Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in America. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders affect up to 18% of all Americans. Chances are, you already know someone struggling with anxiety. If so, there are a few different things you can do to help out.
#1: Try to Understand
First, you should learn more about what kind of anxiety your friend struggles with. Are there specific triggers that set him off? Is he anxious in general, or is the fear focused on one thing in particular? This information will help you understand how you can best support your friend. It will also help you avoid exacerbating his anxiety.
#2: Provide Reassurance
If the anxiety is acute, assure your friend that he will be ok. If he is in the midst of an anxiety attack he may not be thinking clearly. Your reassurance may be necessary in order to calm down. If he is able to talk, ask him to tell you about his fears and concerns. Research shows that talking about anxiety can effectively help to eliminate it.
#3: Encourage them to Seek Help
If anxiety is a recurring problem for your friend, you should encourage him to take concrete steps towards addressing his anxiety. You may be able to support him, but most of his progress will come from his own dedication to a realistic treatment plan. This is why it is important to consider professional help, such as an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist. Your friend may need medication or specialized therapy to manage and ultimately overcome his symptoms.
#4: Be Available
Even if your friend is seeing a therapist, he will still sometimes need support from his friends. Try to let him know that he can always talk to you without fear of judgment. Even if he rarely talks to you, it will give him peace of mind to know he can turn to you for support. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who struggle with anxiety benefit greatly when they have a strong support network of family and friends. Make sure he knows you will not stigmatize or look down upon him for struggling with anxiety.
Ultimately, you are not responsible for solving the problems of an anxious friend. It’s important for your friend to make most of his progress between himself and his therapist. But if someone you know is struggling with anxiety, you can play an important role by guiding them to necessary resources and being there to comfort and reassure them.