How to Help those with Anxiety Disorders

Living with anxiety or an anxiety disorder can seem like a life not worth living. I should know, I felt the same just over 60 days ago.

Everyone has struggles to one extent or another. Some may seem larger than others but the truth is it’s all relative. Even celebrities who seemingly have it all – money, fame, accolades – can feel the same way. Recent examples come to mind like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.

While sources of anxiety differ the commonality remains that they want the misery to end. Combine the facts that an estimated 40 million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and suicide being the 10th leading cause of death (claiming over 47,000 Americans a year), we must try to help.

Understand

Why does anxiety feel so bad that someone would end their life? There is no single answer which makes it even more difficult to understand. What I can tell you from my experience and having talked to many others within anxiety disorders is that there are common themes that lead to a feeling of goal despair:

  • Feeling all-consumed by obsessive thoughts that lasts for hours, days and weeks
  • Feeling physical sensations of sweaty palms, racing heart, headaches, stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth and others
  • Feeling trapped like there is now way out and no hope of escape from anxiety and worry
  • Believing that not being alive at all would be better than living with the soul-crushing disappointment
  • Feeling so disappointed in themselves because they can’t do what others seemingly do with ease especially normal daily activities
  • Just not feeling good enough

So what can we do to help someone feeling high anxiety?

Help

Unfortunately an anxiety disorder can be hard to detect since there may not be any outwardly visible signs. They may not verbalize their anxiety feelings and simply give you an “I’m fine” when you know damn well they aren’t. But don’t give up on them! Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Listen actively and compassionately
  • Be kind to them
  • Acknowledge that you may not be able to understand
  • Ask them if there is anything you can do to help (but know there may not be anything you can do)
  • Do a breathing exercise with them, like Four Square
  • Remind them that thoughts are thoughts…not facts.
  • Let them know that they’re not weak and that they are good enough, and worthy

In addition to talking and understanding you can also donate to organizations that help those with anxiety disorders. Here are a couple I’ve found particularly helpful:

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
  • National Mental Health Association (NAMI)

Lastly, know that there are caring and anonymous resources to help if they’re at rock-bottom:

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