How to Help People With Anxiety

Опубликовал Admin
17-11-2016, 09:12
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Expert Reviewed If you know someone with anxiety, you may know that it can be a crippling disorder of emotion that can leave the nervous individual feeling exhausted and powerless. Fortunately, a lot can be done to help individuals cope with and treat anxiety.

Learning The Ropes

  1. Learn about the causes of anxiety. Read up on the causes of anxiety. This will help you to take her perspective and give you some sense of when your help may be needed. You might ask her about whether she had a difficult past, or a medical condition, and if she wants to talk about anything.
    • Although the exact cause of anxiety disorders isn't fully understood, certain factors, such as painful or traumatic life experiences and certain genetic traits increase the likelihood of having anxiety.
    • Other times, anxious individuals have an underlying medical condition such as, for example, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, asthma, premenstrual syndrome, or thyroid problems.
  2. Learn about different types of anxiety. There are several different kinds of anxiety disorders that have different underlying triggers. Try to get a sense of what kind of anxiety she might be suffering from so you can more directly aim your helping efforts:
    • Agoraphobia. This kind of anxiety refers to being anxious about being in places where you could become trapped or lose control.
    • Anxiety caused by an underlying medical condition. This kind of anxiety occurs as a result of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease, or thyroid problems. You might be able to reduce her anxiety if you can help her get treated for the underlying medical condition (e.g., if she forgets to take her medication, you can remind her).
    • Generalized anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety describes individuals who are excessively anxious about the day-to-day events in life.
    • Anxiety related to substance abuse or withdrawal. This kind of anxiety occurs as a result of drug use. You'll want to find out whether the anxiety is being caused by drug use or from refraining to (continue to) use drugs (i.e., withdrawal). You can suggest that she see a medical professional to help get clean.
    • Panic disorder. This kind of anxiety describes an individual who experiences very intense feelings of anxiety and/or fear, which lasts up to several minutes. It can involve difficulty breathing, heart fluttering (palpitations), and a sense of danger or incoming doom.
    • Social anxiety disorder. This kind of anxiety involves an excessive fear of social interactions. She may be excessively self-conscious, become embarrassed very easily, or fear screwing up in social situations.
  3. Remember what anxiety feels like. Anxiety is not a fun experience. One way to help is by understanding what the anxious person is going through so you can comfort her in specific ways related to her symptoms. Anxiety symptoms include:
    • Feeling nervous.
    • Feeling powerless.
    • Feeling a sense of incoming danger.
    • Feeling weak.
    • Feeling tired.
    • Difficulty concentrating.
  4. Listen carefully. Different people may require different kinds of aid. Perhaps the best way to find out how you can help her is to ask. There are a number of things you can do to be a good listener:
    • Keep your expressions neutral. For example, say things like "I see", or "uh huh".
    • Match your expressions with the emotional tone of the conversation. For example, if she is very upset, try to make your "I see" sound empathic or reassuring rather than either emotionally cold sounding or excited (both of these contrast with her mood).
    • Ask a lot of open-ended questions. If you want to find out more about how you can help, rather than just asking something like "are you anxious?" you might ask more open-ended questions such as, "what kinds of things or situations generally make you anxious?"
    • Pay close attention to her by doing your best to clear your mind of your own worries and keep track only of her thoughts and feelings.
  5. Practice empathy. Empathy refers to the ability to sense others' emotions and to be able to take their perspectives by being able to imagine what they might be thinking or feeling. There are a number of ways to be empathic towards those with anxiety:
    • Focus your attention on her.
    • Keep in mind shared human values and the shared human experience. Remember that we all have a lot of the same pains, fears, and worries; this can make it easier to take her perspective.
    • Temporarily suspend your own judgments and just consider her perspective.
    • Share experiences that she can relate to, but do so sparingly so as not to take over the conversation. The key is to show her that you can relate to her experiences.
  6. Observe the anxious individual. Learn to look for outward signs of anxiety so you can get a sense of when she is anxious. In this way, you can help her or comfort her in times when you notice that she is distressed. Signs of anxiety include:
    • Nervousness.
    • Rapid breathing.
    • Sweating.
    • Trembling.
  7. Keep costs and benefits in mind. Try to remember that if you don't get much benefit out of an activity but it causes your friend or partner significant anxiety, it may be best to just stop doing that activity.
    • However, you may want to avoid over-accommodating the anxious person's anxiety, as it provides her little incentive to change.

Navigating Your Relationship

  1. Positively reinforce healthy behaviors. Say she is socially anxious and she attends a party and gets on well with people. Let her know that she was the life of the party and compliment some of the things she said.
    • This may help her to realize that engaging with others socially isn't so bad and that she can thrive in social interactions.
  2. Avoid criticizing unhealthy, anxiety driven behaviors. If you rebuke her for her anxiety-related behaviors, this might just cause her more anxiety. This is the opposite of what you want to do.
    • If you find yourself frustrated with her, instead of criticizing her, try leaving the room and entering again once you have calmed down.
    • Instead of focusing on the negatives of her current behavior, try focusing on the potential positives that could result if she changed her behavior. For example, if she is avoiding social situations, rather than getting upset at her for it, try saying something like "imagine all the networking opportunities there will be at that party tonight. In the past, I've made a few great friends from these sorts of events."
  3. Suggest treatment. You can help someone with anxiety by telling her that she might benefit from seeking treatment for her distress. You could suggest to her that people are often successfully treated for anxiety either by engaging in psychotherapy, taking medications, or some combination of both.
    • Keep in mind that the kind of treatment you suggest may depend on what kind of anxiety she has or what its underlying cause is.
    • For example, if she has anxiety caused by drug abuse, you may suggest that she check into rehab. But, if she has social anxiety you may suggest she seek treatment with a mental health professional.
  4. Prepare for panic attacks. Some kinds of anxiety result in individuals having panic attacks. Panic attacks may result in difficulty breathing or heart palpitations and the anxious individual may think she is having a heart attack or losing control of herself. Panic attacks can be very scary for the anxious individual and for you if you aren't prepared.
    • If she has a panic attack, then likely she won't have the energy to physically move, respond, or have normal thoughts. Rather than getting upset or worried yourself, try to reassure her that she is panic attack and that it will soon pass.
    • That said, if you have any suspicions that her symptoms are not the result of a panic attack, take the necessary medical precautions, such as dialing 911.
  5. Relax. Take her out for a nice, quiet, relaxing evening or have a nice relaxing evening at your home.
    • Let her know that you don't mind spending time how she wants to, in a way that makes her feel comfortable and at ease. Perhaps the biggest way to help an anxious individual is to be understanding and flexible.
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