Helping A Loved One With Anxiety
The Anxiety-Provoking Question: What If?
Our thoughts create our anxiety. The question “What if?” can trigger the mind to create an abundance of anxious reflections and reactions. Many times, people who struggle with anxiety are unable to realize that they are having these thoughts.1 Soon enough, they feel overwhelmed, worried, nervous, and tired.1
What if I mess up? What if I have a panic attack? What if I am late for my meeting? What if I’m not good enough?
These thoughts trigger breathlessness, clamminess, fatigue, heart palpitations, and a sense of doom in those who have an extremely difficult time controlling them.1 Support is extremely important to someone who struggles with daily anxiety.1 As a loved one, being able to recognize when the person you care about is having these automatic thoughts and helping to redirect them to more positive thinking is helpful.1 Oftentimes, the anxious person is unable to recognize the vicious cycle they live through, and if they do, they may have a difficult time stopping it on their own.1
Supporting Someone With Anxiety
Being a strong support system is not always an easy role.1 In order to do so, there are things you must do to allow your loved one the support they need.1 First and foremost, you should educate yourself about anxiety.1 It is difficult to understand someone with anxiety if you do not know anything about the disorder.1 Read books, online articles, and talk to doctors and therapists.1
It is possible to identify the thoughts that trigger anxiety, question their validity, and restructure our thinking.1 It takes time and tools to do so, which therapy can help with.1 Anxiety is a highly treatable condition, and cognitive-behavioral therapy is extremely effective at helping someone overcome it.1 Also, medicine is available to help lessen their level of anxiety.1 While the decision to seek treatment lies in the hands of your loved one, your support and encouragement can help them make the right choice.1 Whether they choose to attend therapy or not, encouraging the use of the tools therapy instills is important.1
When you notice your loved one is anxious, have them articulate their feelings.1 Have them tell you about how they are feeling or encourage them to write it down. This helps them to realize the core of their current anxiety.1 Then, encourage them to create alternative thoughts that are positive.1
For example, if your loved one has a panic disorder and is scared to be in public for fear they will have an audience if they suffer a panic attack, tell them: “You have succeeded in overcoming this situation before. You can do it again. You do not have to let your anxiety get the best of you.”1 Although these thoughts may not feel true to your loved one at first, once they conquer situations that make them anxious over time, they will begin to believe it and their anxiety will lessen.1
It is important to try not to allow your loved one to avoid anxiety-provoking situations.1 It is natural to feel the need to protect your loved one from anything uncomfortable they may feel; however, when it comes to anxiety, the experience, and making it through, helps them to heal.1 Everyone feels anxiety at some point or another.1 Don’t cave to their accommodations, such as driving everywhere or staying home.1 Encourage them to overcome their situations and support them as they do.1
During Times of Anxiety, Ask These
When your loved one is having anxiety-provoking thoughts, you can also ask the following questions to help them overcome the situation:1
- Is there evidence that what you are anxious about will actually happen?
- On a scale of zero to 10, how strongly do you believe that what you are thinking about will happen?
- Are you taking the whole situation into account?
- Does this way of thinking help you?
- How can we work together to make this less anxiety-provoking?
Your loved one needs support. When speaking to them during anxious times, remain calm and empathetic, yet strong.1 Be an encouraging coach by helping them realize their anxious thoughts are not realistic, without making them feel less than who they are.1 It’s difficult and embarrassing for people with anxiety to admit to their feelings; however, when they do in a supportive environment, healthy, positive thoughts can replace the anxious ones, causing them to slowly heal.1
 Tartakovsky, M. (2013, October 11). A Strategy to Help You Support Your Anxious Partner. Psych Central. Retrieved October 14, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/10/12/a-strategy-to-help-you-support-your-anxious-partner/