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Explains anxiety and panic attacks, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
It can be really difficult when someone you care about is experiencing anxiety problems or panic attacks, but there are things you can do to help.
Try not to put pressure on your friend or family member to do more than they feel comfortable with. It's really important to be patient, listen to their wishes and take things at a pace that feels okay for them.
It's understandable to want to help them face their fears or find practical solutions, but it can be very distressing for someone to feel they're being forced into situations before they feel ready. This could even make their anxiety worse. Try to remember that being unable to control their worries is part of having anxiety, and they aren't choosing how they feel.
"[What helps me is] calmness, acceptance – not trying to dispel it with 'rational' or 'logical' argument."
"Be kind, be non-judgemental… let us know it will pass, let us know you are there."
Your friend and family member may already know how you can support them – for example, it might help to take them out of the situation, talk to them calmly or do breathing exercises with them.
By asking them what they need or how you can help, you can support them to feel more in control themselves. Knowing that there is someone around who knows what to do if they start to feel frightened or panicked could help them feel safer and calmer.
"Reminding me to breathe, asking me what I need..."
If you think your friend or family member’s anxiety is becoming a problem for them, you could encourage them to seek appropriate treatment by talking to a GP or therapist. You could:
(See our page on supporting someone else to seek help for more information.)
It can sometimes be really challenging to support someone with a mental health problem – you are not alone if you feel overwhelmed at times. It is important to remember to look after your own mental health too, so you have the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help.
This information was published in September 2017. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.