Helping People with Anxiety

Chances are that you’ve encountered at least one person in your life who has felt the effects of anxiety. Anxiety is a very broad term – first and foremost it refers to a state of mind consisting of general unpleasantness or unease, a state often triggered by seemingly insignificant factors or everyday events. Furthermore, it is an umbrella term that incorporates a plethora of psychiatric disorders, stretching from mild ones to chronic disorders that can affect a person’s entire life.

Statistically speaking, 1 in every 12 people suffer from or have felt the effects of anxiety at least a few times in their life. It is practically impossible to not know someone who has been through the intense emotions that can arise from these states of mind. Therefore, it is important to know how to deal with people who have anxiety – how to empathize properly with them and how to help them and avoid common mistakes that can end up pushing them further down. Here are some easy to remember tips to keep in mind when dealing with people who are affected by anxiety.

First things first: don’t be intrusive, try to get a feel of their comfort zone. To help someone close to you, you must first understand how they see the matter. Get a good idea how they see themselves in relation with the anxiety. Decide together on when and where you will meet and discuss. This being something deeply personal for anyone experiencing it, be mindful of these circumstances, and try to keep them in a comfortable space, where you can talk openly. Also remember that if they wish to talk to you it does not mean that they seek advice. Sometimes, listening is just enough.

To make it easier for the topic to arise and for the conversation to flow, try to use open-ended questions – in other words, questions that will encourage them to open up, because they cannot be answered by a simple yes or no. Some examples of these questions: “So how are you feeling about…?”, “What troubles you?” or “Could you tell me more about…?”

If you want to help someone who is experiencing anxiety issues:

DO…

  • …express your desire to lend an ear to their troubles.
  • …talk openly about your own feelings, to encourage them to talk about their own.
  • …listen to what they have to say.
  • …let them know that you can see a change in how they behave.
  • …help them educate themselves on the topics of anxiety, depression, and help them better identify their issues.
  • …encourage them to contact a doctor and help them with the process.
  • …let them know that it is not shameful to admit their feelings of fear and confusion.
  • …let them know that it is natural for them to be afraid, and that they can and will get better if they wish to.


DON’T…

  • …try to directly tell them how to act about their habits (even if they’re bad habits). This will only make them feel more estranged from you.
  • …avoid them only because they won’t or can’t (for any reason) talk about their issues.
  • …insist on telling them things like “just calm down” or “take it easy, it’ll go away”. This can only make them angry or irritated, as a state of anxiety is much more than mere nervousness or agitation.
  • …make or encourage them to avoid situations which make them more anxious. Part of the process of dealing with anxiety is facing the exact situations that cause the most intense anxiety.

Common myths about depressive disorders

Misinformation about depression is widespread, like with many other mental disorders, or even with mental health in general. It is very important to know the hard facts when it comes to such issues. The mental health of every individual is something that should not be treated lightly. Knowing the truth behind some of the most common deceptions can help immensely, should you find yourself in a situation where you need to help either yourself or a loved one.
As opposed to a disease, a mental disorder refers to a state of mind that is out of the ordinary. Mental disorders are more specifically classified by the symptoms associated with each of them. The World Health Organization estimates that around 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression; in addition, it is also observed that depression is a leading factor in disability. So why is it that many times it is seen as a sign of weakness, or brushed aside as a simple mood? The field of medicine dealing with mental health is still relatively new when compared with the other ones. At the same time, humans tend to be very different when it comes to figuring out the causes and manifestations of mental disorders, and therefore it is much harder to come closer to solving such issues.
One of the most common ways through which people tend to dismiss the severity of depression is by stating that it “isn’t a real illness”, or something similar. The irony of it is that we would all be much better off if such statements were true. Unfortunately, depression is just as real as any other disease. Just stating or phrasing it in such a light manner is only going to hurt the person suffering from it even more. It is true that depression is something that is often very hard to recognize properly, as its symptoms are many and tend vary a lot from person to person. This fact might lead some people to mislabel it as a passing mood. When trying to help a loved one, be sure to always communicate clearly with them, and let them know that you are there for them if they need it. Another confusion that often appears when depression is involved is thinking it is just an intense feeling of sadness. This is again an example of deflating the risk involved when someone is suffering from a depressive disorder. Of course intense sadness is involved, but a state of depression is so much more than that. It has a tendency to draw the affected person more and more towards intense feelings of despair and hopelessness. It is not just a sad thought or a sad feeling that is merely present among other (positive or negative) feelings. It is an ever-growing cluster of negative emotions that slowly block out any positivity whatsoever. It can lead people to extremes such as completely losing their appetite, becoming unable to feel any sort of satisfaction, being unable to sleep at all, or even a loss of the will to live. It is an extremely painful experience, mentally. As such, when someone close needs help, you should listen.
The two examples are just the most common myths regarding depression, but it is hardly the only misinformation out there. Remember that caring for the ones we love means listening to them, and communication is the most important aspect in curing depression. When a person close to you lets you know that they might need help, be sure to take some time to offer them their full attention, as they might be suffering from depression. It is almost impossible to know if someone is depressed without having a medical background, but we are all fully capable of lending at least some mental comfort to the ones around us.