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How to Help Someone With Anxiety

How to Help Someone With Anxiety

How to Help Someone With Anxiety

Published: April 26, 2022

Anxiety is a natural part of being human. Worrying can indicate that we are in a dangerous situation; in this way it is meant to help keep us safe. However, this normal emotion can sometimes turn into a debilitating mental health condition. Anxiety disorder is an increasingly common condition in the United States. At present, it affects 18% of the population. If a friend or family member has developed excessive concern or anxiety about day-to-day activities, the well-being of others, or situations that others may view as completely harmless, their level of anxiety may have become a mental health issue.

Perhaps your loved one has already had a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and you are looking for the best way to support them, or maybe you are helping a friend identify their overwhelming feelings for the first time. Here we look at some of the helpful things you can do, how to recognize signs of anxiety disorders, and how to look after your own well-being.

Mental health conditions are difficult for individuals suffering, but also for those around them. Understanding how to help someone with anxiety can be complex, and we have highlighted some of the most useful tips for understanding and coping with anxiety so that you can make sure you are doing what you can to help.  

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety disorder affects the lives of 40 million adults in the US, making it the most common form of mental illness in the country. With the right treatment, it is possible to recover from anxiety; unfortunately, many people are not diagnosed and do not receive adequate treatment.

Anxiety comes in many forms and is a complex disorder. In order to correctly diagnose and appropriately treat anxiety, various categories of the disorder have been established. These include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, and social anxiety disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD is the most common form of anxiety. Those living with GAD tend to be consumed by excessive worry and anxious thoughts or feelings that are present for the majority of the time over a number of months. The subject of these worries could range from everyday tasks and errands to work responsibilities, finances, relationships, and health.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks. These often cause the individual to experience intense stress and fear. Some individuals will feel an overwhelming need to flee the space they are in while the attack is taking place. These attacks usually last for under ten minutes.


Phobias are common and can range extensively in their manifestation. Phobias occur when an individual experiences extreme and often debilitating fear. What causes the fear is varied, but some common sources of phobia include flying, needles, and small spaces.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This form of anxiety is related to relationships and social connections. Known also as social phobia, an individual with a social anxiety disorder will experience extreme fear of judgment by others, and often be consumed with how they are perceived. They may worry about being rejected or disliked by peers or friends. This disorder can lead people to become incredibly isolated as they avoid social situations due to their fear of what may happen.

What Are The Signs of Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is felt and displayed in various ways depending on the individual scenario. There are many symptoms, and they may manifest in different severities.

Physical Symptoms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Tensed muscles
  • Restlessness 
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pain 
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach pain, nausea or digestive issues
  • Headaches
Anxious Thoughts
  • Feeling out of control
  • Overwhelming panic
  • Agitation or irritability  
  • Believing that the worst-case scenario will happen 
  • A feeling of impending doom
Anxious Behavior
  • Lack of concentration
  • Insomnia or sleep problems 

What Can You Do To Help?

Understand Anxiety Symptoms

Anxiety manifests in many different ways. A number of symptoms are experienced by different individuals at different severity levels. Sometimes it may feel like your friend or family member is behaving in uncharacteristic ways; for example, they may become distracted, angry, or defensive.

Understanding how anxiety may be affecting them and understanding the common symptoms of anxiety can help you offer support in difficult situations.

It can also help you to identify when your loved one is feeling anxious or is likely to feel anxious, enabling you to provide a timely reminder of your support, presence, and care.

Offer Emotional Support

Talking about mental health is not always easy, but it can be a powerful way to reduce and prevent mental health issues. It can be helpful to gently say to the person that you have noticed they are experiencing anxiety and that you are concerned about how they are.

It is likely that this offer of support will be welcomed by the individual, as coping with anxiety disorders alone can be very isolating and they may feel overwhelmed. This also puts some control back in the hands of the individual, as they can tell you the most effective ways to support them.

Let Them Know You Are There

For somebody living with significant anxiety, initiating a conversation - even with close friends - can be extremely difficult. Making an extra effort to keep up regular communication is a crucial element of offering reassurance and support. Encourage conversation about their feelings, and provide reminders that you are present with them on their journey.

Spending time together, particularly in safe environments can enable the individual to express how they feel and share any anxious thoughts they may be having. Feeling cared for and understood is a big factor in recovery.

Discuss Good Mental Health Practices

For some people, professional help from mental health services is crucial for managing their anxiety symptoms. However, there are also a number of things that individuals who are struggling with anxiety can do to ease their symptoms alone. These include:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing
  • Adequate and quality sleep
  • Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
  • CBT home exercises
  • Identifying time in the day to 'worry' to try and stop it from consuming your time.

Look After Yourself

Supporting somebody through their mental health condition can be very challenging, and at times exhausting. It is possible that the anxiety of your loved one may have an effect on your own mental health.

Make sure you are taking care of your own well-being and that you also have people you can rely on. Talking to other friends and family members about what you are going through, and accessing professional support yourself can keep your mental health in check.

If you are in a healthy position - both mentally and physically - you are much better placed to support others.

Recognize When Professional Support is Needed

Though it can feel overwhelming at times, the good news is that anxiety is treatable. If someone you love is experiencing severe levels of anxiety, or they are no longer taking part in things they used to enjoy, encourage them to seek professional help.

As their friend or family member, remember you are there to support them, not to be the psychologist. You can offer to accompany them to appointments or make yourself available to look for therapists together.

If you are worried about someone living with anxiety, get in touch with us today to discuss treatment options and learn about our therapy methods.

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