Support for someone with anxiety may include treating them with dignity, offering emotional support, and providing practical help with daily tasks. Before acting, people can ask the affected person what will help them.

For a person with anxiety, the support of a family member or friend can have a positive effect on their long-term health and well-being.

This article provides tips on how to help someone with anxiety and outlines what to avoid when trying to help.

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When supporting someone with anxiety, it can be challenging to know what to do or say. However, recognizing that the person needs help and being there for them can have a positive effect on their long-term mental health and well-being.

Mental Health First Aid USA offers the following tips for supporting someone with anxiety:

Treat the person with respect and dignity

It is important to respect the person’s independence while also recognizing the extent to which they can make their own decisions.

Offer consistent emotional support and understanding

It is more important to show genuine empathy, compassion, and understanding than to say all the “right” things.

People should try to be patient and let the other person know there is no risk of abandonment.

Provide practical help

Offering the person practical help with day-to-day tasks is a good way to demonstrate care and support. However, it is important to avoid taking over and encourage dependence.

Offer hope for recovery

People can offer emotional support alongside reassurance that, with time and treatment, the affected person will begin to feel better.

Provide information

While it is not a good idea to pressure someone into getting treatment, a person can ask their loved one whether they would like more information on anxiety and its treatments. If the person responds positively, they can offer appropriate resources.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests the following tips for helping someone through a panic attack:

  • Avoid assumptions: Ask the person if they have experienced these symptoms before and if they believe they may be having an anxiety attack. If they are, ask if they would like help.
  • Give clear reassurance: Speak with the person in a calm, reassuring manner, and use short sentences for clarity. Acknowledge that what the person is feeling is frightening but that the symptoms will pass.
  • Check about medications: Ask if the person usually takes medication to relieve symptoms. If they do, ask if they need any support retrieving or taking it.
  • Regulate their breathing: Encourage slow, regular breathing. This may involve verbally guiding the person or encouraging them to copy slow breathing patterns.
  • Grounding techniques: Walk the person through grounding techniques if they think this may help them. This may include counting slowly backward from 10 or mindfulness techniques, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method.

Once the panic attack passes, the person may appreciate help finding resources and information to help manage panic attacks in the long term. Some resources to share include:

Find more tips for supporting someone having a panic attack.

Mind, a mental health charity in the United Kingdom, offers the following examples of what not to do when trying to help someone with anxiety:

  • Pressure the person: It can be distressing for someone with anxiety to feel forced into situations that they do not feel ready to face and that this may worsen their anxiety.
  • Make assumptions: People should not make assumptions about the cause of someone’s anxiety or the best way to resolve it. Instead, it is more helpful to offer reassurance and listen nonjudgmentally.
  • Lose patience: It is natural to want to know about the other person’s thoughts and feelings and to want to offer immediate help. However, it is important to let the other person set the pace when it comes to seeking help for themselves.
  • Consult a doctor for someone else: Although people can offer practical support, such as attending appointments with someone who has anxiety, they cannot get specific medical advice on another person’s behalf.
  • Neglect their own health: It is important for people not to neglect their own health when trying to support someone with anxiety.

The ADAA notes that it is never too early to seek treatment for mental health conditions, such as anxiety.

Signs that a person should consider seeking help include:

  • the anxiety is causing significant distress or impairments in one or more of the following:
    • day-to-day functioning
    • personal relationships
    • performance at work or school
    • engagement in hobbies or activities
  • anxiety attacks or other physical symptoms
  • anxiety stops the person from doing things they need or want to do
  • anxiety causes fear that is preventing the person from making certain life choices

Individuals who care for others with mental health issues may encounter unique challenges that can lead to stress and mental health conditions.

The following tips may help a person manage their own stress and mental health while caring for someone with anxiety:

Practice regular self-care

Regular self-care can help a person cope with stress and avoid mental and physical fatigue. Tips include:

Join a support group

A caregiver support group offers a safe space for carers to share their feelings and concerns with like-minded individuals while receiving appropriate information and advice.

The AADA offers resources for both in-person and online support.

MHA also offers resources about online support groups that may benefit caregivers and people with mental health conditions.

Seek professional counseling

A licensed therapist or counselor can support someone who is caring for a person with a mental health condition. These professionals are trained to listen without judgment and can provide strategies to help with the following:

  • problem-solving
  • alleviating stress
  • setting healthy boundaries

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but severe or chronic anxiety can significantly affect a person’s mental and physical health. Individuals with anxiety can benefit greatly from the support of a family member or friend.

When offering support to someone with anxiety, people should listen without judgment and show patience and empathy. Asking the person if they would like information and resources about anxiety can be a good way to offer practical help.

It is also important for people to consider their own mental health when supporting someone with anxiety. This can include taking time for self-care and seeking additional support if things start to feel overwhelming.