Best ways of helping a friend with anxiety

Posted by Akila, 23 Jul

Having and helping a friend with anxiety can be such a daunting task. It can take a lot on someone’s part to keep the relationship going. If a friend has anxiety and depression, it can be very hard for the two people involved in the friendship. The best way to go about it is to do lots of research on some facts about anxiety.

In this article by Love is all colors will also talk about how your friend with anxiety might be feeling. Don’t be scared about being there for an anxious friend. Read on for some of the tips on how to go around calming down a friend first who has anxiety.

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Being there for someone with anxiety

If a close friend has an anxiety disorder or suffers from panic attacks from time to time, one way to be there for them is to be aware of it. You need to know that you are not the only person who has to deal with an anxious friend. There are over 300 million people globally who have to deal with some level of anxiety from close friends or family members.

When someone close to you suffers from anxiety, it can affect the way they feel, the way they think, and how they act. Lots of people however don’t know how to deal with anxiety or take steps towards alleviating it.

Helping a friend with anxiety can be very taxing. You need to know how to handle your friend whenever they get anxious. If the question on your mind is wondering if you can succeed in helping my friend with anxiety, then the answer is “Yes you can” All you need to do is to familiarize yourself with signs of anxiety. You also need to know how to respond in the best way that will be good for you and your friend.

Below are some of the ways that you can be helpful to your friend…

Be aware

One thing you need to know is that depression and anxiety are two different things. However, they sometimes overlap. So, you can find yourself in a situation where your friend has anxiety and depression. It is very common for a person to be depressed and also anxious. At the same time, most people with generalized anxiety disorder tend to become depressed later.

Much as below, we will highlight some of the common symptoms of both anxiety and depression, you need to seek help from a mental health professional or doctor to evaluate your friend and pinpoint which one of these disorders they are suffering from if not both.

Common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder

  • Muscle tension
  • Being highly irritable
  • Lack of concentration
  • Worrying a lot
  • Acting restless
  • Tiring easily

Common symptoms of depression

  • Lack of energy
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Suicidal behaviors and thoughts
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Low mood
  • Angry outbursts

For one to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, they have 5 of the symptoms mentioned above for more than 2 weeks straight. See how the symptoms for the two disorders can overlap?

Remember your friend may not know how to explain their anxiety to you

If you think your partner has had the above symptoms for more than 6 months (or quite a while), it can cause you stress as well. Most people that have anxiety do not want to be anxious. It’s not something they wish on themselves.

One of the good ways of helping a friend with anxiety is not to blame them for it when you point their anxiety to them or have a discussion with them. However, if you ever feel that your physical well being is at risk or that their depression is rubbing off on your own emotional well-being, maybe its time to walk away from the friendship and let the professionals handle it.

You may wonder… how do I really go about helping my friend with anxiety? Let’s get into some of the main ways you can help that friend of yours.

Be a compassionate listener

If your friend is suffering from anxiety disorders, you don’t need to try to solve their problem. The best way to go about it is to be a great listener by telling them assuring phrases like: “I hear you” or “You are not alone” or “What can I do to help?”

You need to know that some phrases can worsen anxiety. Avoid phrases like “calm down”, “don’t be such a baby”, “there’s no reason to be anxious”, “get over it”, “you don’t have to be afraid” … These only make the situation worse. Such phrases show that you are dismissing your friend’s feelings which can make them be more shameful about their anxiety.

Instead, use phrases that let them know that you are there for them and with them no matter what. That together, you will get through the anxiety.

Know that your questions or suggestions might appear judgemental and pressurizing.

Sometimes, when calming down a friend with anxiety, no matter how positive the suggestion is, it might appear judgmental even when that wasn’t what was intended. You need to realize that already, they feel under pressure to contain their anxiety. Some questions or suggestions might add to the pressure and frustrations to being normal that they are already feeling. These might make the situation even worse.

Distract them with some humor

Laughter has always been known to be the best medicine. A humorous distraction can be the best way to calming down a friend. Try doing things together that you both enjoy. Watch a funny movie to give them a well-needed distraction. As per research, humor has a way of helping people cope with acute anxiety. Lighten their mood whenever the anxiety pangs strike and let them forget for a bit about what was causing the anxiety in the first place.

Don’t give them too much space

If you give someone who is anxious too much space, they might misinterpret this as abandonment. Abandonment and fear can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Even if they might insist that they want to be alone, remember, when helping a friend with anxiety, saying they want to be alone is probably their way of not wanting to feel needy. In the real sense, they could be begging you to just stay with them. Abandonment adds more hurt to their situation. You need to prove that you are there for them, even when they claim they don’t want your help.

You could also be anxious about their situation

When a friend is anxious, it can be infectious. You don’t want to see them suffer because you care about them. At times, trying to make their anxiety go away can also make you anxious. Who wants to see their friend suffer? That anxiety of trying to make life easier for them can make their own anxiety worse. Pipe down. Try as much as possible not to show them how much you are really struggling to help them. Instead, keep your frustrations in check.

Just show your friend how much you love them and how much their condition won’t affect your friendship. Just be a true friend. Stand by them. Prove that you can handle their situation. Show them that if you can, they can too.

Encourage them to get professional help

Anxiety is not an easy thing for many people to get over, especially if it is acute. If your friend has it or you have noticed the symptoms we mentioned above, encourage them to see a doctor and or counselor.

It is hard, especially if they are in denial. What you need to do is talk to them in a way that will make them see that they need help. Be kind while at it. When it’s a friend, if you really care about them, it can be a lot of pressure to offer support.

Whenever it starts feeling like its too much for you to handle seek counseling for yourself. It will also help you figure out how to handle yourself when around them.

Parting shot

You might find that your friend might not know how to explain their anxiety to you. Maybe they just don’t know they are or they are just embarrassed to admit to the ‘put-together’ you. Then there is the bit that maybe they are scared that if you come clean, you won't be their friend anymore.

Sometimes, helping a friend with anxiety is as simple as just getting them a pet. Apparently, pets help a lot with dealing with anxiety. So, if they are not allergic or anything, just get them a pet. Sometimes a cat or a dog is the answer you need to being there for someone with anxiety, on days you can’t be personally present.

In cases you missed it, read this article on How Your Pet Can Help With Anxiety

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