Ways to Support a Loved One Living with Anxiety

Ways to Support a Loved One Living with Anxiety

With the fast-moving pace of society and daily life nowadays, most of us are no strangers to stress or worry. However, when this feeling of anxiety gets out of control and the stress is too much for someone to handle, it can start to affect a person’s daily functioning and relationships. This may be a sign of anxiety disorder.

The first step to supporting a loved one with anxiety is to find out more about the condition, bearing in mind that anxiety is a complex condition, and that signs and effects can differ from person to person.

There are three main categories of anxiety[1], namely:

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Those who suffer from GAD experience excessive worry, thoughts, emotions and actions that happen frequently for a prolonged period of at least six months.

Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder have repeated and sudden panic attacks, which are unanticipated episodes of intense fear, anxiety, or discomfort, that typically peaks in minutes.

Social Anxiety Disorder (also known as social phobia)

Social Anxiety Disorder causes an intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in social settings, which can result in great anxiety and stress.

Here are some signs of anxiety[2]. Do note that this list is non-exhaustive.

Physiological symptoms
- Sweating
- Nausea
- Feeling edgy
- Shortness of breath

Cognitive symptoms
Believing the worst will happen
- Persistent worry
- All-or-nothing thinking
- Over-generalising

Behavioural symptoms
Avoidance of feared situations or events
- Seeking reassurance
- Second-guessing
- Irritability and frustration in feared situations
- Compulsive actions

Now that you have a better understanding of the various anxiety disorders and their possible signs, Ms Lucia Chow, Senior Social Worker at TOUCH Mental Wellness shares some ways that you can support your loved one who is experiencing anxiety.

Acknowledge the anxiety and help to pinpoint possible triggers

Sometimes, your loved one might not even have recognised the signs of anxiety present in their daily actions. You could start by finding a good time to sit down and bring up your concerns to your loved one, and have an open conversation about these signs that you have noticed.

Helping them to identify possible triggers could also be beneficial, and you could brainstorm solutions for coping with the triggers alongside them. However, it is important to remember that you should only discuss this when your loved one is ready, and not force this conversation on them, or this may increase their distress.

Be mindful of your words

Let your loved one know that you care and are there for them. Try to be empathetic and validate your loved one on whatever feelings, challenges, or difficulties that they might have. At the same time, we can also ask what we can do to support them. Validation is important because it shows your loved one that they are being heard, understood, and accepted by you.

Avoid being judgmental towards your loved one, or downplaying what they are feeling with light statements such as “don’t be sad/nervous, get over it” or “be happy/positive”.

Encourage them to seek professional help

When your loved one’s physical health, daily functioning or social life starts to get affected by this overwhelming feeling of anxiousness, you should encourage them to seek professional help.

Although there are many resources in the community for those with anxiety, sometimes, it is hard for a person with anxiety to take the first step to seek help. You could show support by asking if they’d like you to help them make the first appointment.

Practice good lifestyle habits with your loved one to help reduce anxiety levels

Urge your loved one to practice good lifestyle habits, including having a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly (even for just 15 mins a day), practicing good relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, grounding, mindfulness, etc.

That being said, you have to understand your limits and set some boundaries even while caring for your loved one, to prevent burnout out or compassion fatigue. It is important to take care of your own mental health as well. As much as you would want to help your loved one, the complexities of anxiety are sometimes better dealt with by professionals, who can provide better care for your loved one.

Are you or someone you know struggling with anxiety? TOUCH Mental Wellness is here to support you. Please call TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) to speak with a counsellor.

TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances. An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.