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Understanding Anxiety And the People We Love

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Anxiety is almost an integral part of our busy everyday lives, isn’t it? We worry about things as significant as our careers, our families, our health, or even as minor as what dress to wear to a business meet or what food to cook for the kids. For most of us, it’s just an added baggage that comes along with life. Irksome as it is, sometimes, we even benefit from it. Being anxious makes us cautious, makes us want to be perfect, makes us do just that extra bit coz we want to do it right! Let’s just stop right there, though. What we are talking about are mostly worries of our everyday lives. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are millions of people who are overwhelmed by their worries and fears to such an extent that it interferes with their daily lives. To them, anxiety is a very real disorder with not just a mental, but also physical grip over them. Anxiety manifests itself differently in different people. Most feel a general helplessness, constant dread anticipating the worst, an overwhelming panic for reasons sometimes unknown even to the sufferer and a feeling of losing control. A sudden panic attack causes severe heart palpitations, trembling, trouble breathing, hyperventilation and a feeling of passing out.

Those who suffer from anxiety understand best the challenge that it is. But there are also those who suffer looking at their loved ones suffering from anxiety. They try their best to help, sometimes without knowing how. Understanding the emotional and mental state of someone suffering from anxiety can be very difficult. If you are the partner or friend of someone experiencing anxiety disorder, here are a few helpful pointers.

They know their fears are irrational: People with anxiety often have constant dreads or fears that only they live through. To any outsider, it may seem like a completely irrational thought. But what may look illogical on the outside, is completely real to them. So don’t try explaining to them how silly their fear is. Because that won’t help. Most often they already know it. But they can’t stop worrying about it anyways. And that could make them feel worse. So don’t make them stop.

It’s not a choice: Don’t tell them they can defeat it if only they would try. Don’t tell them they have done something earlier, so why not now. They don’t want to be this way. Understand that this is as much of a health problem as any other physical disease. Don’t write it off as a psychological problem being exaggerated on purpose. Anxiety disorders need to be treated medically. People suffering from them need as much medical care, attention, support and love as sufferers of any other physical disease.

It Hurts: Panic attacks can physically hurt. Their hearts pound, they can’t breathe, they sweat profusely. Understand that they go through physical pain, as much as a heart attack. Be gentle and calm with them. Seek professional help in how you can be of help during such episodes.

It is tiring: Imagine the kind of mental and physical fatigue they go through with the constant worry, fighting this battle day after day. Don’t term them lazy. Don’t ask them to just get out and about and see how it makes them feel better. If it did, they would do it anyways.

Listen: Give them an ear when they want to open up about what they go through. Understand how difficult it is for them. Make it evident that your support is always there no matter what. Don’t advice. You don’t know how difficult it is. Be compassionate.

Observe: Panic attacks can sometimes have triggers. For example, going into public spaces and interacting with too many people can drive them into an overwhelming surge of panic. Observing what triggers attacks for your partner could help you avoid those circumstances.

Include Them: People with anxiety can sometimes ignore you for no reason you can understand. Offers to catch up, go someplace for a dinner with friends can be declined without explanation. Understand that they don’t do it, because sometimes they just can’t. Sometimes, it is just too much of effort for them to go out and talk to people. So let them be. Don’t pester them with whys. Don’t make them feel guilty for saying no. And don’t keep them out just because they didn’t join the last time. Understand that they would probably love to join you. Just ask each time so they can say a yes when they are ready.

Be Patient: You can be snapped at and hurtful words hurled at you. Steel yourself and learn to ignore what you hear during such episodes. Realize that most of the times it is their anger, bitterness and helplessness talking. They don’t actually mean to hurt you.

Don’t Push: Don’t ask them to partake in activities they are not comfortable in. Festivals & celebrations, for example, while a gala time for many can be very difficult for such people to handle. If they don’t want to go, don’t make them.

Give Space: Don’t constantly ask them how they are, if they want to talk about what’s on their minds, how their sessions are going. That’s all that they can think of already. Talk to them on things other than this. Topics they love sharing on. Their hobbies, passions. Things that light them up. Let them know you know and remember the sides to them unclouded by their fears. Knowing you know helps them believe in themselves. Don’t cram up their space. Give them time to be alone and do what they want by themselves. Make them feel wanted but also free.

Treat them normally! Don’t remind them of their issues by constantly worrying over them. Let them lead normal lives. Don’t restrict them going somewhere because you are worried they might have an attack. They know how to handle it. Encourage when they go out and interact by choice. Be there for them subtly. But don’t let them feel like they need constant attention to be safe.

Anxiety is treatable: Medicines and therapy help a great deal in helping a person shed that costume and get back to who they have always truly been. But remember, what does help them most is your love, support and understanding.

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