Watching a loved one struggle with anxiety can be challenging, especially when their symptoms cause them to miss out on things you know they enjoy.
You may feel helpless when your family member or friend has anxiety, but there are several ways you can offer support. As part of anxiety disorder treatment at 2nd Chance Treatment Center in Phoenix, Glendale, and Gilbert, Arizona, we provide these tips to loved ones of those struggling with an anxiety disorder.
Know the symptoms
If your loved one suffers from anxiety, they’re not alone. Nearly 20% of adults in the United States struggle with anxiety, some so severely that it prevents them from going about their daily lives.
But many symptoms of anxiety aren’t obvious, which can make it hard to tell that your loved one is struggling. When you know the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, you can better offer support.
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
- Persistent worry
- Impending sense of doom
- Problems sleeping
- Compulsive actions
- Ruminating about the past
- Avoidance of people or places
- Overeating or not eating enough
People with anxiety may also experience physical symptoms like nausea, sweating, restlessness, and lightheadedness.
Know how and why their symptoms manifest
Everyone’s anxiety manifests in different ways and for different reasons. Some people get really tense and agitated, while others become argumentative and volatile. Your loved one’s anxiety may be triggered by a specific person, event, situation, or memory.
When you know how your loved one’s anxiety shows up and why, you can better help them. Instead of simply dismissing their behaviors or symptoms as stress, illness, or anger, you can recognize that their anxiety was triggered and take the appropriate actions.
If, for example, you know your spouse gets restless the day before a big presentation, you can offer to go for a walk when anxiety rears its head. If your best friend shuts down when remembering an unsatisfying relationship, you can offer to watch a movie to distract them.
If you don’t know what would help your loved one when their anxiety strikes, just ask them. Some people want physical touch and to be nurtured, while others just want to be left alone.
Validate their feelings
Even if you can’t understand what triggered their anxiety or why, simply recognizing that your loved one is feeling anxious can be all the support they need.
Let them know that you understand they’re feeling anxious and that you’re here for them if they need it. Never dismiss their anxiety or give them a hard time about feeling anxious. Invalidating their feelings can make them even more anxious.
Help them get treatment
If your loved one’s anxiety is crippling, preventing them from engaging at work, school, or home, it may be time to get them help. Anxiety is very treatable, and the right therapy and medications can alleviate its symptoms.
Through behavioral therapy, your loved one can learn tools and strategies for coping when their anxiety gets triggered. Anti-anxiety medications can help balance brain chemistry to prevent anxiety attacks and other symptoms so your loved one can focus on learning how to manage their anxiety.
If your loved one uses drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of anxiety, they may also need addiction treatment. We’re addiction medicine specialists who can help your loved one recover from both an addiction and anxiety so they can make a complete recovery from both.
Just as important as supporting a loved one with anxiety is taking care of yourself. Part of that is learning to set boundaries so that your loved one’s anxiety doesn’t start seeping into your own everyday life.
While you can be there to support them, you can’t take away their anxiety. That means you shouldn’t change your behavior or accommodate theirs. Doing so may actually enable their anxious behaviors and cause anxiety to get worse.
To get your loved one the anxiety treatment they need to feel like themselves again, call 2nd Chance Treatment Center at any of our locations, or book an appointment online today.