help them to know they aren’t alone while you sit with them.
I am always here for you, no matter what. You’re not alone.
Anxiety may make an individual feel as if no one understands them, or it may make them feel alone. It may help to be compassionate and reassure them that while you may not know what their experience is like, you’re there for them.
Would you like me to come over?
If your loved one is experiencing anxiety and they’re alone, it may be helpful to offer to come over to be with them until their anxiety subsides. Knowing they have a support system and a loved one they can rely on may help alleviate anxiety symptoms.
Would you like to do something to take your mind off things?
At times it may be helpful for an individual experiencing anxiety to get out of their heads a bit and do something that distracts them from their excessive worries or fears. If your loved one is experiencing anxiety, it may help offer up activities to get their minds off things. However, it’s important not to force or pressure them to do anything as this could potentially worsen their anxiety.
Do you want advice, or would you like me to listen?
When someone close to us is experiencing severe anxiety, we may immediately want to find ways to help them by offering advice. However, unsolicited advice may worsen their anxiety, and you may not know what works for them. Everyone needs different kinds of support. Before you offer advice to your loved one, it may be important to ask if they want advice or just someone to listen to. For some individuals, talking and expressing their concerns may be helpful, and they may need a loved one to listen.
Things You May Want to Avoid Saying
If someone you care about is experiencing anxiety, there are some things you may want to avoid saying to them as it may potentially make their anxiety worse.
Don’t worry; everything will be fine.
Telling a loved one who is experiencing anxiety not to worry may seem like a reassuring thing; however, it may apply pressure to them to stop worrying when it actually may be extremely difficult for them to stop worrying—telling them not to worry when they can’t make their anxiety worse. It may also come across as insensitive if you dismiss their feelings when they are very real and valid.
Everyone gets anxious sometimes.
While it may be true that everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, living with an anxiety disorder is very different from occasional anxiety. You may think saying everyone gets anxious is helpful or makes you relatable; it may come off as dismissive and minimize what they are going through. Even if you experience similar symptoms, discussing your anxiety or mental health concerns when experiencing anxiety takes the focus off them and onto you, which may not be helpful. Unless they want to hear about your experiences with anxiety, it may be best to listen and be supportive of their personal experience.
Others have it worse; you’ll be okay.
When someone is experiencing a difficult or stressful time, it may seem like it could make them feel better to remind them that others have it worse and they’ll be okay. However, this may make them feel worse as it trivializes their experience and invalidates their feelings. Everyone has their journey and challenges they may face, and it may not help to compare who has it worse.
If you or a loved one are experiencing anxiety symptoms, it’s important to remember you’re not alone and there is support available. If you’re unsure how to help your loved one cope with their anxiety, a licensed therapist may be able to help. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp can provide tools and guidance to help you find the best ways to help your loved or they may also be able to provide support and treatment to the one you care for who is experiencing anxiety. Reach out today for support.