Advice for friends and family coping with anxiety sufferers

What should you do when a friend, partner or family member suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, or phobias? It can be hard to cope with. Of course it’s frustrating to see someone change so much for the worst, often going from being bright and happy and outgoing to a gibbering wreck. You can play a role in their recovery. First a word of warning. Whatever horrors you have been through in your life, even if it includes war and famine, you have not had to deal with an anxiety disorder. Let me explain.

Anxiety and panic is nature’s way of making you avoid situations and escape from danger. It has been honed through millennia of evolution (or created by god!) to be the most unpleasant driving force possible. Yes, it is harmless but fighting against can be like fighting against mother nature herself. You don’t know what it’s like and hopefully you never will. I pity you having to be around a sufferer, but it’s time for you to look inside yourself now as well, and see if you can’t find a little resolve of your own. Here’s my advice to you:

  • Congratulate the anxiety or panic sufferer, they have admitted that they have a problem and are starting to fight it. They are braver than you ever need be.
    Ask them what you can do to help them get better. If they say “nothing” respect that.
  • Do your homework. Read up, search the web for anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia. Become an expert.
  • Be patient. They can shift anxiety quickly, but if they are under pressure it will take much much much longer.
  • Offer to be with them for exposure to phobic situations or panicky times, but don’t push them.
  • Don’t lose your temper, it doesn’t help. If you feel frustrated by a punch bag.
    Raise their self-esteem; this always helps anxiety sufferers.
  • Making them feel worse will make their recovery slower/impossible.
  • Have faith in them, even when they have none in themselves.

If you suffer from anxiety, read about how to cope with your friends, partners, and family.


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