The Relationship Centre

4 Ways You Can Support a Loved One with Anxiety

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, you may not realize how difficult it is for your loved one to live with it. When someone you love experiences fears about things that seem normal to you, it can be hard to understand what is going on.

Maybe you get frustrated because they are afraid to travel on busy highways or an airplane or even leave the house. Perhaps they avoid social events. Or maybe they’re just really nervous all the time.

You see how much emotional pain they are in and wish you could do something to help. But it is hard to know exactly what you can do.

Here are some ways to get started.

Don’t Judge

People who live with anxiety often worry about what others will think of them. They fear that panic attacks will overtake them in public and they will be embarrassed by the symptoms of anxiety. They avoid social situations because they’re nervous about interacting with others.

These are just a few examples, but you can probably imagine many more. It’s likely that anxiety makes their life become much smaller and more complicated.

It may be tempting for you to tell them that everything is fine, do not worry about it. You might roll your eyes and sigh when they express fear about something.

Unfortunately, these reactions don’t help them. Feeling judged by someone who loves them will only exacerbate the problem.

Don’t Enable

As you gain insight into how difficult it is for your loved one to live with anxiety, you may start to get pulled into their efforts to avoid the situations that trigger their fear and symptoms.

This can happen innocently. Perhaps you just want to help them avoid the painful episodes of panic attacks. You might not even realize it as you adapt your routines to what creates the least amount of discomfort for them.

Unfortunately, helping your loved one avoid anxiety-inducing situations will only add more fuel to their fears. Because of how the brain works, the more they go out of their way to avoid triggers, the stronger this habit will become.

As avoidance grows, recovery from anxiety will only become more difficult.

Be There for Them

While you do not want to enable your loved ones’ fears, they still need you to be there for them.
Being kind and providing a listening ear goes a long way. Your loved ones may feel as though they are worthless because of the power anxiety has over them. They may have many regrets about how it’s impacted their life.

Think about what you would want a friend to say to you if you were the one experiencing anxiety. Be there with a word of reassurance and a voice of hope.

Also, don’t be afraid to gently voice your concerns when you see their life shrinking. While accusations will only backfire, it’s okay to mention the changes you see and ask how you can help.

Learn About Anxiety

Educating yourself about anxiety is helpful for your understanding of your loved one. Gaining insight into the biophysiological way that anxiety works provide a useful framework of understanding.

Of course, you can’t force your loved one to seek therapy. And trying to do so will only strain your relationship with them and probably make them feel worse.

But you can learn about helpful options for anxiety treatment and reach out to anxiety therapists who can support you and provide guidance as you walk alongside your loved one.

If you are in this situation and eager to find professional assistance, please contact our office to learn more. We offer teletherapy sessions so that even those who will not leave their home due to anxiety can still seek treatment.