In the year 2013, there were 8.2 million mental heath cases in the UK alone. One of the 8.2 million was probably a friend of yours – they may have openly told you about it, or you may have put two and two together yourself. Helping someone with anxiety can be hard if you have no experience in doing so, so here are some tips on showing that you’re there for them.
Firstly, try to understand what “anxiety” actually is. Do your research and try to understand what your mate is going through! Every human being will come across a feeling of ‘anxiety’ in their lifetime, but someone who suffers the mental disorder of anxiety has an abnormally anxious response to some day to day situations which most people would find just fine.
AnixetyUK define an anxiety disorder as the following: “Anxiety is a normal response to stress or danger and is often called the ‘flight or fight’ response. This process involves adrenalin being quickly pumped through the body enabling it to cope with whatever catastrophe may come its way. The problems arise when this response is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation, or indeed is generated when there is no danger present.”
Secondly, check up on them. A simple text will mean a hell of a lot to them. Knowing you’ve got a friend there if you’re needing to talk is a great feeling as mental illness can cause a large sense of loneliness. Many people with a mental illness are reluctant to bother friends and family with their issues to prevent coming across as a burden, so if you text or call them first they won’t feel that way. Even if they don’t want to talk about anything, it’s nice to know someone is there and thinking of you.
As Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower says, “I’m both happy and sad at the same time and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Thirdly, still ask them out with you. Unfortunately, people with anxiety often don’t want to go out much, but the invite still means a lot. Even though you’re 90% sure they’ll decline, by still asking them it makes them feel wanted. Also, anxious people may need a bit more persuasion to go out – try to gently encourage them to come out with you if you know it is something they’ll probably enjoy, without pressuring them into it.
Fourthly, expect mood swings. Sometimes your friend will be on Cloud 9, other times they’ll be unbelievably sad and often they won’t actually know why. As Charlie says in Perks of Being a Wallflower, “I’m both happy and sad at the same time and I’m trying to figure out how that can be.” There will be times when your anxiety-filled friend will just want to be off grid for a bit, other times they’ll be happy to come and socialise.
Fifthly, don’t ask obvious questions or say obvious comments. Some things can really sting for an anxious person. In my opinion, the worst ones are “What do you have to be anxious about?” – well this is the issue isn’t it, it wouldn’t be an anxiety disorder if I was anxious about normal things. Also, “Just be happy!” – if it was that bloody easy I would be but unfortunately my brain and thoughts aren’t currently letting me.
Lastly, try to be non-judgemental. As the video above shows, those ‘dramatic’ feelings they get are genuine. Anxiety can cause you to drown in your thoughts making the anxiety swallow you up. This is why people are reluctant to speak to people about how they’re feeling because they think people will think they’re being overdramatic – the more empathetic and approachable you are to your friend, the more likely they are to talk to you.
Overall, anxious people are sensitive beings and need a little extra looking after compared to some of your other friends. As well as the negative aspects of it, there are positives to being friends with an anxious person; they’re extremely thoughtful and very empathetic meaning they are great listeners. To distract them from their own anxieties, they like to help others. It’s not all that bad being friends with a nervous Nelly.