Anxiety Disorders

If you, a family member or friend is experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, there is help. NAMI is here to provide you with support and information about community resources for you and your family.

Find education programs and support groups at your local NAMI. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org if you have any questions about anxiety or want help finding support and resources.

Helping Yourself

Anxiety disorders can impact even the smallest details of life. It’s important to get help and learn how to remain resilient during difficult times. Here are some ways you can help yourself move forward:

  • Become an expert. Learn about medication and treatment options. Keep up with current research. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.
  • Know your triggers and stressors. If large groups make you nervous, plan to see the Sunday matinee. If taking a walk outdoors reduces your anxiety before a big meeting, schedule a 10-minute walk before the meeting starts. Being mindful of triggers and stressors will help you live your life with fewer limitations.
  • Partner with your health care providers. Actively participate in your treatment by working with mental health care professionals to develop a plan that works for you. Talk with them about your goals, decide on a recovery pace you’re comfortable with and stick to your plan. Don’t quit when something doesn’t go well. Instead, talk to your doctor or therapist about possible changes.
  • Get healthy. Studies have reported that 30 minutes of vigorous, aerobic exercise can eliminate symptoms, while low-key activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi relieve stress. Regular exercise can reduce many symptoms. Diet is also an important factor, so try to eat healthy, balanced meals and pay attention to food sensitivities. In some people, certain foods or additives can cause unpleasant physical reactions, which may lead to irritability or anxiety.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. These substances may seem to help with anxiety at first, but can disrupt emotional balance, sleep cycles and interact with medications. Coffee, energy drinks and cigarettes worsen anxiety.
  • Find support. Share your thoughts, fears and questions with others. NAMI offers support groups and education programs, as well as online discussion communities.

Learn more about managing your mental health and finding support while living with mental illness.

Helping a Family Member or Friend

Learn about your loved one’s triggers, stressors and symptoms. By being informed and aware, you may help prevent an increase in symptoms. Look for things like rapid breathing, fidgeting or avoidance behaviors. Discuss your friend or family member’s past experiences with them so they can recognize the signs early as well.

  • Play a role in treatment. Increasingly, mental health professionals are recommending couple or family-based treatment programs. And on occasion, a therapist might enlist a loved one to help reinforce behavior modification techniques with homework. Ultimately, the work involved in recovery is the responsibility of the person with the disorder, but you can play an active, supportive role.
  • Communicate. Speak honestly and kindly. Make specific offers of help and follow through. Tell the person you care about her. Ask how she feels and don’t judge her for her anxious thoughts.
  • Allow time for recovery. Understanding and patience need to be balanced with pushing for progress and your expectations.
  • React calmly and rationally. Even if your loved one is in a crisis, it’s important to remain calm. Listen to him and make him feel understood, then take the next step in getting help.

Find out more about taking care of your family member or friend (without forgetting about yourself!).

 

Reviewed December 2017