People with anxiety disorders experience panic and a profound sense of fear over things that to you may seem irrational. Pointing that out is the one thing you should never do. Anxiety disorders are real, and managing them can be quite overwhelming. As a friend, family member, spouse, or colleague, the best thing you can do is show support.
How can you show this support? What exactly can you do to help? Here is a rundown of easy ways you can support someone with an anxiety disorder.
1. Offer Validation
Anxiety disorders can drive people to feel that they are not good parents, spouses, or workers. For some, it can get so bad that they keep to themselves and avoid any social interactions.
While you may not fully understand the condition, be sensitive about it and offer much-needed validation. People with anxiety desperately need to hear that they are okay, and it is not all in their heads. As pointed out, the worst thing you can do is to minimize the reality of the disorder and the experiences of those living with it.
Offer validation by assuring family or friends with this condition that an anxiety disorder is not a flaw. It is not what defines them as a person, and living with it doesn’t make them a failure. Assure them they can still be their best selves even if they may experience anxiety episodes and breakdowns from time to time. Let them know that your perception of them and what they can be and do has not changed.
2. Ask How you Can Help
Take the guesswork out of helping someone with an anxiety disorder by asking what to do. Anxiety presents differently for different people, and the kind of support that may work for one person may not work for the next one. Some people have a good understanding of their anxiety and will tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t.
Some people respond well to emotional support. In this case, providing assurances, a warm hug, and just being around will do the trick. Others may lean more towards practical support. If someone is stressing over performing a particular task, you could help by breaking it down into smaller bits that are more manageable.
3. Step In, But Don’t Take Over
In some instances, when a loved one is having so severe an anxiety attack that performing a particular task is near impossible, you can step in and help get it done. However, this shouldn’t be the go-to approach every time because it will encourage dependency and avoidance in the long-term.
Remember that support should mean helping loved ones to help themselves as opposed to doing things for them. If and when you may need to step in and do something for the person with anxiety, let it be an isolated case, more like the exception to the rule.
4. Encourage Self-Help and Support Strategies
There are plenty of resources and materials on how to cope with an anxiety disorder. Sometimes, the best support you can give is to encourage your loved one to follow these tested and tried methods. Familiarize yourself with these techniques, so when you do mention them, the person you are trying to support will feel like you really care, seeing that you took time to understand what helps.
Also, encourage loved ones to lean towards their larger support system. As a co-worker, for example, you can encourage your colleague to find support with close family members. It just makes sense because the person will probably feel more at ease and be more likely to open up with people from his or her inner circle.
5. Encourage Seeking Professional Help
Has your loved one sought professional help? Experts can prescribe medications to help manage and alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Your loved one can also get insights on stress management and relaxation techniques which will come in handy in preventing and managing anxiety attacks. Meditation, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy are research-backed methods of dealing with an anxiety disorder.
If your loved one does agree to seek professional help, you can show your support by offering to go with him or her to the first few sessions with the counselor or therapist. Having a familiar face there will help ease anxiety about the visit. You don’t have to go in with your loved one, but even knowing that you will be there when he or she gets back from the session is always reassuring.
A Welcome Lifeline
Loved ones living with anxiety disorders may find themselves drowning in their own thoughts and worrying about nearly everything. It can all put a strain on both the body and the mind. Any support that you can offer is always welcome, even though you may never fully grasp the full impact of your efforts.
About the Author: Natalia Webster is the head of content for the EzCare clinic, a medical clinic that provides world-class health care services. She has been associated with the healthcare industry for 10+ years and specializes in health care and medical content
Resources to Recover and Our Sponsor Laurel House, Inc. Celebrate Black History Month
February is Black History Month, a time for celebrating the outstanding achievements of Blacks and African Americans and their central role in US history. It is also a time to recognize the struggles Black people have faced throughout the history of this nation and give tribute to the strength and resilience of generations of Black Americans who have risen above adversity.
Black History Month originated from an idea by Harvard-educated historian Carter G. Woodson, who wrote the Journal of Negro History in 1916 to herald the achievements of overlooked African Americans in US history and culture. In 1926 he led an effort by the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) to officially declare the second week of February as “Negro History Week.” These dates align with the birthdays of two crucial figures in Black American history: Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), who signed the Emancipation Proclamation officially ending slavery in the United States, and the Black American abolitionist and author Frederick Douglass (February 14, 1818), an escaped slave who is widely considered the most influential civil and human rights advocate of the 19th century. In 1976, President Gerald Ford gave official governmental recognition to the observance by declaring February “Black History Month.”
Without the contributions of Blacks and African Americans to more than 500 years of US history, culture, entertainment and the arts, science, athletics, industry and the economy, public service, and the Armed Forces, we would not be the country we are today.
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