How to Help Someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Support from close family and friends is very important for people with generalized anxiety disorder. We'll give you some tips on how to help in this article.
How to Help Someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Maria Alejandra Morgado Cusati

Written and verified by the philosopher Maria Alejandra Morgado Cusati.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

We all feel worried at some point in our lives, especially in stressful or threatening situations. However, there are people whose anxiety is excessive, frequent, and hard to control. In these cases, they might have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

People with this disorder worry excessively in everyday situations. They even feel uncomfortable from minor circumstances, like being late for an appointment. This can affect their social relationships, work, and school.

That’s why it’s vitally important that they get proper support and treatment. If you know someone with this condition, here’s how you can help them feel better.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

The American Psychological Association defines it as excessive anxiety and worry about a series of life events. Adults with this disorder are often preoccupied with job responsibilities, health, finances, family, and household chores. For kids, they tend to worry about how they’re doing in school.

The main characteristics of this disorder are that anxiety and worry are hard to control. Likewise, the intensity, duration, and frequency of the anxiety are disproportionate to the severity of the event.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) states that to accurately diagnose this disorder, excessive anxiety and worry must be present for at least 6 months.

In addition, they have the following mental and physical ailments:

A person having trouble sleeping.

Also read: The Benefits of Physical Activity for Anxiety and Panic

How to help someone with generalized anxiety disorder

Having generalized anxiety disorder causes suffering. Therefore, the support of those around them is essential to help them feel better.

However, many people don’t know how to offer the right help. It’s common for family and friends to intervene because they think they’re helping, but they accidentally make it worse. To prevent this from happening, take these tips into consideration.

Find out how it feels

It starts by asking them what they feel and how they feel. It’s normal for them to answer “I’m fine.” However, if you notice that they’re tense or agitated, you can let them know that it doesn’t look like they’re fine.

The idea is to know what they’re experiencing and not to assume it from our perspective.

Listen and be empathetic

When communicating your emotions, feelings, and thoughts, don’t interrupt or give unnecessary advice. If you do intervene, try to give empathetic responses.

A common mistake is dismissing their pain. Sometimes we try to help by saying “get your spirits up” or “don’t worry.” This type of response, even if you mean well, doesn’t help their situation.

Validate their feelings

Being empathetic implies understanding, legitimizing, and validating the other’s feelings. Don’t blame or trivialize what they feel. For example, one way to do this is by telling them you’ve also experienced anxiety and know how difficult it can be.

Keep calm

Another common mistake is getting upset with the anxious person or worrying about their anxiety. The best thing to do is stay calm to help calm them down.

To do this, it’s best to speak calmly, relax your body, and let them know that you’re there to help.

It’s normal for those close to the person with anxiety to feel frustrated and exhausted during the process. If you feel like this, seek help. It’s hard to be a support figure if you’re not okay.

Suggest and encourage them to seek professional help

If it’s a person who hasn’t gotten professional care and a diagnosis, support from loved ones is vital to take that first step. Find out the contacts of specialists (psychologists, psychiatrists, or mental health organizations) and offer them.

If they don’t want to get help from a professional, don’t force them to make that decision. One way to convince them is by learning about the treatments available and showing them the benefits if they choose to utilize any of them.

Go with them during treatment

Try to offer help frequently, even if you’ve already started getting support from a specialist. Support from close people has been shown to help patients start to feel better.

Learn about generalized anxiety disorder to help

There are numerous studies and publications on generalized anxiety disorder. Ideally, you should learn as much as you can about its symptoms, treatments, and prevention. The more you know, the better you’ll handle the situation, and you’ll offer better help.

A man suffering from anxiety.

Helping with generalized anxiety disorder is an important task

Generalized anxiety disorder can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms are not focused on one single issue. Also, nervousness is often moderate, chronic, and there are no panic attacks. Generally speaking, it’s a feeling of concern that we all have sometimes.

However, there are differences with ordinary worry. This is less serious, and you can put it aside to take care of other more immediate things.

On the other hand, generalized anxiety disorder is hard to control, and it often starts without an apparent cause. While some GAD patients can describe what makes them nervous, others can’t.

Many people with this disorder have lived with symptoms for years without seeking professional help. In these cases, it might be because their case is so severe. However, clinical care is essential to achieve well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • American Pshychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology: generalized anxiety disorder [Internet]. American Pshychological Association, 2021. 8 de marzo de 2021:
  • Amercian Psychiatric Association. Manual diagnóstico y estadístico de los trastornos mentales DSM 5. Quinta Edi. London: Amercian Psychiatric Publishing; 2013. 222-226 p.
  • Capafons, Antonio, Tratamientos psicológicos eficaces para la ansiedad generalizada. Psicothema [Internet]. 2001;13(3):442-446. Recuperado de:
  • Marrero Quevedo Rosario J., Carballeira Abella Mónica. El papel del optimismo y del apoyo social en el bienestar subjetivo. Salud Ment  [Internet]. 2010; 33( 1 ): 39-46. Disponible en:
  • Morrison J. DSM-5. Guía para el diagnóstico clínico. Manual Moderno, editor. México; 2013. 191-193 p.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.