How to Talk to a Friend with Anxiety

friend with anxiety

Anxiety is a serious issue, and one that many people experience on a daily basis. It can be triggered by something that appears totally benign, or at least less than life threatening, by everyone else. To the person with anxiety, however, their fears are very real and can quickly bring about panic. If you are with a friend who is experiencing anxiety, you might accidentally make the situation worse if you say something inappropriate. Here are some tips for talking to a friend with anxiety.

  1. Stay Calm. Getting irritated will only keep your friend anxious. In the worst case scenario, it may even add to his overwhelmed feeling and make the situation worse. Take a few deep breaths before you talk to your friend if you find yourself getting frazzled.
  2. Get Close. Physical proximity can have  calming effect on your friend. However, ask permission first. If your friend is feeling short of breath, crowding around him might not help until he has begun to calm down a bit. When it’s OK, stand close and offer a hand on the shoulder or another comforting gesture.
  3. Avoid Confrontational Language. Don’t start debating about how ridiculous he is.  This won’t eliminate your friend’s overly fearful thoughts. Instead, comfort him with a soft tone, acknowledge his fears, and give reassurance. He may even know that he is being illogical, so pointing it out will only serve to make him more emotional and even embarrassed.
  4. Avoid Shutting Down.  When you go away in anger because of your friend’s anxious attitude, your friend is just left alone with his anxiety and thoughts.  Instead, ask about how scary things are and share your concerns.

About Jennine Estes, MFT

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653