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We have all felt anxious at some stage of our lives, whether it is because of an exam or work presentation. However, for those who suffer from a mental health disorder such as social anxiety or health anxiety, these anxious feelings can be much stronger and more difficult to handle. 

If your friend suffers from a mental health issue like an anxiety disorder, offering them your support and understanding can significantly improve their mindset. While it might be upsetting or frustrating to see a friend or family member suffering from anxiety or a panic attack, it is important to remember that they do not enjoy feeling that way either. If you would like to help a friend or loved one who is suffering from anxiety, below is some helpful advice. 


Understand How Anxiety Is Displayed


It is important to understand that anxiety is displayed in different ways by different people. Those who have a mental health problem known as social anxiety will likely not be comfortable going out where there will be crowds of people or engaging in situations that make them the centre of attention. 

Those with generalised anxiety disorder are more prone to having panic attacks and reacting differently to stressful situations than others. It is important to understand that this is not a reaction they can easily control, so be patient and understanding. Look for cues that they might be feeling anxious, such as wringing their hands, sweating, or showing obsessive-compulsive behaviours. 


What Not To Say


You might think that telling someone with a mental health disorder or anxiety disorder to simple, “Calm down,” is helpful, but it can do more harm than good. Your friend or family member might see this as you not taking their concerns seriously, and they will be less likely to open up to you about their issues. 

Instead of saying that your loved one or friend needs to calm down, you could say something like, “Explain what you are feeling, and I will see how I can help”. Avoid using phrases such as, “You are overreacting”, and instead focus on using “I” phrases, such as “I can see you are anxious, would you like to talk?” Use this to encourage open dialogue. 


Help To Remedy Avoidance Behaviour


One of the significant symptoms of having an anxiety disorder is engaging in avoidance behaviour. This could be anything from not answering their phone to avoid receiving perceived bad news to procrastinating about a task that might seem difficult to complete. You could speak to the person about what steps they need to take to complete these tasks. 

Speak to your friend or family member and try to understand why they may be experiencing avoidance behaviour. They may feel that specific issues cannot be resolved and so feel panicked; you could encourage them to speak to a mental health practitioner about these feelings. Understanding why they are avoiding these issues can help to calm their anxiety. 


Encourage Seeking Help


For some who suffer from anxiety or mental health disorder, seeking help might feel as though they are admitting that something is “wrong” with them. However, it would be best if you encouraged them to seek help, making sure to reinforce that it is a positive step to take. They can seek help from professional mental health practitioners or trained counsellors. 

You can offer to help the person with research into what method will best suit their needs, such as attending weekly meetings with a psychologist or taking part in group therapy sessions. If your friend does not feel ready or is uneasy about seeking professional help, offer to take them to a few sessions to put their mind at ease. 


Show Your Support


When someone is suffering from an anxiety attack or is feeling anxious, showing your support can be as simple as being physically near them. Helping them to concentrate on slow breathing can help immensely in calming their mind and body, and be sure to speak in a calm and soothing tone of voice. 

Providing a calm and supportive environment can also help an anxious person feel more at ease when they feel panicked. If you or a loved one suffers from anxiety or a related mental health disorder, contact Life Path Health today to find out how we can help you.

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