facebook tag

Helping Someone With Anxiety

Helping a loved one with Anxiety | Beaches Therapy Group |Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels

What is Anxiety?

Mood and anxiety disorders stubbornly remain the most common mental health conditions in Canada. If you have witnessed a loved one struggling through a panic attack or PTSD flashback, you already know the agony they experience. Did you know how to respond when this occurred? Helping someone with anxiety is an important topic because most people do not know what to do.

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. We experience anxiety as a rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, or butterflies in the stomach. For the most part, it is a useful survival response that prepares us to deal with a presenting stressor. For example, anxiety directs us during emergencies like the sounding of a smoke detector during a fire. It also helps us prepare to ace a job interview. However, sustained anxiety can be problematic. People who suffer from chronic anxiety experience a variety of physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe. At the higher end, it can limit their ability to function and even paralyze them. To an onlooker, these reactions can seem irrational and hard to relate to.

Recognizing Signs Of Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways. Consequently, recognizing the symptoms typical for your loved one will help you know the onset of their anxiety. These can be grouped into three categories:

Physical Symptoms

Some people exhibit physical symptoms which include fatigue, sweating, nausea, diarrhea and even shortness of breath. Panic attacks, for example, can feel like a heart attack with chest pain, shortness of breath and an elevated heartbeat. However, there are key differences between the two. Heart attacks are often triggered by physical exertion. Typically, they occur with pain and tightness in the jaw, collar bone and arms; these symptoms get worse over time. Panic attacks, in contrast, can occur while at rest, and the symptoms subside within half an hour.

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological symptoms can include anxious thoughts, excessive worrying, concentration and memory difficulties and a generally pessimistic disposition. Some individuals may start second-guessing themselves when they are anxious and require a lot of assurances. You may even notice your loved one overgeneralizing by making broad assumptions based on single events.

Behavioural symptoms

Anxiety may cause your loved one to avoid certain situations and events. When they attend, you might notice them becoming irritable, withdrawn and wanting to leave. Others engage in self-destructive and risky behaviour like excessive alcohol and drug use. Repetitive behaviour patterns, like excessive washing of hands, or compulsive eating are also common behavioural symptoms of anxiety.

Helping Someone With Anxiety

Dismissing or minimizing anxiety, and chalking it up to something your loved one should easily be able to cope with, can make things exponentially worse for them. Try instead to ask what they are feeling. Listen to their words and acknowledge their experience with genuine concern. Validation is one of the most comforting things for helping someone with anxiety.

You can also support them to safely explore their fears with gentle encouragement. Often, and especially with children, parents will provide immediate relief to anxiety by removing, shielding and protecting the child from their fears. In many cases, for reasons of personal safety, this is appropriate. However, in situations like not wanting to sleep in the dark, for example, giving in to their fears by leaving the table lamp on, can enable the anxiety and prevent your child from leaning into their fears, navigating and overcoming them. In this case, you can compromise by leaving a night light on.

With this, also recognize the fine balance between encouragement and pushing an individual to deal with their fears before they are ready. Forcing anyone to make changes they do not want to can introduce tension into your relationship. Helping someone with anxiety can get very challenging for this reason. Consequently, you might want to consider engaging a trained professional. To initiate this, you can research more about anxiety online and share it with your loved one. Additionally, you can discuss any apprehensions they express about working with a therapist and help them to overcome them.

Working With A Therapist For Anxiety

Psychotherapy is the most effective way of helping someone with anxiety. Therapists undergo 6 – 10 years of post-secondary education specifically focusing on the complex dynamics of human relationships. This gives them much better insight into the emotional health of their clients. Therapists who specialize in anxiety can provide relief and symptom improvement with proven evidence-based techniques, like cognitive behavioural therapy. They are also trained to support clients non-judgmentally, with positive language and a safe place to explore their fears.

In some cases, physicians may supplement it with medications, like Benzodiazepines which calm the brain and central nervous system, and/ or antidepressants like SSRI’s which directly impact brain hormones. Once your therapist has assessed your situation, he or she will formulate a treatment plan tailored to meet your needs. Research shows that the most important “active ingredient” in successful psychotherapy is the quality of your therapeutic relationship rather than therapy techniques. This is why you should interview your therapist to ensure they are a good fit for you.

Beaches Therapy Group offers a free initial phone consultation. Here, we offer you an opportunity to get to know your therapist. We will listen attentively to your situation, assess your needs, discuss our rates and provide you with an estimated number of sessions we believe you will require.

Therapy Fees

Therapy fees are one reason why some people avoid seeking help, and we understand this completely. Here’s how we charge for our time. We are happy to have a frank and open discussion with you to ensure we manage your care in the best way possible. Our services are covered by most extended benefit insurance plans. If you do not have coverage, we also offer affordable therapy sessions at discounted rates through our internship program. Therapy is an investment in your health and happiness and it is more affordable than common belief.

At each session, we remain committed to moving you forward. Often a few targeted sessions may be all you require. Once we see progress, we spread out the sessions or organize brief check-ins with more focus. This helps minimize your costs. Above all, we never keep you in therapy longer than you need.

To accommodate varying schedules we offer online and in-person therapy sessions during office hours, evenings and weekends.