An Anxious Friend in Need: What To Do?

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I’m pushing this one ahead and hoping it doesn’t stir any trouble.  I’m not trying to call anyone out or make anyone feel bad.  Kind of hard to do when the topic will result in me pointing out mistakes that one can make when dealing with someone who has anxiety.  I am glad to have found the picture above, which covers a lot.  I’ve been subjected to 3 and 4 a few times.  Guess I really only have to add onto this from personal experience and focus on what to do when you know the person suffers from anxiety.

  1. Feel free to do research on anxiety, but don’t start talking like you went to school for it.  Even if you did, talking clinically to a person doesn’t help.  This method can come off as a minimizing of the problem or ignoring the emotions involved.  It’s better to listen and talk about them personally instead of making them a statistic.  That’s if they want feedback in the first place.  As the graphic says: Don’t force people suffering from anxiety to talk it out.
  2. We’ve probably all made the mistake of thinking a person will feel better if they’re told that others have it worse.  Good for those people, but I don’t take joy in the misery of others.  Knowing somebody else is in a worse condition can actually make my own anxiety feel worse. I mean, how selfish do I have to be to ignore these people I’ve never met?  I must be a horrible person unless I find a way to help them, which might help me or at least alleviate this sense of guilt I now have on top of the anxiety.  Yeah, don’t do this.
  3. If you know a person, especially a loved one, has anxiety attacks then learn the signs of an onset.  It can be an odd cough, a change in breathing, sudden rubbing of the chest, or even a gradual exit from a conversation.  These aren’t the same for everyone person, so it takes interaction instead of research.  This isn’t to jump in and save them either because that can make things worse.  Recognizing the signs allows you to not become part of the problem.  You don’t want to add pressure to an already difficult situation.
  4. Please don’t start up a serious conversation that involves decisions or insight with a person who is in the middle of an anxiety attack.  Their minds aren’t really in the moment to help you or talk about weekend plans.  It really doesn’t go well if you start talking about your own problems with someone struggling.  You don’t talk about what you had for breakfast with a starving person, do you?  Then don’t heap more stress onto someone already at their breaking point.
  5. LISTEN!  Seriously, this is crucial.  If you really want to help then you only have to listen to what the person says.  Don’t correct them.  Don’t take half of what they say and run with it.  Don’t assume you get the idea.  One slip and you can either make a current attack worse or trigger another in the future.
  6. This goes primarily for loved ones and relates to #2.  Don’t think isolation is always the answer.  Part of the problem is that the person’s mind goes running wild and being alone is the perfect environment for this.  You also want to make sure they want this because just going away all the time can make them feel like they’re being abandoned due to being seen as a burden.
  7. If you learn that your friend or loved one is confiding in someone else about their anxiety instead of you then don’t make a big deal about it.  Don’t try to interject yourself into whatever is going on.  Don’t act jealous or angry.  In fact, responding poorly to this will probably reveal why you’re not the comforter that this person needs during rough patches.

There’s probably more floating around in my head, but I’ve been having a really bad week in terms of anxiety.  Things didn’t start off well and the weekend was fairly bumpy.  Been sleeping poorly and praying I can finish writing this book by the end of the week.  The stress of all that has combined with some personal stuff to make it feel like I’ve had a permanent attack going.  So, I’ll do my best in the comments.  Feel free to add your own advice and I’ll put them down below for anyone who reads the post later.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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37 Responses to An Anxious Friend in Need: What To Do?

  1. C.E.Robinson says:

    Charles, a well thought out post this morning. Your insight into anxiety is extraordinary. Helping others is helping yourself. Hopefully the rest of the week has some peaceful & productive moments. 📚 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. L. Marie says:

    Great, insightful points, Charles. That image is perfect. I truly hope this advice is heeded. With therapists in the family, I’ve heard horror stories of well-meaning people who assumed they could “motivate” someone depressed by talking at that person, which resulted in pushing that person closer to the edge, and sometimes over it. Being ready to listen is a gift I wish more people would give.


    • Great point you brought up. There is a big difference between ‘talking with’ and ‘talking at’. Many people don’t see this and are more prone to falling into the latter. I think ‘talking at’ is fueled a lot by ego too. We see a person in pain and it makes us feel bad, which can lead to us helping them in order to rid ourselves of the negativity.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sure your post will help some understand more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    An important post from Charles Yallowitz for anyone who is close to someone who suffers from anxiety and especially anxiety attacks. We all want to leap in and solve people’s problems and help… but it is useful to take a breath and follow Charles’s advice. #anxiety


  5. Jess T. says:

    When my anxiety is at its height, my family and friends have helped the most by just offering the comfort of a hug. Of course, someone who will listen and sympathize with you over whatever your current stressors are is also appreciated. But hugs take your mind off the worry because you are focusing more on being present.


  6. 5. Listen! That’s so crucial. Your tips on listening seem so simple, but those are unfortunately rare skills. Thank you, and take care.


  7. The only things that helps me is to distract me and positivity. Any other comments no matter how well meaning do nothing but make things worse.


  8. Great to know. Thank you for this information.


  9. Tina Frisco says:

    This is a pretty comprehensive post on the subject, Charles. The only thing I could think to add is empathy/active listening, as part of #5. When I’m having a bad day, if someone listens but remains silent, I begin to wonder if they’re heard me or if they’re judging me. A remark like “How awful,” or simply paraphrasing what I’ve said, puts me at ease. I always appreciate people empathizing with my feelings 🙂


  10. Your comments are correct, Charles. My son suffers from PTSD and anxiety. There is no logic so you cannot use logic as an argument. You cannot try and have a discussion about dealing with the anxiety when the person in question is having an anxiety attack. You have to wait until the attack is over and then you can try and unpack it gently. It is not easy at all. We have found a wonderful new psychologist for Greg and he is helping us but it is small steps forward. But forward is forward in my view. Have a good weekend.


  11. This is excellent advice.

    I’m sorry you’re having a rough week.


  12. People may feel at a loss and don’t know what to do, so they’re afraid of making things worse. I sometimes talk to kids who are distraught at school, and usually just ask them what they need. Even giving them a drink of water can sometimes lift them just enough to get it under control by themselves.

    Peace to you, friend.


    • True. Though I’ve seen many try to fix things, especially with those they’re close too. There’s an odd forcefulness that makes things awkward. Mostly in adults from what I’ve seen. Maybe kids are more likely to accept the help?


  13. Chuck says:

    HI Charles,
    From the response here, it is evident your weekly post is having a positive effect. I can see the results in you too because of it. Your defeated attitude (go back and read some of the first posts) has made a 180-degree turn. Great work; keep it up.


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