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8 Ways You Can Help Someone Suffering from Anxiety

Advice on What to Say as Your Friend, Loved One Copes with an Attack

Each year, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America . If someone you know or love is suffering from anxiety or a panic attack , it is hard to know what to say and do to support them. “Don't worry” sounds like empty guidance. Here are eight meaningful actions and better things to say when a loved one needs support.

Offer a distraction

One way to help is by offering a welcome distraction. Tell a funny story, offer them a drink of water, recall a fond memory. Bring up something that makes your friend or loved one happy that can remind them that the panic attack will pass.

Ask what you can do to help

Saying “just relax” won't help someone in the grips of anxiety or panic do so. More helpful is an offer of help -- a simple “is there anything I can do to help?” Knowing someone understands and is willing to be there as they work through an attack can be a source of comfort.

Be there to help work it out

While saying “it will all work out” might sound soothing, it can feel dismissive to those in the throes of an attack. Instead, turn the focus on how you will be there to help regardless of what comes with a phrase like “no matter what, we'll figure this out.” And then follow through.

Don't tell them it's all in their head

It is important to offer support without telling someone “it's all in their head.” That could exacerbate the feeling of panic, because honestly, they know they are dealing with a mental illness and highlighting it can make your friend feel ashamed, or worse, isolated and misunderstood.

Don't pretend to know how it feels

Unless you, too, have dealt with panic attacks or anxiety, don't say “I know how you're feeling.”  Instead, just assure them you're there to help.

Don't minimize the issue

Everyone faces problems and difficulties and your friend or loved one knows this, but pointing out that there are “bigger problems in the world” won't ease the symptoms of an attack.

Try to help them focus on the big picture

In the midst of anxiety it is easy to get mired in minutiae and be overwhelmed by little things. One of the best things you can do to support someone in the grips of panic or worry is help them to take a moment to remember the big picture. Do so by reminding them of good things rather than commenting on how minor you think the source of their anxiety might be. Remember, to them, it's not minor at the moment.

Ask what makes them comfortable

Some people need to be alone to cope with anxiety and panic, while others might be better able to address it in the company of dear friends. Ask if they want to be alone or if they'd rather you stay. And follow up with a promise to do whatever you can to make them comfortable.

The best thing you can do is show compassion, not just during an attack, but after as well as before.

Our team of counselors also can help your loved one as they face and conquer their anxieties. Contact us today!