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Identifying and helping someone with anxiety

Anxiety is a mental health issue that affects over 41 million people in the United States every day. It is natural to experience mild anxiety occasionally in intensely stressful situations; however, if you regularly experience debilitating anxiety that prevents you from enjoying or participating in everyday tasks, you may have an anxiety disorder.

If you have a loved one or someone in your life who experiences anxiety or has an anxiety disorder, it can be challenging to help them overcome their struggles. There are several symptoms and signs that can let you know what they are going through, and there are steps you can take to help someone with anxiety.

How to Identify the Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety feels different for everyone and can manifest in a range of behaviors. Some common behaviors exhibited by people suffering from acute anxiety include:

  • Unease or restlessness: They become fidgety or nervous and may experience sudden perspiration, facial flushing, and involuntary shaking.
  • Chest pain and shortness of breath: Often people have heart attack-like symptoms, which are distressing and add to increased anxiety levels.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, or stomach pain: Anxiety symptoms can occur in the digestive system, ranging from mild stomach pain to severe gastric distress.
  • Cyclical negative thought patterns: People with anxiety often have constant feelings of doom, all-encompassing worry or dread, or an inability to focus on anything other than the source of their anxiety. They may constantly ask you for reassurance.

How to Help Someone with Anxiety

There are several different tactics to help a friend, family member, or loved one who experiences panic attacks or anxiety. For people who have mild or moderate anxiety, these measures are often enough to help them regain control, but for more serious cases, you should tell them: seek help for your anxiety from a professional.

  • Show concern, support, and validation: Many people wonder what to say to someone with anxiety, but it is as simple as offering support and reminding them they are loved, safe, and will not be judged for their anxiety. Comforting words for someone with anxiety can be profoundly effective.
  • Provide comfort and assistance: Helping an anxious person feel comfortable is key. Perhaps it is as simple as removing them to a quiet place to help them stay calm or assisting them with deep breathing exercises. Dealing with anxiety can be very difficult; giving assistance where possible can mean the difference between recovering quickly and sliding deeper into the anxious state.

Helpful Tips for Assisting People with Anxiety

If you are assisting a loved one with anxiety and want to know how to help someone during an anxiety attack, here is some additional information you need to remember.

  • Understand the severity of the problem: Mild to moderate anxiety is a cognitive-behavioral issue that most people can overcome, but severe anxiety is a mental illness that needs medical advice and assistance. Paying attention to how acute the symptoms help you get your loved one the care they need.
  • If someone is in the middle of an anxiety attack, assess whether they are in crisis and if they are at risk of self-harm or suicide. If you are concerned they are in immediate danger and may hurt themselves or someone else, call 911.
  • Do not confront, enable, or stigmatize: A person with anxiety is not thinking rationally, and confrontation isn’t helpful. Worse than confrontation is enabling. If you know your loved one cannot manage anxiety at work, doing their work for them will not help and could make their condition worse. Help them solve their problems on their own by breaking down their problem into smaller, easily manageable steps.

A Good Friend Will Lend a Hand

There are several ways to help someone with anxiety, but the most important action you can take is to show love, support, kindness, and understanding to any person struggling with anxiety. Sometimes, the smallest act of human kindness makes all the difference.


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