Anxiety is not a dismissible “phase.” Anxiety is often a symptom of mental illness. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 18 percent of the US population over the age of 18 is affected by some sort of anxiety disorder.

If your loved one is struggling with anxiety, you will no doubt want to do everything you can to help them win that battle. But where do you start?

Understanding Anxiety

In order to be able to help your family member who suffers from anxiety, you first need to be informed. There are three main anxiety disorders that have their own symptoms, but all three have a common core—irrational and excessive worry and fear.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People afflicted with generalized anxiety disorder can’t help but worry over the smallest things, concerning themselves with problems that don’t yet or even may never exist. After managing to get through another day, they lie awake at night imagining and stressing over the worst possible outcome of whatever situations the following day will bring.

Panic Disorder

Those with a panic disorder experience sudden overwhelming feelings of fear that lead to breathing problems, dizziness, chest pains, and more. People with panic disorder will tend to avoid areas where they’ve experienced panic attacks before, due to fear the memories may induce another attack.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

Social anxiety disorder causes individuals to have difficulty talking with others even though they do want to have conversations. They often avoid places that usually have lots of people, even the grocery store. Making and keeping friends is often a daunting thought for them, as well.

For more information on these anxiety disorders and their symptoms and treatment options, visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Helping Your Loved One

If you have a family member who suffers from any of these anxiety disorders, there are ways in which you can help. Your loved one is facing a constant battle against stress and fear, which can be detrimental to their health, as well, so they could really use a dose of warmth and compassion from you. Your support throughout their battle is sure to lighten their load and perhaps even give them the boost of confidence they need to help them overcome anxiety.

Make Time for Your Loved One

Many people who suffer with anxiety disorders lack the self-confidence to get themselves through social situations, especially when by themselves. Being around a loved one may make them feel more secure and more willing to open up even slightly in social situations. Arrange weekly outings for you and your family member. They can be anything from grocery shopping or spending a day at the mall, to visiting museums or galleries, or even just a walk around the local park. Regular outings are a great way to expand your loved one’s socializing skills and help them overcome their anxiety disorder, especially if they are suffering from a social phobia.

Help Your Family Member Discover a Hobby

In addition to outings, try helping your loved one discover a new hobby. Taking up a hobby is an excellent way to relieve the mind of stress and worry, because many hobbies require concentrating on the tasks at hand. Some hobbies particularly helpful with people suffering from anxiety disorders are…

  • Gardening
    Being surrounded by and interacting with nature is healthy for the mind and body. Consider starting a vegetable garden with your loved one. You can both reap the benefits—the soothing, relaxing sensation of becoming one with nature as well as the fruits of your labor.
  • Cooking
    Speaking of the fruits of your labor…you can use your homegrown veggies to delve into culinary arts experiments. Cooking with a partner can be a blast, especially when it’s with someone you love. Look up online recipes or watch cooking shows together, or Google local culinary classes to get out and about and help your loved one find people who share their interests.
  • Writing
    Just like talking with a good friend, writing about your struggles helps you better clarify your thought process, which may in turn ease your stress. Suggest this method to your family member who is suffering from anxiety. Maybe you could sit down together, each write a piece, and then discuss each other’s troubles.
  • Join a Book Club
    Reading is another great escape from stress. Getting involved with a book club can help your loved one ease into expressing their opinions among a small group and get to know others with similar interests.

Further information on these and other relaxing hobbies particularly helpful for people with anxiety disorders can be found here.

Never Judge Your Loved One

It’s in our nature as humans to judge others, despite our efforts to remain neutral. We develop our first impression of someone within seven seconds of our initial encounter, based mostly on nonverbal characteristics. But when spending time with your loved one, it’s important for them to know that you care about their well-being, despite their rocky situation.

Your family member suffering from anxiety may find comfort in talking about their feelings with you, about the struggles they’re going through. You’ll improve your relationship with your loved one if you can overcome the curse of judgement and open your heart and mind to their situation, express your concern and offer a shoulder.

Any anxiety disorder can be detrimental to a person’s health. If your loved one or someone you know is suffering from an anxiety disorder, be sure to reach out for further help, information, and support when needed.

Featured photo credit: The endless road by Ryan McGuire via imcreator.com

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