Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults. Even if you don’t personally suffer from anxiety, you probably know someone who does. Though it might be hard to understand, looking from the outside in, anxiety can be extremely debilitating for those who suffer from it.
Whether it’s panic attacks, changes in plans or avoiding situations, dealing with anxiety and someone who has it can be taxing. Anxiety affects not only the individual but others around them, too. It’s frustrating and confusing all at the same time. To better help you understand your loved one who’s suffering from anxiety, we’ve put together 3 things to keep in mind...
It’s not your fault
It’s easy to take things personally when we’re upset and anxious, especially for what seems to the outsider like no apparent reason. That’s the thing about anxiety – it doesn't usually make much sense. To truly support someone with anxiety, you have to realize that you are not causing their fears. Snapping at a loved one when you’re anxious is easy. When emotions are high, it's important to keep that in mind.
Anxiety isn't rational
Fear isn't rational. Most people who suffer from anxiety are aware that their thoughts are irrational. The basic cornerstone of anxiety is irrational, negative thinking. The problem with irrational thoughts is that individuals struggle to convince themselves of the more logical response. Telling a loved one that they aren't making sense won't help the situation. Try to remind yourself that, though it might seem irrational to you, this is a very real fear for your loved one.
Learn supportive phrase other than “You’re okay”
When we see a loved one during a panic attack or in distress, our immediate reaction is to ask if they are okay. Instead, try discussing with them ways that are effective in supporting them during stressful situations. Phrases like, “Remember to breathe,” or, “Is there anything I can do to help you?" can be better substitutions for, "You're okay." This of course depends on the individual, so make sure to have a conversation with your loved one about what you can do to support them.
Though it can be difficult at times, it’s completely possible to learn to live a positive happy life with anxiety. If you’re interested in counseling for anxiety, or you think a loved one might benefit from counseling, check out TTHI Counseling Center here.