Dealing with anxiety is difficult, not only for the person experiencing the anxiety but also for friends and family members who wish to help. It can be especially challenging if you have never experienced those emotions yourself. Whether you’ve recently befriended someone with anxiety or you want to improve your relationship with a loved one, the tips below will help you communicate and understand the person better in the long run. Read on to learn how to help a friend with anxiety.
Understand The Physics Of Panic Attacks
Anxiety is more than just a state of mind. A true panic attack comes with a slew of physical reactions in addition to the emotions a person will go through. If your friend is experiencing an anxiety attack, he or she may feel like it’s a heart attack – rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath or quick breathing, tunnel vision, etc. These feelings make the emotional side of anxiety even worse. Do not assume that your friend is overreacting when he or she experiences severe anxiety. There may be bodily changes going on that you cannot see but he or she can feel intensely.
Helping Doesn’t Mean You Have To “Fix” Anything
Do not get in the mindset that you have to fix your friend’s anxiety. This sends a couple of different messages. For one, it suggests that there is something to fix in the first place – that being anxious is a bad thing. In all actuality, anxiety is a natural emotion that most people experience in one way or another. It’s your mind’s response to unfamiliar situations. The goal is not to get rid of the anxiety, but rather control how much it affects your friend’s life. This is best accomplished through anxiety therapy with a professional counselor.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the desire to “fix” the anxiety may cause your friend to shut down. He or she may feel worried about your reaction, rather than opening up to you about what he or she is going through. Do your best to be a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board for a friend in need. Push aside any judgment or preconceived notions you may have, and try to understand your friend’s experiences as much as possible.
Avoid Offering Advice
This ties into the idea of not trying to fix the situation. Avoid giving advice if possible, even if the advice has good intentions. If you provide good advice, your friend will not learn how to handle his emotions on his own. He will look to you for guidance in difficult situations moving forward, and you may not be the best source of advice in each circumstance. If the advice you provide creates negative results, your friend may blame you for the issues instead of accepting responsibility for his actions.
If your friend chooses to get help from an anxiety counselor, he or she will learn exactly what to do to overcome anxiety and deal with various situations as they come about. The therapists here at Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers specialize in helping people with anxiety and depression. They have the knowledge and tools necessary to guide your friend through this moment in his or her life. Listen as much as possible, but limit the advice you give as much as possible.
Keep The Focus On Your Friend – Not You
During your conversations, you may think about similar experiences that you have had that make you relate to what your friend is going through. There is nothing wrong with sharing those experiences, but try to keep your stories brief and concise. If you talk about yourself for a large portion of the time, your friend may feel like you’re trying to make the conversation about you, thereby defeating the purpose of talking through an anxious experience. Let your friend control the conversation, and be careful about when you add in personal anecdotes.
Learn About Your Friend’s Anxiety Triggers
What situations make your friend feel anxious? Going to a crowded restaurant, talking to new people, being left alone, being asked too many questions – the list is never-ending. By understanding what triggers your friend’s anxiety, you can avoid situations that heighten the emotions. For instance, if your friend has a fear of crowds, you may find out when the least busy times are for your local movie theater. Then you can choose to go see movies together when there are minimal people in the building. If your friend does not know what his or her triggers are, you may need to pick up on them by being passively observant.
To learn more about anxiety therapy in Metro Detroit, contact Perspectives Of Troy Counseling Centers at (248) 244-8644.