According to recent anxiety statistics, anxiety disorders are the most common illness in the U.S, affecting over 40 million people.
That’s 18.1% of the adult population.
Chances are you know someone struggling with an anxiety disorder.
Of course, there isn’t just one type of anxiety disorder, either. Disorders such as PTSD, social anxiety, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder all fall under the umbrella term.
The symptoms of this disorder can be at best uncomfortable and at worst, downright debilitating. Panic attacks and constant worrying can lead to disruptive issues such as fatigue, insomnia, GI symptoms, shortness of breath, and muscle weakness.
If you know someone struggling with an untreated anxiety disorder, they are probably doing just that: struggling. When your body is in a constant state of agitation, it can be hard to participate normally in everyday activities. You’re reading this post; however, because you want to know ways to help them feel just a little bit better.
Ways To Help Someone With an Anxiety Disorder
- Learn about their disorder
As someone who struggles with anxiety, I can attest that this is huge. You may not be able to sympathize with them but you can empathize. There are so many resources available to educate yourself on anxiety disorders from websites to books and magazines. By having at least a basic understanding of the disorder and its symptoms, you are doing your loved one a huge favor. Here are some useful books on understanding anxiety disorders that you may want to check out.
It can be stressful to try to explain why someone with anxiety is feeling the way they are because they may not have a reason. It takes so little of your time but will leave a significant impression that you care why they are feeling the way that they are.
- Listen to them
It’s such a simple act but its one that I will repeat over and over again. Most people simply want to be heard. If they seem like they are feeling anxious, ask them why they are feeling that way. If they can’t tell you why, ask them if there’s anything they would like to talk about.
Just try talking to them when they are calm about what has been going on in their life and you may discover the root of their anxiety. Use active listening skills such as head nodding, asking questions, and repeating what they have said.
- Learn about their triggers
This is HUGE for those who suffer from PTSD and OCD. Try and learn their triggers, either by observation or by asking. It is not your job to try to de-sensitize them to their triggers, so let their therapist worry about that. Instead, try to understand what may trigger them and how to help them through the anxious feelings that will arise. Try not to judge them when they tell you what triggers their anxious reactions because it may not make sense to them either. Just openly listen and be understanding and ask “What can I do to help when this happens?”
- Learn about coping skills
Most of your job as a supportive person is going to be learning strategies and tricks to help your loved one feel at ease. Learning about coping skills, why they are important, and how to nurture healthy coping skills will be helpful for not only the person suffering from anxiety but yourself as well. Ask your loved one what has helped them feel better in the past and, if they are seeing a therapist, what their therapist recommends they do to cope.
- Give them a self-care basket/ box
Some ideas you can include things like calming scented candles, bath oils, bath bombs, a copy of a book they’ve been dying to read, something to squeeze or hug (like a stuffed animal or a stress ball), or a meditation/ relaxation C.D. Try to think of things that will be useful for them when they need to take care of themselves. If they use gardening as their self-care, include things like seeds, a gardening trowel, gloves, etc.
This is a thoughtful way to show them you are interested in helping them through their anxiety.
- Use understanding language
This should be self-explanatory but I decided to include it as a reminder. Try not to be judgmental when talking about their anxiety disorder, panic attacks, or triggers. Not everyone has the same exact symptoms of anxiety, so they may not be textbook but they are still being affected. The more you use understanding language when talking to them, the more they will be open to opening up to you about what is bothering them.
It is obvious that you care about this person, or else you would have never clicked on this link. The real answer to what people with an anxiety disorder need from you is care and understanding, which isn’t much different from everyone else.
Let me know if you have any other suggestions on what you wish people knew about anxiety in the comments here or on Facebook!
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