How can you detect anxiety in your loved ones?
What is anxiety?
The most simplified definition of anxiety is a ‘fear of a perceived danger’. It can become problematic when the fear is out of proportion to the perceived danger, and/or the anxiety interferes with everyday functioning (for example, concentration at work, ability to engage in usual activities such as sport, etc).
How can we detect anxiety in our loved ones?
Each person is different, but here are some common characteristics to look out for –
1. Behaviour For example, excessive use of electronic devices such as social media, avoiding work, withdrawal from social events, and sleeplessness
2. Mind and feelings For example, irritability, expressing negative thoughts, or crying more often
3. Body For example, headaches, heart racing, and stomach aches
What do you do if you suspect your loved one is struggling with anxiety
1. Start with what, not why – When you talk to them, describe what you have noticed in your loved one, rather than trying to rush into an explanation or assumption as to why they might be acting this way
2. Show them you are available for them if they feel able to explain what is going on.
3. Empathise – Try to understand things from their perspective, and show them you are trying to do this
4. Normalise – Explain that anxiety is a normal reaction to perceived danger, but it can sometimes get out of hand if you don’t get a little help
5. Structure some sort of stability – Because for anxious people change or uncertainty is difficult. For example, try and incorporate a regular routine such as the same time for bed each night, or the same place to visit each week (such as a relaxing outdoors walk, or a trip to the cinema)
6. Look for any root causes – For example, a new boss at work, or conflict between friends, or a recent transition (such as moving house, or starting a new sporting activity)
7. Develop their resourcefulness and resilience – Demonstrate where they have used their resources before, and build on that. Give them opportunities to practice, for example, letting them request things, rather than speaking or doing things for them. Sometimes a behavioural diary can help, to keep a track of their increasing resourcefulness and resilience
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Chris Warren-Dickins LPC , Licensed Professional Counselor in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Sessions are available in-person, or online
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