Here is how to help when a loved one has anxiety.
Anxiety is a difficult condition to handle; support from others can make a difference.

It’s hard to live with anxiety…

Anxiety, with the mental, physical, and relational toll it takes, is a really challenging condition — both for the person experiencing it, as well as their loved ones. Unfortunately, it is made more difficult when others don’t know how to handle it. Unhelpful reactions include responding with frustration, or telling the anxious person to “relax” or “don’t worry so much!” These kinds of ineffective interventions are the result of ignorance about what to do, not usually lack of caring.

If you have a loved one who struggles with anxiety, here is what you can do (and not do!) to help.

Get Educated.

Anxiety is not just stress, which we all experience. Stress is typically the result of external pressure that we may have due to life events, like an upcoming speech. Stress can also be a positive or motivating force that helps us to get important things done. By contrast, anxiety is a clinical diagnosis that describes an ongoing condition of worry. It reflects the internal state of an individual, not just pressures from the outside. Stress and anxiety can look the same and share many symptoms but it is key to understand that they differ in matter of degree, severity, and origin. You can read more here.

Words Aren’t Always the Best Remedy.

We’re accustomed to thinking that talking is always the best way to relieve emotional problems but that’s not necessarily true. Anxiety usually involves the whole body, and may include muscle tension, headaches, digestive upset, and restlessness. Because of this, doing something physical like taking a walk or working out together can be more effective at lowering anxiety than talking.


Let your loved one know that you are available to listen if they do want to talk. Then do it — really listen. This means not jumping in to tell them why their worries are ridiculous or telling them not to worry. Recognize that the point of listening is not so you can interject a solution, but so you can understand the problem. The more you truly listen, the more you will understand what it is like to be in your loved one’s shoes. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to only see bad possibilities and outcomes. Imagine how hard it is to feel so afraid all of the time. Your understanding and empathy can make a difference.

Support Your Loved One in Getting Help.

Anxiety typically doesn’t just go away on its own, though a person may experience temporary periods of relief. Over the long haul, getting help in how to identify the early signs of anxiety and what to do to fight it can be really helpful. This may mean reaching out to an area therapist who specializes in anxiety. Some people with anxiety may also want to consider taking medication, which requires an appointment with your doctor or psychiatrist.

If you live in Virginia, particularly in the suburbs of DC, the therapists of Nova Terra Therapy are available to work with clients experiencing anxiety. We help people who are struggling to manage both the mental and physical symptoms, as well as the fallout in their relationships. Please give us a call at 571-386-0168 if you would like a free 15-minute consultation.