Helping a Friend Cope with Anxiety Disorder

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Your friend, always a solid, pulled together person, has abruptly begun showing signs of an inability to cope with the normal activities of the day. He talks about the headaches he has, spends a lot more time in the bathroom than usual and often looks a bit flushed or sweaty. You've noticed an occasional slight tremor in his hands, and he doesn't seem to be as outgoing or on top of things as usual.

Could this be anxiety disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety is what we feel when we confront some level of danger or discomfort. Evolutionarily, anxiety served to keep our senses sharp and ever-prepared for danger. Today, for many ,the anxiety doesn't switch off.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is something that usually develops over a period of time. A buildup of worries and problems can overwhelm the system and cause loss of sleep, muscle tension and an inability to relax.

GAD isn't always the result of a specific issue or event that causes a spike in worrying. Rather, it evolves over a longer period as the body's ability to handle the daily stresses we all face begins to erode. There may be other issues that contribute - depression is a common one, as is post -traumatic stress disorder – but GAD can appear without any apparent triggers. GAD also appears to be common in multiple generations of some families.

Treatment

Treatment options for anxiety are many. There are many pharmaceuticals available that specifically address anxiety. Some are for long-term management of symptoms and others are for near-immediate relief from severe anxiety episodes.

Talk therapy is extremely useful in educating the patient as to what is happening and coming up with methods to address symptoms. Stress-relieving exercises give patients tools to use to lessen or even eliminate anxiety “attacks” that might otherwise disable them. Breathing techniques may be learned that can lessen the severity of acute anxiety episodes.

Many patients benefit from yoga, tai chi or meditation techniques. All of these serve to focus the mind and achieve a stillness within, and achieving this can be a perfect antidote to anxiety.

How to Help Your Friend

Your friend may not realize that he is suffering from GAD. Most of us tend to think of anxiety as the worry we feel before important or critical events. That level of anxiety normally disappears after the event is complete. When the event is over, and the anxiety remains or increases, that is anxiety disorder.

Don't be afraid to talk to your friend about this. Talking it through might give your friend some insight as to what is triggering his anxiety. That can be a starting point for either seeking treatment or coming up with some coping techniques on his own.

Be supportive, but not insistent. Let your friend know that you are there to support him, not to judge him. Severe anxiety can cause someone to feel embarrassed, which simply adds to their anxiety levels.

Reassure your friend that, in most cases, GAD can be successfully treated and managed.

Sources: Calm Clinic,Helpguide and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

image courtesy NIMH

 
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