How to help someone with anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health issue in the United States. It has been for quite some time, and all signs point to it continuing on this upward trend. 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder and if you don’t, you absolutely have a friend or relative who does.

As an anxiety counselor, I hear stories quite often about the things people say to folks who are managing anxiety. Some are incredibly helpful! And other are… incredibly hurtful. Under the category of helpful we can place comments that are validating, encouraging, and kind. Hurtful comments usually come from a place of ignorance, but can sometimes come from a place of judgment. These hurt the most.

The thing is, most people want to be kind. Most people want to know “the right thing” to say to their friend who is having a hard time with anxiety. Truth be told, there is no singular right thing to say. I’ve noticed that while it’s definitely up to the individual to determine what is most helpful, there are a few common threads. Here’s what I’ve seen be most beneficial in helping someone with anxiety.

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How to help someone with anxiety

Things that are helpful

  • Help them feel safe and supported

  • Remind them how normal they are

  • Ask them what they need

  • Go with them to a workout class

  • Check in with them regularly

  • See beyond the anxiety to who they truly are

  • Encourage them to seek further support through counseling

  • Educate yourself about what anxiety is, and what it is not (e.g., it is not “just stress”)

The best thing you can do to help someone with anxiety is be there. Be physically and emotionally present.

It’s also worth noting- anxiety shows up in so many different ways. Generalized anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, and agoraphobia are all anxiety disorders that present in different ways. When a friend shares that she’s struggling with anxiety, you might ask, “how does anxiety affect you?”- this communicates that you want to understand her experience and gives her a chance to verbally process what she might be keeping inside.

Are you tired of wrestling with anxiety? It’s very common to self-treat anxiety for YEARS before working through it in counseling. If you’re ready to take the next step, schedule an appointment today. Anxiety counseling sessions available in New Brighton and Roseville.