SUPPORTING SOMEONE WITH ANXIETY


If you have a family member or friend who struggles with anxiety, you will want to show them you care by providing support and encouragement as best as you can. Here’s how:

• Become educated. Learn about anxiety disorder, it’s signs and symptoms and how it affects the mind and the body. Learn about the difference types of anxiety, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Encourage your loved one to become educated as well. Remember—knowledge is power. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to handle the challenge.

• Encourage treatment of all kinds. Whether it’s a consultation with a psychiatrist for medication or an appointment for psychotherapy, let your loved one know that treatment is a good thing and will only enhance their life. Treatment or taking medication should never be looked upon as a “weakness”. Treatment should be a sign of strength and courage. In some treatments, couple or family based treatments are encouraged in addition to individual treatment. Your involvement in your partner’s or loved one’s treatment can be instrumental in their recovery.

• Provide praise and encouragement of healthy behavior, rather than criticizing the irrational fears, worries, physical symptoms or rituals that are manifested by anxiety. Telling your friend or partner to “snap out of it” is just not going to work.

• Help your loved one set specific goals that are realistic and can be approached one step at a time.

• An individual’s response to treatment is highly personal. Don’t measure progress by some standardized expectations or compared to someone else. Your loved one’s improvement may be slower than average. That’s ok—as long as it’s steady.

• As well as you may know your loved one, never assume you know what they need without talking to them first. Ask them how you can be of help, what their needs are and listen carefully to what they tell you. Listening in an attuned, empathic manner can be very helpful and therapeutic. It helps the person with anxiety feel validated and cared for.

• If you have never experienced an anxiety attack yourself, you may never truly understand what it feels like to be in a state of extreme anxiety or panic. Let your loved one know that although you don’t truly understand what it’s like, you’re here to help as best as possible.

• It is important to understand when to be patient and take a step back, and when and how to give that extra push. Achieving a proper balance often requires trial and error and lots of broadmindedness.

• In order for you to help your partner or loved one, you must remember to take care of yourself. If necessary, You may need to seek your own professional help. It is also important to create and maintain a support system of family and friends who can help you and understand what you are going through. Continue to engage in activities and hobbies that provide stress relief and that help you maintain your positive energy and tranquility.

• Finally, you need to maintain healthy boundaries and set proper limits. Know what you are willing to do and where you might have to draw the line. Individuals with an anxiety disorder must take responsibility for their own recovery. No matter how much you love them, you can’t do it for them.

Recovery requires hard work on the part of the person with an anxiety disorder and tolerance and perseverance on the part of the partner and family. It may seem like a slow process, but the rewards are well worth it.