Whether it’s your husband, sister, son or cousin, here are a few things you should keep in mind when dealing with a person who has an anxiety disorder.
Don’t tell them “you’re over-” anything
Overreacting. Overexcited. Overwhelmed. Don’t try to communicate to them that the emotions that they’re feeling are exaggerated or more extreme than you think they should be.
Listen without interrupting
Allow them to get their thoughts out. Even if it takes a long time. Try not to interrupt or fill in any gaps where they’re trying to choose their words. Give them time to think through their thoughts as they speak and when they finish, make sure they know that you understand what they’ve said.
Don’t pressure or force them into social situations
If they say they don’t want to go that party or even that meeting in two weeks, don’t attempt to force them into it. If they don’t want to meet up for drinks, don’t ask them why they’re being boring or let them know that they’ll feel left out. Don’t try to change their mind.
Don’t flippantly tell them to relax, breathe or calm down
It’s likely to have the exact opposite effect. They will either freak out completely or shut down and never express their feelings to you again.
Never think you can fix them
It’s not your job and trying might make things worse. Do some research into a professional they could speak to if they want but don’t push them too hard to see someone either.
Don’t allow them to attack you…and never assume you’re the reason for an anxiety attack
If you happen to be around when the person has an anxiety attack, don’t assume it’s something you did or said. It could be. But don’t assume it. And if they choose to verbally or physically take their emotions out on you, don’t feel obliged to take it. You’re human with feelings too. That doesn’t mean you should try to hurt them back. It means you could try to exit the situation as gently as possible.
Got any tips for relating to people with anxiety disorders?
Have you struggled with anxiety? How would you prefer for your loved ones deal with it?