Here’s How You Can Be A Better Friend To Someone With Anxiety

Step 1: Ask them what they need.

Anxiety can be difficult to define -- and deal with -- since it can manifest in so many different ways. While everyone is prone to feeling stressed at times, "people with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations," Mayo Clinic notes. These feelings of anxiety can seriously interfere with a person's everyday life.

Some people experience symptoms of anxiety before they're 10 years old. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "8% of teens ages 13-18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6."

If you have a friend who has anxiety, there are many ways you can be supportive. We've collected some tips here, and though they might seem small, they can mean a lot to those living with this issue.

Always, Always, Always Ask What You Can Do


"With any friend in need I think the best thing to do to help them is to ask them what might be helpful," Dr. Andrea B. Safirstein, a psychologist and adjunct associate professor of psychology and education at the Teachers College of Columbia University, told MTV news. "People respond differently to different types of support, so the simple question 'how can I be helpful?' shouldn't be underestimated."

Avoid Saying 'Everything Is Going To Be All Right'


While often well-intended, vague statements like this aren't always helpful. "Unfortunately, telling someone [who is dealing with anxiety] that 'everything is going to be alright' won't do much, because nobody is going to believe it," Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told the Huffington Post. "Reassurance sometimes can be a bad method. It makes them feel better for 20 seconds and then doubt can creep in again."

Instead, Bea said, you can support your friend by assuring them that "it's okay to feel what they're feeling."

Make Plans With Them

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"Structure helps a lot with anxiety and depression," Safirstein told MTV News. "Making plans with the friend or simply helping them structure their day or week so as not to have a lot of down time to feel anxiety" can be helpful.

Get Your 'Om' On Together


"Exercise is amazing for people suffering with anxiety," Safirstein said. She also suggested yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.

Suggest Outside Support


"Talk therapy (insight oriented or cognitive behavioral) and psychopharmacology (medicine) are enormously helpful to alleviate anxiety symptoms," Safirstein said.

She added that it's important to know your limits. "As a friend, you aren't a clinician. You can support, but ultimately therapy isn't in the job description of friendship. No matter how much you care for someone, it can damage a relationship long term. Most of the time, it's better to leave it to the experts."

Take Care Of Yourself, Too

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"Remember to take care of you," Pamela Wiegartz, clinical psychologist and the director of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Services and Training at Brigham and Women's Hospital, wrote in Psychology Today. "When someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, it is all too easy to focus on helping them and to forget about your own needs. Be sure to stay well yourself — talk to friends for support, get your own therapist, consider joining a support group or an online discussion board."

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