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How to help a loved one manage anxiety

All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But those with anxiety may feel consumed by fears of things that might seem irrational to others. It can be hard to relate to these concerns, and as a result, many people don’t know how to best help someone with anxiety.

“People are often dismissive of people experiencing anxiety,” says Joseph McGuire, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine. “With other medical illnesses, you may be able to see physical symptoms. But with anxiety, you don’t necessarily see what the person is dealing with. So it’s important to be sensitive to what the person with anxiety is going through, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.”

It’s distressing to watch a loved one experience panic attacks and face anxiety every day, but there are things you can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of excessive worry and understanding the best ways to support your loved one.

Learn to Recognize the Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety disorder is the most common mental health condition in the United States, affecting up to 18% of the population. Knowing the signs of anxiety can help you realize when someone you love is having fearful thoughts or feelings. Symptoms vary from person to person but can be broken into three categories:

Physical Symptoms

Some of the physical symptoms your loved one may report feeling include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Feeling edgy and/or restless
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Getting easily fatigued

Anxious Thoughts

People with anxiety often have thought patterns such as:

  • Believing the worst will happen
  • Persistent worry
  • All-or-nothing thinking
  • Overgeneralizing (making overall assumptions based on a single event)

Anxious Behaviors

Perhaps what you’ll notice most is your loved one’s behaviors. Common anxiety behaviors include:

  • Avoidance of feared situations or events
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Second-guessing
  • Irritability and frustration in feared situations
  • Compulsive actions (like washing hands over and over)

Know What NOT to Do

Typical responses to someone with anxiety are often unhelpful. Here are actions you should avoid:

Don’t Enable

It’s common to want to help your loved one avoid painful situations by going out of your way to eliminate the cause for concern. “On the surface, this seems really thoughtful and sweet,” says McGuire. “But anxiety doesn’t usually go away. Over time, if people continually avoid facing difficult situations, the anxiety grows and special requests for accommodations get bigger.”

If you continue to modify your behavior or the environment to accommodate your loved one’s anxiety, this can unintentionally enable the anxiety to persist and grow. Avoiding difficult situations doesn’t give your loved one the opportunity to overcome fears and learn how to master anxiety. Instead, it makes their world smaller as what they are able to do becomes more and more limited by their growing anxiety.

Don’t Force Confrontation

Use Anxiety Tips That Work

Responses based on love and acceptance, and the desire to see your loved one get better, are the cornerstones of helping someone with anxiety. Consider the following approaches:

Provide Validation

Many different things can make people anxious. Saying something like, “I can’t believe you’re getting upset over such a small thing” belittles a person’s experience. Instead, ask your loved one how you can provide support during challenging moments.

“What makes one person fearful may be no big deal to someone else,” says McGuire. “Their anxiety doesn’t have to make sense to you — it’s important to understand that what the person is experiencing is real and requires sensitivity.”

Express Concern

“It’s hard to see a loved one having an anxiety attack,” says McGuire. “But in the moment, there’s not too much you can do to shorten the duration or noticeably lower the intensity of a panic attack.”

“When you start to notice your loved one withdrawing from activities that they used to enjoy, you don’t have to cover up your concern. Instead, it can be helpful to approach your loved one in a warm and positive way,” says McGuire. “You can start a dialogue by saying you’ve noticed certain behavior changes.”

For example: “Hey, I noticed that you’ve been avoiding going to [insert location] and other social gatherings. Can you share with me what caused the change?” Then, depending on how the conversation goes, you might ask if they think they need some help or support in coping with their anxiety.

Know When to Seek Help

If your loved one’s anxiety starts to impede their ability to enjoy life, interact at school, work or hang out with friends, or if it causes problems at home, then it’s time to seek professional help.

Encourage a loved one to make an appointment with a mental health provider. “If they’re resistant, you can remind them that it’s just one appointment,” says McGuire. “It doesn’t mean they have to commit to treatment or to working with that specific therapist. It’s really just an initial check-in, like an annual physical exam but for your mental and emotional health.”

Johns Hopkins Anxiety Disorders Program

Learn more about treatment options offered in our Anxiety Disorders Program.

Treatment Options for Patients with Anxiety

There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
  • Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.

During therapy, continue to show your support by:

  • Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
  • Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
  • Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
  • Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isn’t a good fit.

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact our office today so we can set up an appointment.

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.

How to help a loved one manage anxiety

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Credit: The Guilford Press

New York, NY–When a loved one has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), it’s a constant struggle. It hurts to see your spouse so anxious or your teen spending so much time alone. This is especially true right now, as the COVID-19 panic has exacerbated OCD symptoms for many people who struggle with the disorder.

Psychologist Jonathan Abramowitz is an internationally recognized expert on OCD and anxiety disorders. Over the course of his 25-year career, he has come to believe that OCD isn’t an individual issue; it is a family issue.

The key to successfully helping your loved one? First you must focus on your own behavior and learn to reduce patterns of “family accommodation,” such as helping with rituals, tolerating avoidance of triggers, or looking the other way as the person with OCD performs obsessive-compulsive rituals.

“I’ve worked with countless families affected by OCD. And I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can turn things around. You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You don’t have to argue. The solution is to provide the kind of consistent support that helps your relative develop the confidence and skills to manage OCD in a healthier way and without needing to lean so much on you or others,” Dr. Abramowitz writes in his new book, The Family Guide to Getting Over OCD.

Use the ‘SMART method’ to reduce family accommodation and help your loved one with OCD

Dr. Abramowitz recommends using the acronym SMART to help you optimize your goals and maximize your likelihood of success. Here’s how it works:

S is for SPECIFIC — Make your goals as detailed and specific as possible. Simply saying “My goal is to stop accommodating” is too hazy. Instead, use “I will no longer help Ariel check the doors and appliances before bed.” Try to choose goals that rest solely on your own actions (for example, “I will leave the house regardless of whether Brandon is ready to go” vs. “Brandon will stop preforming rituals that make us late.”) You’ve got a better chance of meeting goals when they’re fully under your control. Keep the focus on changing your own behavior.

M is for MEASURABLE — Your goals for reducing accommodation also need to be measurable so that you know when you have succeeded. Choose concrete goals that you can keep track of. “Stop throwing away items Antonio has deemed ‘contaminated'” provides a specific target to be measured: whether or not you’ve thrown anything away. On the other hand, “Do a better job of not accommodating Antonio’s OCD” is not measurable: How will you decide if you’ve done a better job? Setting goals to change observable behaviors (that someone else would be able to see) is your best bet for making sure your goals are measurable.

A is for ACHIEVABLE — Your goals should challenge you to stay focused and committed to your program, but at the same time they need to be realistic. If you set goals that stretch you (and your loved one with OCD), you will continue to put in the effort to achieve them. On the other hand, you probably won’t stay committed to goals that are too far out of reach. For example, “I will never reassure my sister again” is probably unattainable, especially if you’ve become accustomed to providing reassurance and your sister is clever about getting it from you. Instead, “I will stop answering my sister’s texts when she asks for reassurance” is probably a more reasonable (and also a more specific) goal.

R = RELEVANT — Without an emotional tie to your goals, you’ll lose the motivation to stick with them. In this case, they should obviously relate to (1) helping your loved one develop self-confidence and the ability to manage anxiety on her own, (2) reducing your involvement in her OCD symptoms, and (3) improving your and your family’s quality of life. Tying goals to one or more of these things will build your commitment to success.

T is for TIME BOUND — Finally, your goals should have a time frame. This means stipulating when you’ll begin changing your behavior–for example, “beginning tomorrow.” By specifying a time frame, you make your goal a priority, which increases motivation. Goals without specific time frames are less likely to be met because you feel you can put them off.

Overcoming family accommodation of OCD is not easy. “But remember,” says Dr. Abramowitz, “by gently but firmly encouraging the person you care about to face their fears, you can stop being controlled by their OCD. Ultimately your relationship will grow stronger, and your whole family will grow more confident and hopeful.”

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

How to help a loved one manage anxiety

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.

April 7, 2020 offered by FLTC

How to help a loved one manage anxiety

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.

How to help a loved one manage anxietyWhen a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Listen

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers from this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spend Time

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful, sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

Be Patient

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer from anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Recognize Accomplishments

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgment of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

Counseling for Anxiety in St. Petersburg, FL

If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.

How to help a loved one manage anxiety

Lindsey Brooks is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor as well as a Registered, Board Certified Art Therapist specializing in children’s issues, teen and adult anxiety, and providing parenting support. She helps individuals and families improve their communication to build trust in their relationships and enhance emotional well being. Lindsey partners with the charities Hands Across the Bay and the Children’s Cancer Center to provide counseling services to victims of domestic violence and families affected by pediatric cancer. Understanding that words are often not enough, Lindsey offers Art Therapy as a primary or supplemental form of counseling to traditional talk therapy and believes in the inherently healing power of creating. Call today for a free consultation 727-344-9867.

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How to help a loved one manage anxiety

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.

How to help a loved one manage anxiety

When a friend or loved one suffers from anxiety, it can be intimidating or frustrating trying to help them cope. Panic and anxiety attacks can leave the anxiety sufferer feeling any number of symptoms, and you may feel helpless and unable to support them. Here are some tips to help you manage a loved one’s anxiety.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to listen. Hold back judgment or unwanted advice, and simply be an ear. It will help them to know that they can speak to you openly, and that it’s okay to be repetitive with fears or thoughts. Let them know that they can call or text you any time to talk.

Don’t Bring It Up Too Often

It might seem counter-intuitive to avoid the topic of anxiety with your loved one, but simply talking about anxiety or panic attacks may trigger an episode for someone who suffers with this disorder. It’s fine to ask how they’re doing or discuss their anxiety if they want to, but make sure that they bring the topic up to you.

Spending time with a close friend or loved one can be very beneficial for the anxiety sufferer. Exercise and outdoor activities are especially helpful; sunlight and exercise are well-documented mood boosters. If you’re both being entertained, are out having fun, or just hanging out talking over coffee, this meaningful distraction keeps their mind off of their anxiety and on the activity.

You may struggle to empathize with your friend or loved one, or you may have difficulty comprehending what it means to suffer with anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just psychological, they’re also chemical. Your loved one may understand that it’s not logical for them to feel fear or anxiety about something, but you can’t expect them to control their anxiety with that same knowledge. It will take time and a concerted effort on their part, but anxiety is a treatable condition.

Make an effort to express pride in your loved one when you notice improvements. Acknowledgement of positive change after they have put in some hard work will be both beneficial and encouraging to their recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering with anxiety or panic disorder and needs professional guidance from a licensed therapist, please contact my office today so we can set up an appointment.