Helping Friends and Family Members with Anxiety

What helps friends and family members with anxiety?

Over 3000 people took DBSA's recent survey on anxiety and mood disorders. Here's what they said did and did not help them when they were dealing with anxiety.

How do your loved ones help you?

58% They listen to me talk about how I feel.
50% They reassure me.
47% They remind me not to be so hard on myself.
46% They give me space.
42% They support the idea that my illness is chemically based and not my fault.

In addition, many people wrote in responses. They said the best things their friends and family did for them was to:

  • Recognize what I am going through.
  • Talk to me, help me calm down when I'm keyed up or panicked. For example, if I lose something, help me think of where it might be.
  • Praise my accomplishments.
  • If I become very irritable, you might need to get out of my way.
  • Drive me to appointments, take me out to eat or go shopping with me when I'm able to leave home.
  • Comfort me.
  • Go to therapy with me.
  • Let me cry on your shoulder.
  • Help with expenses.
  • Tell me you care about me.

What do your friends or family do that you do NOT find helpful?

49% They put demands on me.
49% They act like nothing is wrong.
48% They tell me to get my act together.
47% They pressure me to go out and do things.
45% They blame me for what I can't help.

Additional responses included:

  • They treat me as if I am stupid or imagining things.
  • They tell me I am selfish and my illness is caused by bad life decisions.
  • They ignore the situation and hope it will go away.
  • They tell me I need to get a job.
  • They assume I could fix it if I didn't dwell on it.
  • They get irritated and tell me I'm getting tense.
  • They tell me I need to grow up.
  • They try to run my life.
  • They crowd me.

It's important to remember that every person is different and needs different forms of support. Talk to your loved one to see what you can do to help them.

Read excerpts from Talking to Anxiety, a book by Claudia J. Strauss for people who care about someone with anxiety

Ask the Experts

DBSA's Scientific Advisory Board Members on Anxiety

Other Organizations that Offer Help for Anxiety Disorders

The following organizations also offer help and information related to anxiety disorders. DBSA is not responsible for the content or accuracy of the material they provide.