Updated: Jun 5, 2019
Anxiety affects many people and can often come about unexpectedly or not linked to anything specific. Although it may seem scary if a loved one, friend or colleague suffers from anxiety, you can support them in a number of ways.
Your loved one may start the conversation with you about suffering with anxiety or suspecting that they have anxiety. It can also be the case that they have noticed that something is wrong but have not diagnosed, or acknowledged that they have anxiety.
Talk it through
In all of these circumstances it's important to listen. Let your loved one unload, without asking any probing questions or trying to provide solutions. It may be the first time that they have expressed their feelings out loud or to another person. Try not to put any pressure on them if they don’t want to fully talk about what is going on. They may feel too proud or embarrassed to admit that they are suffering or that they can not resolve things by themselves. Don’t push them or ask too many questions as this may make them feel uncomfortable or unwilling to talk.
What do they need?
It's important to understand the level of help that they are expecting from you. It may be enough for you to be a shoulder to cry on if they are receiving professional help as well. Or you may need to be more of a sounding board, especially if your loved one doesn't see (or accept) that there is an issue. If your loved one feels that their anxiety is at an unmanageable level, encourage them to seek advice from a professional. This could be a GP, health visitor or private therapist. Many local mental health services accept self-referrals too. There may be a waiting list for treatment but starting the process is a good first step.
What are the triggers?
You need to try to understand or tease out from your loved one what their triggers are for the anxiety. These are the circumstances or thoughts that cause the anxiousness to spiral. It could be something very minor or a specific event. Although you may need to bite your lip try not to express your opinions on the triggers, even if they seem irrational to you. It may be the case that they can not pinpoint an exact trigger or they need to talk things through more to be able to identify them.
Do some research
Researching into anxiety can give you useful insight into how your loved one is feeling, and the thought processes that have led to their anxiety. It's best to stick to official sources such as the NHS or Mind. This can be especially helpful if the anxiety is causing panic attacks or other physical symptoms. It can be a great comfort for your loved one to know that there is someone is aware of what is happening to them.
As an overall point, it’s really important to be sympathetic and help your loved one to understand that there is no shame in suffering with anxiety. It can affect anyone and is certainly not a sign of weakness. Your support will be invaluable in helping them to deal with their circumstances better and reduce their anxiety to a more manageable level.
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