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What to Say to Someone with Anxiety

What to Say to Someone with Anxiety

What to Say to Someone with Anxiety

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Published: February 28, 2023

Anxiety can affect daily life. If you are worried a loved one has anxiety, and you want to support them but are not sure where to start, read this article to find out about anxiety and the best things to say.

According to data from a 2022 survey completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27.3% of American adults have symptoms of anxiety disorders. In other words, 1 in 4 people have symptoms of this type of mental disorder, very possibly your friend, family member, or loved one.

What is Anxiety?

What is Anxiety?

Nervousness or Anxiety

It is very common to use anxiety as a synonym for when one is simply feeling nervous. However, from a medical point of view, feeling anxious from time to time is actually healthy and perfectly normal. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/ anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.

The main difference between nervousness, or let's say 'rational' anxiety, and anxiety itself is that the latter impacts your everyday life and causes you to feel totally overwhelmed more easily without proper motive.

Other differences between feeling nervous and having an anxiety disorder are:

  • Anxiety is a fear of the unknown, and nervousness can be described as hesitancy when trying something new
  • Specific events and situations trigger normal levels of nervousness, while those with an anxiety disorder are anxious on a daily basis
  • Usually, nervousness is experienced in intermittent periods, while one who experiences anxiety disorders does it irrationally
  • Normal levels of nervousness are believed to have health benefits, while anxiety disorders are chronic

Nervousness

As briefly mentioned before, nervousness is a natural reaction to a stressful situation lived by the person. Everyone experiences it when facing a new or important challenge, such as taking an exam, doing a job interview, or when waiting for medical test results.

Some physical symptoms can accompany this, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Sweaty palms
  • Feelings of self-doubt

Overall, nervousness tends to go away on its own once the task is accomplished or over.

Anxiety

Anxiety, on the other hand, is something a person has to deal with daily - a person experiencing anxiety will live his or her own life in a constant state of fear while feeling unable to stop worrying.

If you believe a loved one has been experiencing anxiety for some time, their anxiety might be the underlying foundation of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health issues.

Anxiety Disorders

The most common type of disorder caused by anxiety is Generalized Anxiety Disorder - GAD.

Other disorders related to anxiety include:

  • Panic disorder - a condition where one has recurring and regular panic attacks
  • Phobias - an extreme or irrational fear of a specific something, for example, a spider
  • Agoraphobia - a fear related to situations such as leaving home, being in crowds, or traveling alone
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder - a condition that usually involves intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder - a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event

Risk Factors for Anxiety

There are a few factors that can put a person at a higher risk of developing anxiety, such as:

  • Family history of anxiety
  • Traumatic events
  • Health problems, for example, thyroid disorders
  • Use of substances such as alcohol or drugs

Symptoms of Anxiety

Symptoms vary as anxiety does not impact individuals the same way. But usually, someone with anxiety may experience:

  • Excessive worry about a variety of situations that is impossible to control
  • Feeling restless and on edge
  • Easily irritable
  • Difficulty in focusing or concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Having tense muscles
  • Irregular or faster heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shaking
  • Feeling hot
  • Panic attack
  • Fear of the worst or the wrong thing happening
  • Obsessive and intrusive thoughts that make it harder for people to live in the present moment
  • Not being able to enjoy leisure time
  • Difficulty in performing self-care
  • Struggling to form or maintain friendships
  • Avoiding certain places and situations that create more anxiety

How to Support Someone with Anxiety?

How to Support Someone with Anxiety?

A person's anxiety can cause them to feel overwhelmed or even have a panic attack. If you want to provide support, there are several ways you can do this. You can start by paying attention to their body language and listening to their feelings. To truly support a loved one, you can also try the following:

Offer Support Without Judging

Anxiety can make daily life feel like a conflict within a person's own mind, so remember always to be kind to your friend who's feeling anxious.

You may not understand why they feel anxious or even has negative thoughts when from your perspective, their life seems "easy" or "perfect". It's not your place to say whether someone has or not the motives to feel the way they do.

Remember your loved one is already going through difficult situations due to their anxiety - they don't need you to make them feel guilty or responsible for what they are experiencing.

Say:

  • "What can I do to help?"
  • "You matter to me"
  • I'm always here for you"

Avoid Saying:

  • "Don't worry so much"

Respect Boundaries

People with anxiety deal with their feelings and thoughts differently from each other. What helps one person with anxiety, might not be ideal for another. For some, talking helps, while others find it helpful to do activities that distract them from their thoughts and feelings.

Don't provide unsolicited advice. Unless your loved one or friend makes it clear they want advice, the best way to support them is to simply listen.

Say:

  • "I am here for you whenever you want to talk"
  • "If it helps, I can come over"
  • "Do you want to try taking deep breaths?"

Avoid Saying:

  • "Yesterday we talked so much, why are you acting like this today?"
  • "You can't keep your thoughts to yourself"
  • "We are family, you need to share your feelings with us"

Don't Make It About Yourself

The truth is unless you also have an anxiety disorder, your words may have a different effect than you wish them to.

Trying to compare a friend's struggle with anxiety with normal stressful situations can make them feel like their struggle is not serious or worth treatment. If your friend finally decides to open up about what is going on with them, the best thing to do is to listen.

Say:

  • "I am here for you"
  • "It's not easy what you are going through, but you're not alone"
  • "I got you these self-help books, they might be useful"

Avoid Saying:

  • "I know how you feel"
  • "I was also anxious all night before my exam"
  • "My anxiety is the worst thing"

Avoid Excessive Positivity

Excessive positivity from family and friends can make the one experiencing anxiety feel pressured to get better right at this moment. This is not helpful as no one can control their anxiety or any type of mental health issues like this.

Excessive positivity can also lead to a denial of own issues, especially if the family member or close friend is paying for treatment and the person feels like it's taking more than a moment to see results.

Say:

  • "You are trying your absolute hardest, but you don't need to be strong all the time"
  • "You don't need to pretend you're okay"
  • "Treatment takes time to work, it's okay if you take some steps back"

Avoid Saying:

  • "It's not a big deal, it will go away if you don't think about it"
  • "It could be worse"
  • "People are dealing with worse things in the world"

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Sometimes dealing with other people's anxiety can provoke us to also experience symptoms - for instance, when supporting an anxious friend, you become a recipient of panicked texts, which might make you feel anxious and stressed.

This a gentle reminder that your own mental health and well-being are also important - and you need to feel your best to provide good support. If your loved one, or in turn you yourself, are suffering, it might be helpful to talk to a professional clinical psychologist.

When seeking professional help, a licensed mental health counselor can consider treatment options such as:

  • Talking Therapy - the most common talking therapy treatment used to treat mental disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which helps people deal with their behaviors and triggers
  • Medication - sometimes, to treat the most serious type of disorders caused by anxiety, antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed
  • TMS- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a non invasive treatment for depression and comorbid anxiety symptom. TMS is a clinically proven, non-drug, non-invasive way to treat anxious depression as well as many other mental health symptoms.

GIA Miami Center

Gia Miami is a luxury wellness center for treating mental health illnesses and addictions, including anxiety disorders. We provide a number of treatment options following a comprehensive individualized assessment to help us determine the best treatment route for a successful long-term recovery.

All services we provide are backed up by science to ensure the best outcomes for:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Cravings related to addictions
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Dual diagnosis - both substance abuse and other co-occurring mental illness
  • Long Covid Symptoms
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Cognitive enhancement

At GIA Miami, we believe the secret to successful treatment starts with a compassionate relationship with our clients - working together to ensure your recovery to a happy life.

If you believe you or a loved one has an anxiety disorder, contact GIA Miami today to find out more about the treatment options.

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