This section is for friends and family who want to support someone who experiences anxiety or panic attacks.
It can be really difficult when someone you care about is experiencing anxiety, but there are things you can do to help.
Empathise with them
Try to think about how you feel when you are anxious about something yourself, and how you prefer people to help you – for example, by remaining calm and allowing some time for your anxiety to pass. Even though your friend or family member's situation might be different, this might help you better understand how they feel when they're going through a bad time.
Be kind, be non-judgemental… let us know it will pass, let us know you are there.
Try not to pressure them
It's understandable to want to help someone face their fear, or focus on leading them towards practical solutions, but it can be very distressing for someone to feel forced to face situations before they're ready – and it could even make them feel more anxious. By staying calm and listening to your friend or family member's wishes, you can support them to do what they feel comfortable with.
[What helps me is] calmness, acceptance – not trying to dispel it with 'rational' or 'logical' argument.
Ask them how you can help
Your friend and family member may already know how you can support them – for example by going through a breathing exercise together, or by calmly offering a distraction. By asking them what they need or how you can help, you can support them to feel more in control themselves.
You might also like to show them our page on self-care for anxiety, to help them think about things they could try, and how you might be able to support them.
Reminding me to breathe, asking me what I need...
Learn about anxiety
You might feel more able to help your friend or family member manage their anxiety if you learn more about the condition yourself. Organisations such as No more panic, Anxiety UK and Triumph over phobia (TOP UK) all provide information and support for carers, friends and family members.
Encourage them to seek help
If your friend or family member’s anxiety is becoming a problem for them, you could encourage them to seek help. This could be through their GP or a support group, such as those run by Anxiety UK and No Panic. You could ask them if they would like you to:
- help book an appointment
- attend an appointment with them
- explore sources of support together
(See our page on supporting someone else to seek help for more information.)
Look after yourself
Supporting someone else can be stressful, so it's important to remember that your health is important too, and make sure to look after yourself. Taking care of your own wellbeing can help you maintain the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help someone else.
(See our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else and how to improve and maintain your wellbeing for more information about how you can look after yourself as well as your loved one.)
This information was published in February 2015. We will revise it in 2018.