Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health condition in the U.S., affecting up to 18.1% of the population annually. As Mental Health Awareness Month continues, learn more about what constitutes anxiety and how to help someone you know with this condition.
What Is Anxiety?
The first step in helping a friend or loved one with anxiety is educating yourself on this disorder. While everyone gets worried or nervous occasionally, anxiety is a pervasive problem that can be highly disruptive. Someone with anxiety might get paralyzed with fear over situations most people wouldn’t give a second thought about, such as going to a party or traveling in a car.
Because anxiety can seem irrational, you may feel tempted to dismiss your loved one’s concerns by saying things like “Don’t be such a worrywart,” or “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” However, it’s crucial to be sensitive to what someone with anxiety is going through, even if it doesn’t make much sense to you. Instead, ask them how you can best provide support during moments where their anxiety seems overwhelming. Validate that what they are feeling is real to them.
Types of Anxiety Disorders and Their Symptoms
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has identified five primary categories of anxiety disorders.
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social phobia
Anxiety can manifest itself in physical symptoms, such as sweating, shallow breathing or an elevated heart rate. Often, people with anxiety disorders struggle to maintain a positive outlook because of their persistent belief that the worst-case scenario will happen. Instead of confronting their fears head-on, they may practice extreme avoidance, such as refusing to attend social gatherings. They might also resort to repetitive or compulsive behaviors that they believe will prevent negative consequences, such as washing their hands over and over.
Encourage Someone With Anxiety to Seek Help
While anxiety disorders are highly treatable, many people living with anxiety fail to get the counseling they need to live fulfilling, happy lives. As a result, their anxiety could worsen, trapping them in a cycle of worry and fear. They may also develop co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or substance abuse.
As much as you might want to support your friend or family member, do your best to avoid enabling their anxiety by going out of your way to make them feel safe. Making changes to help your loved one avoid their source of concern doesn’t let them overcome fears and address the underlying cause of their anxiety. Instead, it restricts their world as their growing anxiety increasingly limits what they feel comfortable doing.
Dual-Diagnosis Treatment for Young Men
If you’re worried about a loved one’s mental health, the best way to help him is to convince him to enroll in an accredited treatment program. At Spearhead Lodge, we offer programming specifically designed to address young men’s needs, including life skills coaching, fitness, fun in recovery and therapy for co-occurring disorders. To learn more about achieving lasting recovery, contact us today.