How to Support Your Loved One Struggling with Anxiety Disorder

People who struggle with anxiety often battle depression as well. It is not something they want to do though. If it could be fixed by a simple piece of advice or mental fortitude alone, these conditions would not be so prevalent. You would not tell someone with Diabetes to just get over their dizzy spell and confusion. Neither is it helpful to tell someone having a heart attack to just eat better.

Once you have learned to recognize the symptoms, which vary from person to person, you can then offer beneficial support. At times during anxiety and depression, medication may be necessary. However, even on medication, anxiety and depression are not cured. The side effects often outweigh the benefits of long term use.

So what helps someone who has racing thoughts due to anxiety? How do you even know they are anxious? A lot of times people will either talk excessively, not be able to sit still, become irritable or even give in to an addiction, such as video games, just to escape. Having a plan in place beforehand is game changing. Sit down and talk with your loved one about things they enjoy doing. Set aside part of the budget so that this activity can be pursued when the need arises. Ask them to let you know when they are anxious so that you can plan accordingly. If you wanted to go out to eat that night, it may be best to order in and snuggle up with a good movie. When your loved one sees that you are with them to help and that you do not see them as an inconvenience to your lifestyle, you send them the powerful message that you believe in them. Knowing someone is there for you and loves you often times is better than popping a pill. The alternative is an even darker world.

Supporting someone with this mental illness does not mean you put your life on hold while you allow it to spin out of control. It means you are actively helping them to gain freedom and learn healthy coping skills so that life can go on a bit more manageably. Yet the pivotal point to supporting someone is meeting them where they are at. And that is with the recognition that Anxiety Disorder is not just in someone’s head.


N.A. "Spouse or Partner." Anxiety and Depression Association of America (Website). (2015).
  • 43 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • As someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, I appreciate this.  I am aware of how difficult it can be for the people around me when I'm struggling.  I appreciate their patience with me and I appreciate posts like this that can give some more insight into situations.
  • To be completely honest, anxiety is pretty consistent, and therefore expected in set situations.
    Usually, when a person suffers from anxiety (such as me) there are things that trigger it. It can be something as small as public speaking, or as big as a trauma happening or reoccurring. No one with anxiety has it for "no reason". What you have to do is have your loved one write out all the big AND small things that give them anxiety. After you see everything on paper, use it as a guide of help. Instead of trying to change their anxiety, try changing the scenario in which they are getting the anxiety from. 
    Ie. If they get anxiety from seeing diet coke, and the reason being is because coke reminds them of a person they were afraid of that used to drink it. Focus on doing activities and excersise where your loved one is working on feeling less fearful of the person that drank diet coke all the time. You have to fix the problem, and not the symptoms.
  • i have been dealing with stress and anxiety. i recently got my hands into these amazing supplements called Tianeptine (SMART DRUGS) It helps stimulate the mind.. and these supplements have no failed me... I suggest you do some research on it. 

    hope this helps

    best of luck.
  • I should send this post to anyone who wants to be close to me. Especially as I’ve tended to see myself and my anxiety as an inconvenience to others. It’s kind of why I avoid getting too close to people, so it’s good to know that it’s not actually an impossible dream like I sometimes think it is.
  • As basic as this might sound, often the best help you can offer to someone with an anxiety disorder is to put your hand on their shoulder or arm, and physically reassure them that things will get better slowly. If that is not possible, or if you know that they don't like to be touched, reassure them with words. Listen to them. Never ridicule them or tell them that their worries are unfounded. Simply listen to them. Let them say what they have to say without interrupting them. And often their tension and anxieties will slowly shift, and they will feel lighter, as they get the feeling that they are not alone, and that there is someone who understands their troubles. 
  • Anxiety and depression many times come hand in hand and a partner should create the conditions do help them overcome it. This can be through activities or simply by being there. 
  • Patience is the biggest thing I try to stress to my friends and family. Just please be patient with me. When I see you getting frustrated with me it only intensifies my anxiety.
  • For me the biggest help I could ever get when my anxiety was at its worst was my then boyfriend telling me he'd love me no matter what (I was super stressed because my hair was falling out, whole freaking locks in my hands!!).  Hearing him say he'd love me no matter what and hugging made me feel so much better.

    Sometimes all you need to do is be there for your loved one, be genuine and let them know you will always love them. Make them feel  safe, sometimes something as simple as a hug helps.
  • I believe that you should never underestimate the complaints of someone struggling with Anxiety Disorders. Many people are just accustomed to throwing careless comments back at victims, little do they know that they just help to make their situation worst. I know how difficult it can be. Sometimes, you feel like no one in the world understands you. Listen to victims, and even if you can't help, show them concern and the willingness to assist in anyway you can. This is very important.
  • Indeed, a nice piece of advice. Someone, who wants to help his loved one must have loads of patience. Yes, easing them into a talk over what they enjoy most is a good place to start with. Some are psychotic and unpredictable.  Particularly those who refuse to accept that they have an anxiety disorder. 

    It needs some wits too. I still think professional help is a must for chronic cases.

  • Personally, I believe it to be of great importance to demonstrate support for your suffering loved one by taking action. A key factor in supporting an anxious individual is open communication from both ends; the individual experiencing anxiety must communicate with their partner when they experience attacks, and the supporter must ask how he or she can help. It is helpful to recognize signs of distress in the partner, so you may better prepare for the situation. The partner must practice cultivating a relaxing environment and encourage the victim to practice relaxing activities such as meditation or yoga. The supporter must always have patience for their loved one, and recognize that their partners do not wish to experience anxiety. An exceptional supporter would be willing to accompany their partner to counseling if need be, and encourage them to practice self-expression in journaling, painting, exercising, etc. to find relief. 
  • Big yes to the last two sentence in this article.  Not only is it important to understand anxiety is simple NOT in someones head, but it is crucial to acknowledge the feelings, emotions, and actions that come along with anxiety is real.
    Equally important is to meet your friend/loved one where they are at, I think this has been so beneficial with dealing with my loved ones anxiety.  Acceptance vs judgment while never giving up hope is a balancing act that benefits everyone.  Believe me, I know easier said then done, but essential in showing that you are there for someone.
  • Depression and anxiety still aren't treated as seriously as they should be these days in my opinion, and even doctors and health care professionals sometimes struggle to understand the situation fully.

    For the partner or family member struggling with depression and anxiety, it can be a worrying time as they obviously want to try and help, but aren't quite sure how to go about it.
  • My OH and I both have anxiety issues and it can be very taxing on the relationship. We often do not want to discuss things that heighten our anxiety levels and make us go into a panic attack and so some issues take a long time to resolve. On the other hand, we both understand each other and tend to keep a very calm environment at home. I think people with the same disorders can coexist as long as they respect each other.
  • I wish everyone could understand what it's like to live with anxiety. I'm very lucky that my boyfriend understands how I feel due to the fact that he suffers from it as well. My family though does not understand it. They seem to think that I just need to "get over" how I feel. When I'm anxious about something or in a panic and I can't physically make myself do something they just don't get it. I was a stay at home mom for 8 years until my ex and I split up. I had never really had a job for very long before that so I kind of had to start all over while dealing with my anxiety. I've never sought medical help for it which I know I need to. I spent those 8 years never wanting to leave the house. In fact at the end of my relationship I could barely get myself to walk outside. It was a huge struggle afterwards when getting prepared to get a job. I took classes to become a nurse's aide and got a job in a nursing home. That was huge for me because social anxiety is my biggest problem. I held that job for 3 years. That last year there I went through a lot of change. I met the love of my life, got pregnant with my third child which the pregnancy made my anxiety and depression even worse. During my pregnancy there was a tragedy in my family that changed all of our lives. After that my anxiety was at an all time high. Work was going terrible, they switched up where I worked in the building which was just to much for me to handle. I had a panic attack before work the one night and just couldn't go and my family just couldn't understand it. They basically said I was throwing my life away but that's not what I was meaning to do. I ended up losing my job about a month or so after that. I had my baby a few months later and he's now 10 months. I got another job in August that I absolutely loved but I was hired as a temp and a month later they let like 30 of us go. It was horrible for me. My boyfriend and I had just moved into a new apartment with our baby (my older two children live with their father but I see them weekly). Since losing that job I've been unable to bring myself to get another job outside of my home. I'm to afraid to be around people. I think if more people were accepting of those with mental illness and the families of people suffering from it would educate themselves maybe things would be a little easier.
  • Anxiety or panic attacks cannot be truly understood by someone who doesn't have it. It's a very real medical condition but unfortunately, I still think too many people don't see it this way, particularly a partner of a sufferer. Some partners make it out to be your fault, or that it's not a real thing. I have personally been through this and having a partner like this is no help at all.
    Unfortunately, this is tricky because a partner who feels like this might not have enough genuine interest to give the other person a chance. I suppose the only way is to somehow educate the partner by perhaps taking him or her to therapy as well, perhaps in a group session, where, the partner is now exposed to others who have similar issues.
    You're right; our mental issues aren't seen in the same light as someone who has a heart condition or someone who is blind. I suppose it's because it can't be seen. However, if the body is prone to illness and disease, so is the mind. The mind is part of the body, isn't it? It's just as capable of having problems like any other part of the body. 
    I do understand that it can certainly cause friction in any relationship. That's why I honestly think that therapy must involve both partners. It's the only way to turn around an unsupportive partner.
  • I can identify two important things:
    Giving time: you must have time for your loved ones
    Communicate: you must communicate with your loved ones
    Once you can give time and communicate, you will help him over come anxiety
  • That is great information and I wish everyone was aware of these things. I suffer from depression and anxiety and I feel my anxiety controls my life by preventing me from doing something new or different. People who have never experienced anxiety on a paralyzing scale cannot understand what is going on inside the person having issues with it. Your mind envisions horrible things about situations that cause you to be anxious even though deep down you know it not to be true. You become paralyzed in fear with a pounding heart, cold sweat, and feelings of nausea. For me, anxiety as physically debilitating as it is mentally and it is not easy to explain to others how you are feeling.

    I agree that depression and anxiety are not talked about enough. Especially, in children. Both my children suffer with both and it is not easy to get their teachers to understand what it entails and that the symptoms manifest differently in children than it does in adults. My daughter shuts down when she is anxious and it like someone turned a light switch off. She also has ADD which exponentially increases her anxiety. My son tends to talk to alleviate his anxiety to the point that he is constantly talking all day long.

    I believe that these mental illnesses need to be talked about and to get rid of the stigma for people who have them because it is not the person's fault that they have these conditions. Educating people on the symptoms and ways to help those who suffer would be a good start.
  • i'd like to add you can have high anxiety without actually being diagnosed with anxiety thoughts...even mild panic attacks. it's not always something one goes to the doctor for, but learns how to live with it. 
    i have a loved one who has some anxiety...i think it's hormone related or old trauma. she feels open and safe to express it when it occurs and i can be of support to her. 
  • When I was first trying to get over my panic attacks my family kept telling me to stop and "just get over it." I hated that so much and felt like they didn't understand where I was coming from. Do not tell your loved ones to just get over it or "just do it." 
  • I think besides expert help, you also need to show to your loved one that you're always there for them and they can call on you whenever they're feeling bad. I also think gradually exposing the person to the very thing causing them anxiety will help reduce the fears little by little. It's a tricky process that's why professional assistance is very important.
  • I've suffered with anxiety and panic attacks during the course of my life. You should give your loved one the support he or she needs, and take time to listen to all their problems and fears. Let them know that you're always going to be there for them, no matter what. It will take time, but you should see some improvement. 
  • Such a great point! Caring for someone with an anxiety disorder can be so frustrating, but it is so important to remember that they are not happy having panic attacks over things they know are not that important. It is all about patience and not trying to solve the problem for them. Help them to get professional help!
  • Just be there for them. Be there to listen, to comfort, to care. Hugs can go a long way, too.
  • Thank you so much for this really helpful post!  It is helpful to me both in the sense that I deal with anxiety on a day-to-day basis, but also in the sense that I have some family members that deal with anxiety as well.  I may share this post with my family so in the future we can hopefully be better understanding of each other.  Conveying how or why you are feeling anxious can definitely be a difficult thing, but I think the advice you gave is very helpful,
  • I think we need to be supportive in this because I know how it feels when you don't have this support. No one in my family even notice this and even though I do not talk about it I believe it is easy to see. I can say that I would like to have them to know when to leave me alone and not to add fuel to a fire. Things like that and just some appreciative conversation that I always gave them. I guess I just feel disappointed because I deal with this alone.
  • You may have put your finger on part of the problem, @djordjem87. Your fears and depression may not be as obvious as you think they are. People don't usually notice these sorts of things, things are very personal, unless they have them pointed out. Communicating is scary but it is the key to getting better. Otherwise, you will just continue being disappointed and exacerbating your problems. 
  • I think you should let them know that they are having a bad time now, but it does not mean that they will have a bad time always. There are ways to get better and it just takes time when it comes to anxiety. The mind needs to heal itself. 
  • I appreciate this post. Often times, people try to help those with anxiety and sometimes end up making them worst. I've had panic attacks in situations where my friends have tried to help me "cheer up."  It would have been so much different had they actually understood what is going on with me and why I cannot just go up with them and dance the night away and get out my "my slump"
  • I just wished people around me could deal with my feelings better. I know I'm not easy, I know they don't understand what's going on inside my head but I also don't see any effort to try to understand what's like to suffer from anxiety. I identify a lot with you @neko_princess. Also, this is a really informative thread.
  • @yeppeo Sadly, that has been happening all my life. Lately, I've taken to avoid friendship since just the mere thought of them trying to help worsens my anxiety. I've refused to take medication for fear of the side effects. So I quietly live my life alone much as possible.
  • I totally understand you @neko_princess and I'm sorry it has to be this way. Sometimes a little of understanding helps but when there's none being alone is for the best, even when it seems otherwise.
  • The one thing that I like is when people accept your feelings as real. They don't have to understand them, or feel them, but simply accept that I feel them myself. I can't stand it when friends try to "encourage" me to step out of my comfort zone when they simply don't understand what that does to me. I need to do things in my own time, and I am getting there, but progress is slow. I do need to do it in my own time and in my own way though, and other people trying to rush me is never going to help. 
  • Maybe just be understanding? Whenever I get anxiety attacks, I just sit down for a bit, do some deep breathing, and it ends up being alright. No matter what, please be patient. It's not his fault. And whatever you do, do not make fun of a person with anxiety problems, or worse, pressure them into something. That is the worst feeling you can possibly have.
  • My girlfriend suffers from anxiety all the time and I act accordingly by opening myself to her completely. I tell her what's on my mind and it gradually gets her to tell me what's bothering her. I am aware that I don't know what it's like to have anxiety disorder but I do want to help her whenever I can.
  • i'd relish to integrate you can have high solicitousness without genuinely being diagnosed with solicitousness noetic conceptions...even mild panic attacks. it's not always something one goes to the medico for, but learns how to live with it. 
    i have a doted one who has some apprehensiveness...i cerebrate it's hormone cognate or old trauma. she feels open and safe to express it when it occurs and i can be of fortification to her.
  • Very much appreciate this post. My SO is currently going through some anxiety/depression and it can be very taxing on me. It is hard to think that way because naturally one would think "Well, they're the ones going through this disorder, so I must remain strong no matter what.". This can be more difficult than it sounds. Your bit about setting aside plans and making sure you set a goal is so important. Having something to look forward to together is a way that both partners can get through a tough time together.
  • I very much appreciate that there are others that understand my anxiety.  Sometimes anxiety makes me feel very alone because it seems like everyone in my life just adopts the "you're fine, get over it" attitude.  It makes the anxiety even more frustrating and it does anything BUT help.  In fact, sometimes I feel like it aggravates me worse when everyone just thinks that it's something I do for attention or to remove myself from social situations.
  • It was very hard to understand my mother's anxiety disorder as a child. It was even worse when I was a teenager. I used to assume she was "crazy" and would use her disorder against her while I was angry. I look back to those moments and am pretty ashamed of myself, even if I was an ignorant adolescent. Now that I'm older and suffer with anxiety disorder, I can understand the struggle. There really are great means of supporting a person struggling with anxiety disorder. Thank you for sharing these tips and advice.
  • Thank you so much for sharing this information with us, it's extremely helpful to know this things, sometimes we have someone dealing with this issue and we don't really know how to act, what can make them feel even bad for it. We need to do sacrifices to help people we love, and as you've said those sacrifices are always appreciate, especially for someone dealing with this illness.
  • @LisaDavis i'm glad you feel better knowing that you are not alone in your struggle with anxiety...i think as i grow older, it just bothers me less what others think and i'm ok just saying, "i am having a lot of anxiety, so i'm gonna leave"..... others are pretty receptive actually!
  • @dominica... You are SO RIGHT! I used to stress out so much about leaving a party or some other event when I no longer wanted to be there. I would stay longer even though I was miserable, just because I was worried about what people would think. But no more! Now when I want to leave, I just leave. It's way better when I'm the one in control of my life. :)
  • People who are undergoing the anxeity disoder need mostly their families and friends. However, it is important to have proper solutions to help them. We need to be patient with them to reduce stress through some interesting games, light exercies or simply their favorite foods.
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