Anxiety is a common experience for many and much has been written about how to manage its symptoms. But what if you’re not the one experiencing the symptoms? What if you’re living with someone who is? If this describes you, you may be wondering how to live with someone who has anxiety and how to help them.
The sense of being helpless may be the hardest part of learning how to live with someone who has anxiety. Living with anyone who is suffering is hard. You want to help, but often don’t know how. In some cases, anxiety may be visible while other times it is more hidden. Ultimately, both the sufferer and the observer want to feel better.
Here are some ways to live with someone who has anxiety and effectively help them.
Learn about their condition
Anxiety takes many different shapes and varies in severity. Knowing more about the specific kind of anxiety your loved one deals with is an important step in knowing how to help. Recognizing symptoms of a panic attack, knowing if they struggle with a generalized anxiety disorder, or being aware that anxiety is situational makes a difference in how you help them. Once you know more about their specific anxiety, you will know when you can help and when it’s time to seek professional help.
If you don’t know, ask
When someone is struggling or in pain, it’s common to guess what they need and respond to that assumption. When you live with someone who has anxiety, however, it’s better to ask. They may not want to talk in that moment, but if they do it opens the door to them telling you what would be most helpful. By simply acknowledging that you see the struggle and are there to help, your loved one may experience relief of some of their anxiety.
Deepen your empathy
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It does not mean feeling sorry for them. While you may not fully understand anxiety from personal experience, imagining life through their eyes will help you understand what the experience is like for them. This new level of understanding brings greater patience and perspective when your life feels in disarray as you live with someone who has anxiety.
Set healthy boundaries
When you are living with someone with anxiety, you might feel responsible for fixing the problem or fixing them. It can be easy to lose yourself in their struggle. It’s important to not give up your own pursuits and interests in order to help them. Know what you can control. You can help them adhere to their treatment plan or encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t yet done so. Sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to take care of yourself so that you can most effectively help them.
When you’re learning how to live with someone who has anxiety, you may need to experiment with different ways of helping. If possible, have a conversation with them when they are in a less anxious state so that you know how to best help them when they are in a more anxious one. And always invite a professional into the conversation when you have additional questions or concerns.