If a friend or loved one has anxiety, then it can feel like you are helpless or out of your depth. You might be wondering how to help someone with anxiety — what do you say? What do you do?
Although it can be hard to know how to support someone with anxiety, you don’t have to be a mental health expert to help — there are some ways that you can be there for that person without any special training at all.
In the article below, we’ll be talking about how to support someone with anxiety. This could be a friend or family member, your partner, or a child or teenager.
We’ll be providing you with some helpful tips and information about anxiety, such as what to say to someone with anxiety, how to deal with anxiety in relationships and how to help children with anxiety. We’ll also be including some anxiety management techniques, such as breathing techniques for anxiety.
For a more general overview of anxiety, you can head to our ‘What is Anxiety?’ page.
Although you might suspect that someone you’re close to is suffering from anxiety, it’s not always easy to tell. Unlike physical health problems which can display more visible signs, mental health problems can be harder to spot, especially as many of the symptoms are experienced psychologically by that person.
There are, however, certain signs and behaviours to keep an eye out for if you think that a friend, partner or family member has anxiety.
Here are some signs that may indicate that someone has anxiety:
If you have recognised several of these signs in the person you’re worried about, then it may be that they are suffering from anxiety.
At this point, you may want to talk to them about how they are feeling and provide some support. Avoid listing these symptoms as ‘proof’ — they might feel worried or not realise themselves that these are symptoms of anxiety. They might not be ready or comfortable to talk about it with you.
Instead, be gentle and tactful. Mention that you’ve noticed a few things and that you’re here for them. There are some helpful ways to start these conversations — in the section below, you’ll find some useful tips for talking about anxiety.
Talking about anxiety might seem a bit scary to you. You might not know what to say to someone with anxiety if they bring it up — after all, you can’t provide answers or make it go away, so is there anything you can really do to help?
The answer is yes. You might not be a mental health expert, but there are lots of ways you can support someone with anxiety. There are things you can do or say that your loved one will appreciate, and that will make a difference.
In the section below, we’ll go over how to talk to someone with anxiety, including some of the things that you can say and what not to say to someone with anxiety.
Even if you want to talk to a loved one with anxiety about how they’re doing, it can be hard to know how to open up a conversation. Knowing what to say to someone with anxiety — and what not to say — can be a bit daunting.
Here are some things you can do to help when you want to talk to someone with anxiety:
There are a few things that you should avoid saying to someone with anxiety:
If you have anxiety or a loved one has anxiety and you want to explain it to somebody else, it can be hard. How do you explain something they can’t see and might not understand?
It can be difficult to know where to start, but one thing you can do is describe how anxiety makes you feel — physical symptoms, thoughts and feelings. The more someone knows, the more they will understand.
If you find you are struggling to describe anxiety in your own words, you can always point someone to a helpful article online. We’ve included some useful mental health resources at the bottom of this guide.
Managing your mental health in a relationship is important. If you’re in a committed and loving relationship, then hopefully you will be there to support each other through life’s ups and downs.
This can be harder if one or both of you have a mental health problem like anxiety, diagnosed or otherwise. Being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety (or mixed anxiety and depression) may be challenging and stressful at times.
If your partner has anxiety, learning more about it will help you better understand and support them. It’s also important to talk to them about their worries and feelings — use the ‘talking about anxiety’ section above if you need more guidance on how to deal with these conversations.
It’s normal to feel doubt or some insecurity about your relationship at some point, especially during the start of a relationship. However, if you find that you — or your partner — are regularly questioning your feelings, the other person’s feelings, or the relationship, then it may be relationship anxiety.
If you haven’t heard of ‘relationship anxiety’, it refers to the feelings of worry, insecurity, and doubt that can pop up in a relationship. These anxious feelings can be constant and persistent, affecting your daily life and your relationship itself. It may be another part of having generalised anxiety disorder.
Relationship anxiety can cause you to feel emotionally distressed, exhausted and unmotivated, as well as having physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Whether it’s you or your partner experiencing it, relationship anxiety can feel worrying. But it doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship — or that you will never have a successful relationship ever.
Here are some ways you can deal with relationship anxiety together:
If you or your partner has relationship anxiety it can be tough, but knowing more about it and how to deal with relationship anxiety will help.
Just like adults, children and young people feel worried and anxious from time to time. This could be for all sorts of reasons — they could be worried about changes, like starting school or moving house, for example.
Children can feel anxious about various different things, and these concerns and worries will change at different ages. A lot of worries are a normal part of growing up.
But for some children, anxiety can become more of a problem. This could be for all sorts of reasons, such as a change they’ve found difficult (like a house move), or a distressing experience (such as a car accident). Some kids are just more likely to be worried or anxious than others.
The signs in children with anxiety can be similar to those in adults. In addition, you may notice that young children become tearful or clingy, or have angry outbursts. They may have sleeping problems, such as waking up a lot in the night, having nightmares or bedwetting.
There are a few common types of anxiety in children and types of anxiety disorders in teenagers:
Less common anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may occasionally affect children but are usually seen in adults.
If you’re wondering how to help a child or a teenager with anxiety, there are a few things you can do as a parent or carer.
If your child's anxiety seems to be long-lasting, severe and affects their day-to-day life, then it's a good idea to get some help. Visiting the GP is a good place to start.
Knowing exactly how to help someone with anxiety doesn’t always come naturally. If someone you know is struggling with their mental health, it can be hard to know what to do or say.
However, reading up on anxiety and learning more is a great first step — as is just being open and honest. Talking to your friend or family member and showing them that you are there to support them will mean a lot.
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