To watch a loved one suffering from anxiety is hard to witness, and it is more difficult when you are worried about it. Your loved one may feel too ashamed to avoid acting or acting in ways that your own anxiety is inconsiderate or that. This could look like your partner who puts off important tasks or conversations all the time or a best friend who feels lonely after divorce but still to go on dates.
While seeing these people suffer is debilitating and upsetting, you can do some things to help your loved one.
1.Understand how anxiety works
We are wired to respond to anxiety through fight, flight, or freeze because of evolution. One of these solutions usually dominates for different people. Once you know that anxiety is a natural response for us in a state of risk, it’s easier to understand and to have empathy for someone who feels scared (or stressed). You will understand their habits and be in a better position to help by paying attention to how anxiety develops in the person you care for.
2. Ask how you can best support them
Research shows that people with an avoidant attachment style (generally those who have had previous caretaker rejections or relationships) will probably best respond to strong displays of pragmatic support. Many people would prefer emotional support, particularly those who have a secure or preoccupied attachment because of fear of abandonment or of the overwhelming emotions they have for others. It’s best to ask someone what kind of help they want instead of guessing!
3. Support someone who wants to change their anxiety
While you can learn more about anxiety through a therapy session or reading more about different models of anxiety, you can also use a cognitive-behavioral strategy for anxious people.
People with anxiety tend to think of worst-case scenarios. You can ask them to answer three questions:
- What is the worst thing that could happen?
- What could be the best thing?
- What is most likely or most probable?
So if your loved one is anxious to hear from a high-stakes job interview a few days ago but doesn’t, you can suggest he or she takes into consideration some of the worst, best, and most probable reasons for the lack of contact.
4. Give support but only encourage
We may often feel taken out by doing things to our obvious loved ones and feeding them unintentionally when they want to avoid situations or things that make them anxious. Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone by offering to go with them to therapy if they choose and make an appointment with a therapist, for example. One key principle to keep in mind is that people need to help themselves, not do things for themselves.
5. If they have more severe anxiety, reassure them
What if your loved one has anxiety from a more severe condition such as PTSD or panic disorder? You can offer support by reassuring them that you care for them, no matter what they’re going through, and helping them stay connected to their true selves with hobbies or interests.
There are several ways to help people with anxiety. Select one or two appealing ideas that you and your loved one find manageable. Be ready for exploration. Remember you’re doing your best to support your loved one.