How to Help a Person Who's Suffering From Anxiety

It's important to know how to help a person suffering from anxiety in order to calm their symptoms. Learn more in today's article.
How to Help a Person Who's Suffering From Anxiety

Last update: 21 April, 2021

Anxiety is characterized by a high-intensity feeling of subjective discomfort which triggers symptoms at the emotional and behavioral level. People who are suffering from anxiety may feel a choking sensation, tachycardia, chest pain, uncontrolled crying, trembling, muscle tension, and fear of dying, among others.

The presence of these symptoms can be confusing for those who don’t know enough about anxiety disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health of the United States points out that anxiety develops slowly and can begin as early as childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.

Among other things, patients with this disorder often feel nervous in everyday situations, regarding their performance at work, finances, their health, falling behind in fulfilling responsibilities, etc…

Those who live with a person that’s suffering from anxiety know how difficult this condition can be. That’s why we’ll share with you some guidelines that could be helpful if this is your case.

What does a person suffering from anxiety feel?

To help a person with anxiety, we can first try to get to know what they’re feeling. Some of the symptoms of anxiety can be:

  • Excessive worry about everyday things
  • Difficulty controlling nervousness and worries
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Trouble concentrating
  • They can be easily surprised
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Frequent feelings of tiredness
  • Muscle or stomach aches
  • Headaches
  • Discomfort that you can’t explain
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or shortness of breath, among others

As you may have noticed, the symptoms of anxiety can place the sufferer in a disadvantageous situation, being capable of incapacitating them regarding the performance of their daily tasks. For this reason, professionals suggest, in some cases, pharmacological treatment.

How to help a person with anxiety

Family members and friends of those suffering from anxiety often don’t know how to handle this situation, and they may feel confused. It’s useful to know how to act in these cases to avoid attitudes that, rather than help, can intensify the discomfort. So, what can we do?

1. The first thing to do to help a person with anxiety: Get informed

So that the events acquire meaning, it’s necessary to know what the anxiety is about. The best source is, first of all, the person who suffers from it, and then the medical informative texts directed to the general public. Of course, we can also consult a mental health professional.

2. Be empathetic

Try to understand the person who’s suffering, trying to put yourself in their place through empathy.

A woman holding another woman's hands to show support.
Empathy’s important when helping a person that’s suffering from anxiety. This, in a way, helps them calm down.

3. Listen

Sometimes the person with anxiety needs to be listened to. This can provide temporary relief. Also, showing availability will help them calm down.

4. Avoid disqualifying

Whether with hurtful comments or moral judgments. It’s important never to downplay or trivialize the other person’s suffering.

5. Avoid placing blame

This can only increase the distress of the person suffering from anxiety. The person may be unable to control the situation due to the same symptoms, but they want to calm down more than anyone else.

6. Avoid becoming excessively anxious

This increases the feeling of alarm in the person who’s suffering from anxiety and the situation becomes even worse.

A woman demonstrating support for her anxious husband.
To show too much distress toward the situation of the person with anxiety can only worsen their symptoms. It’s essential to remain calm in order to help them.

7. Help make an objective analysis

An objective analysis of what’s happening will be useful in helping the person cope with the situation.

8. Help the person to see beyond the moment

Let the person suffering from anxiety remember that, if they’ve solved problems that seemed difficult before, now they can also find the solutions they need.

More guidelines for helping someone with anxiety

The following guidelines may also help treat anxiety:

  • Support: Show the person your support as they face their fears progressively, and congratulate their progress.
  • Avoid overprotection: It’s common for you to want to protect the person you love, but you should avoid overprotection because it can help to sustain the problem over time.
  • Avoid telling them to calm down: This may only increase tension and nervousness, making the person feel more overwhelmed or more suffocated.
  • Give them space: This amounts to making it clear that you’re there to support them, but without drawing the attention of more people. For example, if anxiety symptoms increase while in public. Drawing the attention of others may make the person feel even more nervous.
A young woman who's suffering from anxiety.
When a person’s going through an anxiety attack, it’s also important to know how to give them space to calm down.
  • Show them another stimulus: Focus their attention, for example, on your own breathing, accompanying them and inviting them to imitate it.
  • Help them with breathing exercises: This can be useful to alleviate the symptom of hyperventilation.
  • Speak in a calm tone: Listening to calm but firm voice can help to lower activation levels.
  • Remind them that everything will pass: That little by little, their symptoms will pass, despite the intensity they may feel at the moment.

Consultation with a psychologist or psychiatrist

In addition to these recommendations, if you wish to help a person suffering from anxiety, you can recommend they see a professional. Many types of therapy can be effective in treating anxiety.

Mindfulness, for example, can help you to have more control over yourself in situations that produce anxiety. In any case, a specialist is the best person to help them deal with this problem.

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