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An anxiety-type disorder is when a person experiences worry and fear that gets worse over time and doesn’t end. It influences a person’s life to the point that it can interfere with daily routines like work, school and relationships. Anxiety isn’t just hard for the people who have it, but also for their loved ones who stick with them while they are going through this. It taxes your emotions, stretches your mental ability, and can be physically demanding.All the adjustments needed to cope can be confusing.
Here are 10 things to know as you are helping a loved one cope with anxiety:
1. Anxiety does not define a person
To be truly supportive of a person with anxiety, show them that you appreciate them for the person they are behind the anxiety. Do not attach a label to them but help them see that they are more than what they are suffering from. It is easy to be blind-sighted by one’s struggling ability to cope, but we are all still human beings with the same needs and complexities.
2. Fatigue comes easily
It is exhausting to have anxiety. Often it feels like the only people who can truly know how tiring it can be is other people with anxiety. It leads individuals to live in a state of hyper-tenseness. Their body is constantly in a fight or flight mode and their mind is always on alert. They seldom have a feeling of being settled. Situations that individuals without anxiety might glide through can be more taxing on a person with anxiety.
3. They can be easily overwhelmed
When a person exists in a hyper-alert state, some situations that seem normal to you can be completely overwhelming to them. Like the thought of more than 2 or 3 people in a room might send their mind reeling. If you want to encourage a person with anxiety to go somewhere, be sure to keep in mind that various things you enjoy may be too overwhelming for them. Let them know that they do not have to stay, and you are ready to take them home at any time.
4. They know anxiety can be irrational
Thoughts of fear and worry don’t simply stop because a person knows it’s irrational. Thinking, “okay, this is irrational, no need to worry”, doesn’t keep the thinking of all the worst-case scenarios from flowing through their mind. You don’t need to point this out to them.
5. Listen when they communicate their feelings
Sometimes a person with a problem chooses not to communicate because the last time they opened up they felt the other person was dismissive. Learn to bite your tongue and give them the opportunity to share what they really think and feel.
6. Do not always ask them if they are okay
Being in the presence of someone who is panicking does not call for you to ask if they are okay. The answer is evident. Their heart is racing, their chest is tightening, they may be shaking from all the Adrenalin from the ‘fight or flight’ response. Part of them may even feel like they are dying.
Instead of asking if they are okay, say something more constructive and helpful like:
- Can I help you move somewhere safer or quieter?
- Remember to breath
- You are in a panic, it won’t last. You have gotten through this before, you will get through this again.
- Remember what you practiced (insert the technique that helped before).
The main point to remember is if they do ask you to leave them alone, then do it. Let them go through this on their terms, they have the experience to handle their anxiety.
7. They value your support
It is hard on everyone when a loved one has anxiety. They know this. They are not blind to everything involved in supporting them. One common issue with people who suffer from anxiety is that they will overthink situations. This includes those who have been there for them. Your support does not go unappreciated. No matter how subtle the help you give is, it is noticed and valued.
8. Letting go is hard
The constant over thinking is part of anxiety. In short, this is due to where the brain stores traumatic memories and how it actively seeks to make links between a traumatic memory and a current situation. When a person’s brain is stuck in this cycle, it makes letting go of things extremely difficult. Often a person with anxiety cannot just let something go as their brain will not allow it. Be patient with them and do not expect them to let things go.
9. Change can be very hard
We all have a comfort zone that we don’t like getting out of. Individuals with anxiety typically find it even more challenging. It is a relief for them to be allowed to be in their comfort zone with no big changes looming. An uprooting or big change can take them much more time to adjust and build their comfort zone again. Remember to be understanding and patient with your loved one as they experience change. They really are trying.
10. They do not purposefully ignore you
Managing anxiety is partly about regulating one’s inner monologue. This can consume a lot of time and energy for the person with anxiety. The most unusual things can trigger complicated patterns of thought for individuals with anxiety. They might be overthinking a situation or attempting to calm their thoughts if you find them drifting out of the conversation. It takes colossal concentration.
It may seem like they are ignoring you, but they aren’t intentionally doing that. They are simply working to not have a mental breakdown at that moment in front of you. You do not need to pester them with questions, just try to gently bring them back in where they appear more attentive.
Remember that your loved one may not see their anxiety as a limitation, and neither should you. It may be a struggle sometimes, but the effort can eventually help mold them into a better person. They are awesome! Don’t get caught up in the negative. Part of overcoming is focusing on the positive. Choose to look at the benefits and to see the awesomeness. We are all humans, and we are all unique. While some things may work for one person and not for another, one thing that always works is loving compassion. If you take one thing from this article, we hope it would be that everyone deserves loving compassion, so share all you can.