Relationship Partners with Anxiety

Supporting A Loved One With Their Anxiety

My Loved One Has Anxiety

Your loved one may already be seeking therapy for anxiety, and working with a behavioural therapist- they are doing their best to cope with their anxiety while still being caring and supportive towards you. However, there are many times when dealing with anxiety is just a bit too much, especially when it comes to family and friends. 

So, how do we handle an anxious family member or friend? How can we help them cope with anxiety and get back to who they really are? Understanding what they are experiencing is the first step on the way to a happier, healthier relationship with your anxious loved one.

While you can’t force someone to feel better, to get over anxiety, or to see a behavioural therapist, there are things you can do to support them. If your loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder they may be finding it extremely difficult to distinguish between what their brain is saying and what is actually happening in the real world. The more stress they experience, the more likely they are to become stuck in an obsessive thought pattern or a surge of anxiety.

Supporting someone with an anxiety disorder takes a lot of effort and patience, but they can be helped to live a full life!

Talking About Anxiety With Your Partner

Anxiety is a difficult condition that can cause many physical and emotional symptoms. People with anxiety may worry about certain situations or events that are unfamiliar to them. 

This often leads to physical symptoms such as:

 

  • Shakiness; 
  • Muscle tension; 
  • Upset stomach; or 
  • Shortness of breath. 

 

Talking about your loved one’s specific experiences and worries will allow you to understand how you can provide support. If you notice they are exhibiting the physical symptoms of anxiety, it can be helpful to use phrases like: “I see you’re pretty shaken up. Can you tell me what happened? Is there anything I can do to help?”. 

Anxiety disorders can be debilitating to those who suffer from them and those who love them, especially in their relationships. Having a better understanding of what is happening and how you can best support your partner, child or friend will help you immensely.

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Help

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychological technique that is used to treat anxiety. It has been the most widely-used therapy for anxiety disorder since the 1970s. CBT is based on the idea that a person’s emotions and behaviours are affected by their perceptions of situations. 

CBT aims to replace negative thinking patterns with positive ones, resulting in feelings of happiness and better coping skills. During this behavioural therapy, your loved one will be exposed to their stressors while being guided by their behavioural therapist to associate the stressor with a more positive outlook.

Although exposure is a crucial component of CBT, having the people you love and care for supporting you while you go through exposure can greatly help with the therapy. 

While it wouldn’t be helpful to encourage your loved one to avoid the things that make them feel anxious, you could instead encourage them to use the techniques they learn from their cognitive behavioural therapy sessions.

As your loved one begins their journey to a greater sense of peace, don’t forget that you can play a big part in their recovery.

Be Supportive Not Codependent.

In a stressful situation, we often want to help. Yet, our loved ones may respond negatively and become defensive. This can happen when we try to say encouraging things to people with anxiety. Remember that it’s tense situations that cause anxiety and no matter how you try to comfort or reassure someone, it doesn’t reverse the stressor that’s affecting his or her experience. 

You can’t force someone who’s dealing with these feelings to do what you recommend or to seek therapy for anxiety, but you can love them through it and do everything in your power to encourage them. Below are some examples of how:

 

  • Listen with NO judgement;
  • Encourage them to talk openly about what they are experiencing;
  • Encourage the person to get proper sleep, exercise and to eat well;
  • Encourage (but don’t pressure) them to stay connected with family and friends; and
  • Suggest a consultation with a behavioural therapist. 

 

If your loved one is reluctant to seek help, take it seriously but don’t be defensive. Learn about the condition and try to understand where they are coming from. It takes two people to make a relationship work – be sensitive and support your loved one while encouraging them to work on their issues with a behavioural therapist.

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