Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. and worldwide suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. In the U.S. alone, approximately 18.1% of people age 18 and older have anxiety, which equates to about 40 million people. If you have never had anxiety, you may not understand what people who do suffer from it go through on a daily basis. Anxiety can affect every aspect of someone’s life, and treatment doesn’t totally eliminate the symptoms, in some cases.
People with anxiety can often feel very alienated and misunderstood, as the percentage of the population without anxiety often make incorrect assumptions about them. Below, we’ve listed a few ways you can help someone with anxiety feel a bit better and make life just a tad easier for them.
Here are ten things people with anxiety wish you would do:
1. Comfort them during a panic attack
Panic attacks can feel absolutely terrifying, and many people having one actually think they’re experiencing a heart attack or something similar. If your loved one is suffering from a panic attack, simply hug them and don’t let go until it’s over. When it passes, stay with them for a while to make sure they’re okay. Get them a glass of water if they need it, make them something to eat, or get them out of a stressful situation and move them to a quieter place.
2. Understand that things that seem easy for you can be difficult for someone with anxiety
Meeting someone new, talking on the phone, or going to the grocery store might seem like a walk in the park for you. For someone with anxiety, these things can feel like the hardest tasks in the world to accomplish. They don’t try to make them difficult, but their mind tends to overthink most things and send them into a frenzy about seemingly simple tasks. Comfort them through these things so that they have someone to support them.
3. Talk about happy memories to help calm them down
Sometimes, someone with anxiety simply needs a distraction from their frazzled and overstressed minds. Chronic overthinking can really wear them out, so talking about happier, calmer subjects with them can really help them deal with their anxiety better. People with anxiety often let their thoughts run the show, but listening to stories of happy times can show them that focusing on more uplifting thoughts can go a long way in easing anxiety.
4. Keep an eye out for signs of an impending anxiety attack
Shallow, uneven breathing, shaky hands or legs, a flushed face, and an overall nervous demeanor can point to an upcoming anxiety attack. If you see a loved one about to have an anxiety attack, just be there for them as much as possible, and help them to not feel alone. Call for help if you need it, and get a cold towel to put on your loved one’s head if you can. An anxiety attack causes a rush of blood to the face, so having something to cool him or her down can help immensely.
5. Don’t keep them guessing
If you have plans, stick to them. Respond to messages as soon as you can, and make your plans as concrete as possible. People with anxiety tend to not like surprises, so giving them as much information as possible is ideal.
6. Don’t put them down or question their anxiety
Don’t say condescending or tactless things about their anxiety such as “It sounds like this is all in your head” or “When did you get like this?” People with anxiety certainly don’t like the stigma of mental illness, so don’t make it worse. Instead, ask them more questions in a nice way to gain understanding. Accept that they have it, but try to learn as much as you can so you can help them in the best way possible.
7. Suggest activities that would help ease their anxiety
Getting outdoors, exercising, doing crafts, drawing, writing, and playing with animals can greatly help someone with anxiety. Try to suggest things that will help them, so that they can have something to do each day to get their mind off the anxiety for a bit.
8. Check in on them often to show them you care
If you don’t live with them, simply text or call them a few times a week to show you care. Living with anxiety can often feel lonely and very confusing, so make him or her feel loved and taken care of.