We all feel anxious occasionally. It’s a normal part of life. But for someone with an anxiety disorder, feelings of fear or worry are with them most of the time.
Anxiety can look and feel different to different people. Severity also varies. However, there are a few common symptoms that can help to diagnose an anxiety disorder:
- - Worries or fears that interfere with daily life
- - Feeling tense, restless or having trouble concentrating
- - Physical symptoms like sweating, hyperventilation or a fast heartbeat
For a person experiencing anxiety, these symptoms can be overwhelming. But for people around them, it isn’t always easy to spot when someone is having a hard time...
“In the past, I have felt like people do not believe my difficulties because I come across as outgoing, lively and constantly busy. - Carys
This is just one of the reasons why supporting someone with anxiety is challenging. Nevertheless, having a supportive friend, colleague or family member can make a real difference to how a person feels.
Wondering how to support someone with anxiety? Here are a few key things you can do.
Our top 5 ways to support someone with anxiety
1. Learn about anxiety
Learning about different types of anxiety and understanding anxiety symptoms can help you to understand what a person is going through. This may make it easier for you to empathise and to identify times of crisis.
2. Start a conversation
Talking to the person about their anxiety can really help. Pick a time and a place where you won’t be interrupted and practise active listening – where you listen carefully and respond to show that you have understood what is being said.
It’s worth asking your friend, colleague or loved one if they know how they would like you to help them. They may be able to give you some ideas, or they might not. Either way, you’ve shown them that you are willing to offer support on their terms.
3. Be available
You probably won’t be able to resolve a person’s anxiety issues. But letting them know that you’re there for them – for a walk, a coffee, a phone call – can be reassuring and help them to feel less alone. They know they have someone to turn to when they need some support.
4. Support them in seeking help
Get to know what professional anxiety support is out there, share this information with your friend and offer help if and when they’re ready to access it.
That may mean helping them to arrange a doctor’s appointment and going with them so they have company in the waiting room. Or working together to write a list of questions to ask a potential therapist.
5. Look after yourself
Supporting someone with anxiety can feel frustrating, stressful and worrying. It’s important that you take time to look after yourself.
Eat well, exercise and make time for the things that you enjoy. Set boundaries so you don’t end up supporting your friend or loved one to the detriment of your own wellbeing. It may be that you would also benefit from talking to someone about how you’re feeling.
Remember that staying both physically and mentally healthy is good for you and also for the person you’re supporting.
If you or a friend are in need of urgent mental health support, reach out to one of the following helplines: