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5 Ways You Can Help Someone With an Anxiety Disorder
It can be hard to know how to help a friend or family member struggling with anxiety, especially if you're worried that your words or actions could worsen their condition.
Don't be afraid. If someone has told you something, it's probably because they trust you and want you to help them. This is why it's so important to offer to sit with a friend or family member who is hurting and listen to them.
Friends and family are important in dealing with anxiety because they help people feel loved and accepted and reassure them that they are not alone.
Many people with anxiety don't talk about it because they don't want to be judged. This makes the support even more important.
The good news is that anxiety can be treated like many other disorders. If we tell someone their anxiety isn't real or shouldn't be taken seriously, we risk making them feel even more ashamed and alone.
Professionals in the field say the following are some of the best things you can do to help a friend or family member who is having trouble with anxiety.
1) Support their Attachment Style and Preferences
Don't guess what kind of help someone needs; just ask them. Yet, studies show that people with a style of attachment called "avoidant" (usually those who have been hurt by rejection in caregiving or relationships in the past) are more likely to respond positively to strong, practical signs of support. This could mean talking with the anxious person about ways to deal with a stressful situation, like handling an angry email from a coworker, while respecting their autonomy and independence.
Others, especially those strongly connected or with a "preoccupied" attachment style because they fear being left alone or can't control their feelings, are more likely to prefer emotional help. For these people, it helps to hear something like, "This is hard, but we love each other, and we'll get through this together."
Of course, these are just broad ideas. The best way to help is to find out what works in your own situation and build on that. But when you're close to someone, you can help them feel better because you know all about their unique anxiety patterns.
2) Avoid Telling Them to Relax
No matter how harmless it seems, telling someone with anxiety to "just stop feeling what they're feeling" isn't helpful. Even if the person you care about seems fine on the outside, they may be going through intense emotional pain, fear, and physical signs of anxiety like sweating and a racing heart that is very real to them.
If you tell someone, "Don't worry about it," they might feel like you don't care or don't understand them. People may also be less likely to get help for their anxiety or make progress in dealing with it if they are judged or told they are wrong.
You could also say, "I'm here if you want to talk," or "I can tell you're nervous.” “Can you tell me right now what I can do to help you?”
3) Use Whatever Insight they have About their Worry
Your loved one's ability to recognize patterns caused by anxiety will depend on how aware they are of their anxiety. When my partner realizes that my irritability and fussiness are caused by stress at work, it helps me a lot.
We know each other so well and trust each other so much that we can call each other out on their bad habits. Even though not everyone will take this gracefully, the point will be made in the end.
You should get their permission before moving forward. Remember that even people who know what causes and triggers their anxiety sometimes give in to their fears. A person with health anxiety may know that going to the doctor too often for too many tests is too much, but still, feel compelled to do it.
If your loved one has trouble understanding their anxiety or dealing with compulsions, they might benefit from seeing a clinical psychologist specializing in treating anxiety.
4) Identify Potential Pitfalls
You don't want to do anything that might make your anxious thoughts or feelings more frequent or stronger. Knowing what can make their condition worse might help your loved ones feel better and more at ease.
5) Assist an Anxious Person in Calming Down
You can help your loved one more if you know about cognitive-behavioral models of anxiety. You can do this by reading about the topic or attending treatment sessions with them. You could, however, try some things that have helped people deal with anxiety in the past.
People with anxiety tend to think about the worst things that could happen. You can use cognitive therapy to help them see the situation from a different point of view by having them think about the following three questions −
What could go wrong, anyway?
What's the best thing that could happen?
How possible or likely is this?
If a friend or family member is worried because they were supposed to hear from their parents hours ago but haven't, you might tell them to think about the worst-case scenario, the best-case scenario, and the most likely reason.
Don't tell someone you care about that their worst fears will never come true. It's more helpful to point out how well they can handle things. If they are worried about having a panic attack in the air, tell them something like, "It would be uncomfortable and scary, but you'd get through it." And if the person you care about is worried about making someone else mad or sad, it might help remind them that they can only control their actions and not how others will react.
Being able to assist someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder can be challenging and stressful. Yet, it's crucial to remember that the greatest method to assist someone is to show them support, patience, and understanding. A person with an anxiety illness might benefit from various options, such as counseling, medication, and lifestyle modifications. You may support your loved one in managing their anxiety and leading a happier, more satisfying life by offering a secure and encouraging atmosphere.
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