How to help an anxious person: 7 tips for what to do

Almost all of us have felt anxious at some point in our lives. So we know that this state of discomfort, restlessness, hyperactivation and nervousness is very punitive and aversive, and it’s usually something we don’t want to experience.

However, coming out of a state of anxiety may not be as easy as it seems. In fact, it’s a complicated thing, especially if it gives us an anxiety attack. Now imagine that it is not us who are suffering from it, but someone else who cares about us. What can we do? How to help an anxious person? We talk about it throughout this article full of tips to keep in mind.

    Anxiety: what is it?

    In order to be able to think about how to help an anxious person, we first need to know and understand the type of situation they are going through. And that’s why a brief explanation of what anxiety is can be helpful.

    We give the name anxiety to a state of deep subjective discomfort of emotional origin characterized by the presence of a strong negative affect with a high level of activity or physiological activation, which in turn has an effect on behavior.

    It is a state that is often defined as an apprehensive reaction that appears without the need for a threatening situation today, but it does. it tends to be related to the anticipation of a future threat or spillover or inability to meet environmental requirements, although one is not always aware of their origin.

    It is important to note that in anxiety there is an interaction between a subjective or cognitive-emotional component, which makes it possible to perceive emotions and the state of discomfort, a biological or physiological component in which emotional affectation generates a number of physical symptoms (The most common are palpitations, tachycardia and increased respiratory rate, although there may be others such as pain, dry mouth, sweating or tremors) and finally a component behavioral which includes all of the actions that are performed in this state.

    Anxiety attacks

    The existence of a certain level of stress and anxiety is common in our society, but the truth is that often anxiety can increase in such a way that it can spill over, sometimes even in surprising ways and without warning. . This is the case with what happens to us when we have an anxiety attack.

    In these seizures, great discomfort arises suddenly and panic appears with palpitations and tachycardia, suffocation and hyperventilation, abdominal or chest pain, dizziness, Sweating, shaking, feeling like a heart attack, dying, going crazy or losing control of your body.

    It is also common to develop a feeling of strangeness and unreality, known as depersonalization.

    Therefore, when helping an anxious person who is going through a frequent crisis phase, it is important to know that it is necessary to intervene both during them and when they do not occur. to prevent them.

    Anxiety and related disorders

    Anxiety is not a rare emotion or reaction. In fact, most people have experienced some degree of anxiety throughout their lives, and a high percentage of the world’s population has experienced or will experience an anxiety attack at some point in their life.

    this it is not in itself pathologicalBut sometimes the persistence of anxiety or its recurrence, whether or not it is related to some kind of situation or stimulation, can become a highly disabling disorder. And in fact, the anxiety disorder group is the most common type of disorder out there, along with major depression.

    There are many anxiety disorders, but the most well-known are probably panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

    In the first, the subject repeatedly suffers from several episodes of anxiety attack, which generates the appearance of anticipatory anxiety in the face of the possible appearance of a new crisis which generally leads him to change his mind. way of life and even to a avoid exposing yourself to common situations in which you think you can relive.

    Symptoms such as restlessness, fatigue, irritability, tension, problems sleeping and inability to relax are derived from generalized anxiety disorder due to concerns about several aspects of life or even a persistent non-specific and general concern.

    In addition to these, other disorders such as phobias set are also linked to anxiety, as well as other disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

    Also in depression, bipolar disorder or acute stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder are also common. In fact of anxiety it is generally common in several psychiatric and psychological problems.

    How to help with an anxiety attack

    As one can imagine from its description, the anxiety or distress attack is a very debilitating phenomenon and tends to draw the attention of those who suffer from it to the symptoms themselves. It is also easy to mistake the symptoms for those of a heart problem, which leaves you with great fear.

    Helping a person in this situation is not easy when you are already immersed in it, Although this is possible. How to do?

    The way to help would be to try and reduce the stress on the discomfort or reduce some of the more controllable physiological symptoms, such as breathing. Also remember that anxiety attacks they usually have a relatively short duration of a few minutes, Then they end up disappearing on their own.

    Below are some quick tips to keep in mind if you meet someone in the middle of an anxiety attack. Of course, it is important to note that first of all it is necessary to exclude that it is about a real heart attack.

    1. Don’t tell him to calm down

    It is relatively common that when a person goes into an anxiety attack or anxiety attack, others do not know how to react. In that sense, it’s common for them to try and tell you to calm down.

    Such indications are totally counterproductive: If the person could calm down just by wanting to do it, they would do it immediately and not go through the crisis. In this way, encouraging an anxious person to try to block this feeling causes them to become even more frustrated at not being able to immediately eliminate this type of mental content.

    It can also add to the burden or strain of feeling like you can’t get out of the situation. The reaction is probably not positive, as it increases nervousness and the feeling of being overwhelmed and suffocated.

    2. Give her space, but offer to help.

    The person who suffers from an anxiety attack you will feel more secure if you feel that there is someone nearby who can help you and take care of him right now.

    However, you need to have space, in the sense that it is not advisable to gather a large number of people around you as it makes it easier to be even more nervous (which can happen, for example, if we give to the street).

    3. Help him focus on a fixed stimulus other than his feelings of suffocation or pain.

    Anyone suffering from an anxiety attack experiences a number of very intense symptoms which are usually the center of attention.

    One way to help them would be to try and get them to focus on a different kind of stimulus. In this sense, the try to keep them in eye contact with you and help them focus their attention in aspects like your own breathing in order to imitate it.

    You can also try to distract them in other ways, for example by talking – so that they focus on what we are telling them rather than about the symptoms, although this may not work.

    4. Try to help with deeper breaths

    One of the strategies that can be helpful in helping a person having an anxiety attack is to help him to control his breathing, because in these attacks one of the main symptoms is the existence of hyperventilation.

    In this sense, it can be helpful to try to make the other person pay attention to you and try to take a deep breath, both inhaling and exhaling. If you have it, you can also help by using a paper bag so you can focus on filling and emptying.

      5. Don’t panic

      Having an anxiety attack is not very pleasant and causes a lot of suffering, to the point that the person may feel like they are dying or losing their mind. In these circumstances, having someone on the side reacting with panic and nervousness and not knowing what to do with what is happening can increase your own anxiety.

      This is why it is necessary try to stay calm and act decisively, So that the way of acting of the other is a reassuring stimulus for those who have the attack.

      6. Speak clearly and in a calm voice.

      While the person in the midst of an anxiety attack may react with some hostility, the truth is that being spoken to in a firm, serene voice and in a clear manner can help lower activation level, Especially if you are treating and I understand what we are telling you.

      7. Remember that anxiety does happen eventually

      This point is only applicable if the person has had other anxiety attacks before. It’s about trying to remind them that even though the sensations are very intense and aversive, these attacks are not dangerous for your life and your symptoms will gradually disappear.

      Of course, it is always necessary to assess that it is indeed an anxiety attack, because we might be facing another type of problem.

      How to help people with anxiety (whether they have a disorder or not)

      Supporting someone who is experiencing a certain level of anxiety requires an appropriate approach to their situation. The first step is to assess whether there is a reason for this emotional reaction, so that you can act slowly to lower your stress level. In this regard, we can make some recommendations.

      1. Encourage him to communicate his feelings

      Very often, feelings and emotions considered negative, such as sadness or anxiety, tend to be hidden or poorly expressed. A good way to reduce the stress level of an anxious person is allow that emotion to express itself in one way or another. In this regard, it may be helpful to talk to him about your situation.

      2. Expressive and energy-generating activities

      Probably, when we have been anxious, one of the ways to reduce that discomfort has been to do something that allows us to vent. It can also be used by others.

      Among the different activities to be carried out, there are those that allow you to really unload our instincts, such as performing exercises, boxing, singing, shouting or dancing. It may also be helpful to write or paint, if you can. avoid over-rationalization but let things arise and flow naturally.

      3. Help him assess his concerns

      There are many aspects of our life that can lead to anxiety. However, sometimes focusing on these aspects can become extremely inappropriate and hamper the normative functioning. It may be useful to help make him value his concerns, as well as how he reports them and how they affect him.

      It is important not to do this on the basis of criticism or to diminish the importance of your thoughts (because in the end if they generate anxiety it is because they care), but in a thoughtful way and in suggesting whether worrying or avoiding situations really results in an advantage or a disadvantage in their day-to-day life.

      4. Suggest alternative interpretations

      Another aspect that can be useful and is in fact used in therapy is to offer the search for alternative interpretations of our thoughts and concerns, as well as possible disturbing thoughts that are dysfunctional or above all limiting.

      5. Use relaxation techniques

      One of the most common anxiety techniques is relaxation, which includes breathing and muscle relaxation.

      These types of techniques allow us to focus attention on certain sensations, or getting used to going from states of tension to states of relaxation, In such a way that the possibility of suffering from a seizure is reduced and prevented at the same time that it is possible to decrease the nervous activity and to calm the body and the mind.

      In this sense, it is possible to indicate the possibility of performing a variant of this type of technique, even in a group.

      6. Mindfulness: full attention

      While mindfulness seems to be the umpteenth fad when it comes to meditation practices of oriental origin, the truth is that this technique has been shown to have very beneficial effects in the treatment of anxiety.

      Often misnamed relaxation technique, what is expected with this type of methodology is to focus on the here and now, In addition to observing our thoughts and feelings and allowing them to flow without judging them. It is very useful in helping an anxious person and does not require a lot of time to learn the basics.

      7. Recommend professional help

      In the event that we are dealing with an anxiety disorder, these recommendations can be a bit brief and it is usually advisable to seek professional help. In that sense, it can be a good idea trying to help find or recommend a psychologist, Since many people may not dare to take the plunge.

      Throughout the psychotherapy process, the psycho-emotional skills and the generation of habits necessary to better regulate anxiety processes are worked on. For example, the patient is trained in relaxation techniques, is helped to get used to certain stressful situations, is helped to adopt a constructive state of mind that does not feed fear, etc. In this way, within a few months, significant changes are made for the better.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Nestadt, G .; Samuel, J .; Riddle, MA; Liang, KI et al. (2001). The Relationship Between Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety and Affective Disorders: Findings from the Johns Hopkins OCD Family Study. Psychological medicine 31.
      • O’Connell, ME, Boat, T., Warner, KE, eds. (2009). Table E-4 Risk factors for anxiety. Prevention of Mental Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Problematic Behaviors: A Developmental Perspective. Press of the national academies. p. 530.
      • Rynn, MA, Brawman-Mintzer, O. (2004). Generalized anxiety disorder: acute and chronic treatment. CNS spectra. 9 (10): 716-723.
      • Sylvers, P .; Lilienfeld, SO; LaPrairie, JL (2011). Differences between fear and anxiety about traits: implications for psychopathology. Journal of clinical psychology. 31 (1): pages 122 to 137.

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