What should I do if a friend is suffering from an anxiety disorder?

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

It may be that you are not the one suffering from an anxiety disorder but that a friend or a family member you care about is, and you would like to give them support. If that is the case, here are a few suggestions to be there for them:

  • Be the compassionate and understanding ear they need – What would make you feel better might be very different from what they need to feel better.
  • Always be gentle and reassuring in your voice, ask them how you can best help them (i.e. “What do you feel you need right now?”)
  • Sometimes, a calm and reassuring presence without offering solutions can be all they need to feel safe and to open up to you. Do they need advice and guidance, or do they need a compassionate and nonjudgmental ear?
  • Actively listen to them, show them you are completely focused on them by making eye contact, avoiding interrupting, clarifying what they say, encouraging them, and making them feel validated in their feelings.
  • Don’t pressure them to share. No matter how willing you are to help, sometimes people don’t feel comfortable sharing their experience. In this case, don’t pressure them to do so and instead share with them a list of resources such as websites and helplines (see above section) that are totally confidential and that they can reach out to for support.