Anxiety disorder signs and symptoms can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Anxiety disorder sufferers can be affected physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Many find their lives dramatically impacted.
Even though there may not be any outward signs of illness, anxiety disorder can be fraught with distressing and debilitating symptoms. It can also cause severe lifestyle impairment and what seems like insurmountable physical and mental health challenges. These challenges often leave sufferers frightened, confused, frustrated, and at their wit’s end.
People who experience anxiety disorder are generally intelligent, creative, compassionate, and determined. But many become inward-focused, frightened, confused, discouraged, and seemingly hypochondriac once an anxiety disorder develops.
Anxiety disorder sufferers often look fine on the outside, but inside rages a battle that is often all-consuming. A battle that only someone who personally experiences anxiety disorder will truly understand.
Most anxiety disorder sufferers don’t want to be sick and would give anything to feel normal and live a normal life like everyone else. But because of the nature of anxiety disorder, they often feel trapped in a battle with seemingly no way out.
Anxiety disorder is a real condition that can affect a person on many levels.
Their struggle is real!
Fortunately, anxiety disorder can be successfully overcome! Overcoming anxiety disorder, however, is a process that takes work and time, and often much more time than most people think. So, during the recovery process, there are many ways you can help your loved one overcome his or her struggle with anxiety disorder.
Here are 15 ways you can help as he or she works to overcome a struggle with anxiety disorder:
1. Anxiety disorder doesn’t mean the person is mentally inferior or deficient.
So don’t view them that way.
Anxiety disorder also doesn’t mean he or she has a ‘chemical imbalance,’ biological problem with the brain, or genetic problem. Those notions are now outdated and never were true.
Issues with anxiety are caused by overly apprehensive behavior, which are learned ways of coping with life. Behaviors are learned during our formative years (generally considered to be from birth to age 8). Most anxiety disorder sufferers learned their overly apprehensive behavior directly or indirectly from a parent(s), those who raised them, or those who greatly influenced them when growing up.
In an online poll we conducted, 93 percent of respondents said they had a parent or parents who worried a lot.
It’s not that anxiety disorder sufferers deliberately chose to adopt overly apprehensive behavior as a way of coping with life, but that they adopted that style of behavior believing it was normal. Most are surprised to find out they have issues with anxiety when anxiety begins to cause problems in their lives.
To overcome anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder sufferers need to learn healthy ways of coping with life, which then eliminates issues with problematic anxiety. To that end, overcoming anxiety disorder requires getting the right information, help, and support.
Rather than believing anxiety disorder sufferers are trapped in a condition they can’t do anything about, know that with the right information, help, and support, they can overcome a struggle with anxiety disorder.
While the road to lasting recovery generally isn’t easy or quick, lasting success can be attained through effort and perseverance. Therefore, there is no reason to feel sorry for the person who struggles with anxiety disorder. Offer empathy and support rather than pity or sympathy.
2. Anxiety disorder isn’t something a person can “just snap out of.”
Because anxiety is caused by behavior, it takes the right information, help, support, and hard work to overcome anxiety disorder. There are NO shortcuts or “quick fix cures”.
While self-help information can be beneficial, often lasting recovery requires the assistance and support of an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, and one who is familiar with the many underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety. So, it’s unrealistic to think a person can just snap themselves out of a struggle with anxiety disorder.
With this understanding, you can be more supportive and help the person get the help he needs. And then, support her/her as she/he works through to lasting success.
3. Reassure her/him that she’s/he's going to be okay.
Anxiety can create one of the strongest physiological, psychological, and emotional responses the body can produce. This strong response can create intense emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms. This is why in the midst of high anxiety, a person can feel like she/he is going to lose her/his mind, have a complete breakdown, or die.
Even though anxiety can feel powerful, fortunately, it alone is not dangerous and doesn’t lead to a mental collapse, breakdown, or death. Once the person calms down, all of these strong emotions, feelings, sensations, and symptoms diminish and eventually subside.
Consequently, when a person is having an episode of high anxiety, reassuring her she’s going to be okay can help her calm down, which will lead to the cessation of the strong feelings of anxiety.
4. Stay calm, and help her/him calm down.
Anxiety disorder is based on fear. This fear can be rational or irrational. Fear activates the stress response, which can cause a number of physiological, psychological, and emotional changes in the body. These changes can produce some profound anxiety symptoms. Often it’s these symptoms that anxiety disorder sufferers react to with more fear.
Regardless of whether the fear is rational or irrational, or whether the symptoms are strong, we can always find ways of calming ourselves so that the body shuts off the stress response, which leads to feeling better.
If your loved one or colleague is struggling with an episode of anxiety, encourage her/him to calm down and settle himself. As she/he calms down, she/he will feel better…in time. It can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from an activate stress response.
Remaining calm yourself can provide an example for her/him. Encouraging her/him to calm down can also help her/him calm down. Keeping calm is one of the “silver bullets” for anxiety as it shuts off the very mechanism that activates it.
5. Encourage her/him to do something about her/his anxiety disorder.
Being empathetic and supportive is helpful. But if she/he isn’t working at overcoming anxiety disorder, your empathy and support might only enable her/him to remain stuck.
Anxiety disorder only resolves when a person works at it. Anxiety disorder seldom resolves on its own.
Be an encourager, not an enabler. Encourage your loved one to seek the necessary help. And then, encourage and support her/him as she/he works at making healthy behavioral change.
6. Encourage her/him to seek professional help.
Anxiety disorder is caused by unhealthy behavior. While self-help information can be beneficial, a professional anxiety disorder therapist is almost always required to overcome problematic anxiety. That’s because many of the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety are invisible, and therefore, unknown to the sufferer. Unless the sufferer is professionally trained in anxiety disorder resolution, it’s unrealistic to think she/he would be able to identify, successfully address, and help himself back to lasting anxiety disorder-free health (if she/he knew what to do, she/he wouldn’t be struggling with anxiety issues).
7. Support her/him in her/his decision to seek therapy.
Traditionally, society has had a dim view of therapy. Fortunately, this view is changing…and quickly. More people today are seeking professional help for psychological and emotional challenges than ever before. That’s because the negative stigma associated with seeking professional help is diminishing, as well as, more and more people are seeing the benefits of therapy.
Moreover, professional therapy approaches and skillsets are improving as independent research on their effectiveness improves.
For example, independent research led to disproving the chemical imbalance cause of anxiety and has supported the effectiveness of therapy. Because of the recent strides in research and techniques, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is now recognized as the “Gold Standard” for anxiety disorder and depression resolution.
If your loved one wants to pursue therapy for anxiety disorder, encourage her/him to proceed and support her/him as she/he continues. Overcoming anxiety disorder takes time and effort, which can be discouraging at times. Encouraging her/him to continue can help her work through times of discouragement. Lasting success occurs for those who persevere.
You can also ask her/him to share with you what is being talked about. Oftentimes, reflecting on therapy sessions is a great way to internalize new information. If she/he doesn’t want to be specific about private details, that’s fine. In fact, it’s best if she/he doesn’t unless you are within her/his circle of confidence. Even if she/he doesn’t want to share specific details, there can still be a lot to reflect on in general terms, which can still be helpful.
8. Be available.
Let your loved one know she/he can talk with you anytime and without fear of judgment. Also let he/him know you aren’t going to change the way you think of her/him because she/he is dealing with anxiety issues. You are there to support her/him in whichever way she/he believes she/he needs. Letting her/him know she/he can count on you can make a positive difference in her/his recovery.
9. Be patient.
Anxiety disorder sufferers can sound like a broken record – rehashing the same topics and fears over and over again. While you might understand the nature of their struggle and see it clearly, the sufferer might not. She's/He’s rehashing the same issues because she/he has established fears about them. Her/His rehashing is her/his way of trying to come to terms with her/his fears, which is progress in itself.
During times like these, listen and reassure patiently. Over time, the ongoing reinforcement can be helpful in extinguishing long-held fears. Again, be patient. She/He will get there in time.
Moreover, talking about the same issues over and over again is a healthy way of venting and dissipating the pain, which can also be beneficial to the recovery process. Rather than stopping her/him and telling her/him you’ve heard it all before, recognize venting is also an important part of the recovery process.
Venting and sharing is also a way women/men reduce stress. In these instances, the sufferer isn’t asking you to fix her/him but is just feeling the need to vent and share, which is healthy. In this case, listen and empathize, but don’t try to “fix.” Because you aren’t being asked to “fix” them, you can listen passively without feeling obligated to come up with a solution.
10. Learn everything you can about anxiety disorder, then help her/him by providing ongoing information, support, and reassurance.
They say that knowledge is power. This is particularly true with anxiety disorder. If you want to help an anxiety disorder sufferer, become an expert on the condition. The more you know about anxiety disorder, the more helpful you can be.
If you are truly interested in learning about anxiety disorder, we have many public pages that provide an overview of anxiety disorder.
Oftentimes, anxiety disorder sufferers can become so mired in their struggle that they have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. A knowledgeable support person can help them find their way and reassure them that everything is going to be okay.
Ongoing guidance and reassurance can play a pivotal role in recovery, especially with anxiety disorder recovery.
11. Empathize, don’t patronize.
Try to be as supportive, loving, and empathetic as you can. Sufferers typically feel bad enough about what is going on in their life. They don’t want your sympathy but do appreciate your understanding, compassion, and the necessary time to get their condition under control.
12. Celebrate the small victories along the way to success.
Overcoming anxiety disorder takes work…and often a lot of work. On the way to successfully overcoming it, there are often a great many little steps and victories. Celebrate them. Make a big deal about them. This can be encouraging to the sufferer.
For example, attending the first therapy session is a victory in itself. Experiencing "eureka" and "ah ha" moments are also other reasons to celebrate. Staying the course with therapy is another. Having symptoms subside is another. Overcoming a long-held fear is another. And so on.
Overcoming anxiety disorder is a process that unfolds in many little steps. Since progress is often slow, it can be discouraging. Celebrating and making a big deal about each victory along the way can help the person remain encouraged, which can also keep the person working the process.
People who don’t succeed do so not because they can’t succeed, but because they give up before meaningful progress is made.
13. Affirm her/him. Encourage her/him. Help her/him to feel better about herself/himself.
Low self-esteem is often an underlying factor that fuels a struggle with anxiety disorder. Your encouragement and affirmations can help her/him see herself/himself more positively.
14. If depression is involved, take suicidal comments seriously.
Overcoming anxiety disorder is often a lot of work with many ups and downs and back and forths. Often the road to success includes moments of despair and disillusionment. Consequently, there may be times when a person feels like giving up.
For some people, giving up means ending one’s life. If your loved one makes comments about suicide as a way of ending his struggle, take it seriously and call for emergency help (local mental health resources or the police if the threat sounds imminent). Even if you aren’t sure if she/he is serious, it’s best to err on the side of safety.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
15. Above all, continually offer hope!
Anyone can overcome anxiety disorder with the right information, help, and support. Freedom from problematic anxiety is attainable even though it can be a lot of work. Your continued reassurance can help her/him get through the drudgery of recovery. Once she/he has recovered, you’ll recognize the true value of the hope you provided.
As we mentioned, there aren’t any ‘miracle’ or ‘quick-fix’ cures for anxiety disorder. Overcoming it requires getting the right information, help, and support, and then doing the work required. But success is attainable for anyone willing to do the work.
Your help in this process can make a significant difference, especially when you know how to help. The above tips can help you help your loved one.
The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.