How to help someone with anxiety: 5 ways you can offer support

Knowing what to do or say, or how to provide the right support to someone experiencing anxiety can be hard.

Whether it’s seeing anxiety symptoms in a family member, observing signs of social anxiety disorder or social phobia in a friend or noticing a work colleague experiencing regular panic attacks.

When someone close to you is living with anxiety, sometimes just being there while they are going through a hard time is the best way to help them.

However, if you want to provide some extra support, read on to learn our top five recommendations.

1. Understand anxiety disorders and recognise symptoms

One of the best ways you can help someone with anxiety is by gaining a better understanding of what they are going through, and by educating yourself on the mental and physical symptoms they may be experiencing.

Anxiety disorders come in various forms and are experienced uniquely by everyone, which means it's important to remember that what is helpful may vary between different people.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias are all different types of anxiety disorders, each with unique symptoms and challenges.

Educating yourself on what symptoms your loved one may be going through can be helpful in being able to offer the best support.

You can learn more about these different anxiety disorders in our blog, What is anxiety? A comprehensive overview.

2. Start a conversation and listen

As we’ve mentioned, sometimes just being there for someone through a hard time can make all the difference.

An important part of this is encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling, and being a good listener.

By gently asking how your loved one is feeling, you're demonstrating your support and respect for what they are going through.

It can also be helpful to let them know that you’re there for them, that they aren’t alone, and to remind them that there is hope for things to get better.

At the same time, active listening plays a big role in these conversations. When you actively listen, you show that you're engaged, and you genuinely care about their experience.

You're not merely waiting for your turn to speak, but absorbing and understanding what's being said, which can build trust, promote open dialogue, and make the person feel valued and heard.

3. Offer practical help

Beyond emotional support, providing practical help can be beneficial for someone living with anxiety.

This could involve assisting them with tasks that may seem overwhelming when they’re going through a particularly hard time.

For example, if social situations trigger their anxiety, offer to accompany them to events or run errands together.

Sometimes even just offering to take a responsibility off their plate, such as picking up some groceries, can lighten their load.

Offering to help with practical tasks can reinforce that the person living with anxiety is not alone and that you are there for them.

If they don’t accept your help, that’s okay too and it’s important to respect that. Simply offering assistance can make a huge difference.

4. Encourage seeking professional help

If it seems like anxiety is starting to impact someone’s daily life, encouraging them to seek help from a mental health professional is important.

This can look different from person to person, depending on what stage of their journey they are at.

It may simply be a gentle reminder that support is available, or you could offer to help them research what option might be best for them.

Professional help can range from psychotherapy to behaviour therapy (including online therapy), medication, lifestyle changes, self-care coping strategies or even employment support.

Encouraging your loved one to seek help doesn’t imply they can’t handle their issues themselves. It validates their challenges and acknowledges that it's okay to ask for support.

5. Do an activity together

Sometimes the best thing you can do to support someone living with anxiety is to simply offer to do something you both enjoy together.

This can encourage a positive mindset and foster hope that things could get better in the future, as well as remind your loved one that you are there for them.

Doing something they enjoy can also help take their mind off things for a little while, and encourage them to live in the present moment.

While it can be hard to know how to provide the right support for someone living with anxiety.

You may worry about saying the wrong thing, at the end of the day just being there, educating yourself and gently encouraging them to seek professional help is often the best support.

Remember if you or someone else is ever in need of immediate help, don’t hesitate to call 000.

To learn more about anxiety disorders, head to our blog Living with anxiety: symptoms, treatment, coping strategies, employment and supports.