As a friend or relative you can help by being patient and understanding. Although it can be hard to understand why the person becomes so distressed, try to accept that their anxiety is very real to them. If you try to persuade them they should just ‘pull themselves together and snap out of it’, you will probably only make them feel more upset and ashamed. Praise and encouragement are likely to be more effective.
Help them talk about their feelings and what you can do to support them. Let them set the pace. They may need you to help in practical ways with everyday chores, but it is important that you don’t take over. As your friend or relative gets their confidence back and becomes less anxious, they can gradually pick up their responsibilities again.
A hug can be very reassuring, and it lets someone know you still care. If you can show that you accept them despite their worries and strange behaviour, it can be an enormous relief. With your help, they can then begin to find ways of expressing their pent-up tensions and emotions.
Someone who is anxious is likely to need a great deal of prompting and support to seek help. You can assist by finding out about local support groups or relaxation classes. The organisations listed later can help with this. You could also go with your friend or relative to a group or to a doctor’s appointment.
It is not easy to live or be in close contact with someone who is anxious. It is upsetting to see someone you love experience such distress. You may be concerned that they are physically unwell. You may become very frustrated and feel helpless. It is easy to feel guilty and think that you may have in some way contributed to their anxiety.
It is important that you look after yourself and consider your needs too. Keep up with your own friends and interests. Make sure you find time to do the things you enjoy.
If you’re doing a lot to help out practically, you may feel resentful and become increasingly worn out by the burden of it.
It was so hard to be sympathetic. He seemed to get himself in a state about nothing, he was helpless. I would get angry and shout—then I’d feel so mean.
Find an outlet for your feelings, someone you can talk to about your concerns. It might be your family doctor, a close friend or another member of a support group for people in situations like your own. After all, if you can take care of yourself, you will have more patience to help the other person.