When a friend or loved one is always anxious, you want to do something. The big question you face is how to help someone with anxiety. Since there’s no obvious injury, you can’t put a bandage on it, or get them an ice pack.
Yet, they're obviously in real emotional and physical distress. Don’t give up, or assume they’re hopeless. There are things you can do, and things you shouldn’t do which will prove helpful.
Don’t Expect Them to "Logic" Their Way Out of It
Anxiety isn’t a problem with someone’s reasoning ability. People with anxiety know their fears aren’t rational or are out of proportion. Most of them will say things like, “I know it doesn’t make sense for this to make me anxious, but it does.”
Giving them logical reasons not to be anxious won’t help. There are chemicals and physical reactions at work that logic can’t change. A few common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Racing heart
- Muscle tension
- Sweaty palms
- Problems concentrating
Expecting logic to fix those symptoms is like expecting logic to cure a cold. It’s not only unreasonable but doomed to failure.
People with anxiety are constantly bombarded by well-meaning advice to calm down or take a breath. This kind of advice is not an answer to how to help someone with anxiety. It makes the person feel judged, which only makes the anxiety worse.
Tell the person that you understand he or she can’t control the anxiety and that it isn’t his or her fault. Acknowledging that the anxiety isn’t something they’re doing, but something they’re enduring can help relieve them. Wherever possible, acknowledge your own experiences with similar thoughts.
You probably don’t worry that everyone is going to think you’re incompetent. You probably have worried your boss will think that after you made a mistake. Relating to the anxiety shows the person they aren’t alone in their concerns. If a seemingly normal person like you has thoughts like that, then they aren’t just crazy.
Keep an Eye on Their Alcohol Consumption
Anxiety is debilitating for some people, and drugs or alcohol can relieve the symptoms. The problem is that it’s only a temporary fix. Drug and substance abuse can make the anxiety worse over time. To avoid the worsening symptoms, the person drinks more and more until drinking becomes its own problem. One answer to how to help someone with anxiety is to intervene before the drinking gets out of control.
How to Help Someone with Anxiety: Encourage Them to Seek Treatment
This is probably the best answer to how to help someone with anxiety. No matter how good your intentions, you probably aren’t trained to help someone manage their anxiety. Even if you have training, you’re too close to the situation. What they need is an objective therapist or an emotional stability program at a treatment center.
A treatment center can offer a range of options, such as:
- Spiritual Psychology
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Group work
- Dual diagnosis for co-occurring disorders
- Substance abuse programs, if alcohol or drug use is a problem
Helping someone with anxiety is often hard because it’s not something they choose. It’s something that is happening to them like a disease. You can help them by being accepting, not expecting logic to fix it, and watching out for substance abuse. Most of all, you can help by encouraging them to seek help from professionals.
Don’t let anxiety run the lives of your friends and loved ones. They can overcome their anxiety with the help of trained professionals at a treatment center. Contact us at 425-275-8600 to learn more about what we can offer them.