Facebook Pixel

Communication Insight for Anxiety Disorders

Rate This
Communication Insight for Dealing with Anxiety Disorders B-D-S/PhotoSpin

Anxiety disorders are not like normal anxiety. What's experienced by someone diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder differs from the case of nerves you might deal with before a meeting with your boss, or an important event.

The anxiety felt by someone diagnosed with GAD is much more complex and much harder to control. Anxiety is not something that can be cured through logic or reasoning. Heightened levels of anxiety experienced in GAD is chemical and needs special treatment, similar to treating a disease.

When experiencing anxiety, your brain chemistry changes to create negative thinking. It becomes harder to think positive, which makes it harder to control the anxiety. When you are nervous about one thing, you can also become nervous about other things as a result.

The vicious cycle continues and the anxiety causes you to develop a fear associated with it. Communicating with a loved one or friend that is experiencing anxiety is a difficult process that requires a lot of patience.

According to the editors of Calm Clinic, many of whom have first-hand experience with dealing with anxiety, someone with anxiety can experience physical symptoms even when they are not mentally anxious. One of the symptoms of a panic attack is a feeling of imminent death or doom, combined with physical symptoms similar to a heart attack, such as a tightness or intense pounding in the chest.

Anxiety makes people feel lost and alone. Knowing someone is only a phone call away can reduce that feeling.

People often try to help someone with anxiety by saying something that can snap you out of your struggles. This doesn't work and is more likely to just make them more anxious. What's a friend to do?

Avoid getting frustrated. Anxiety disorders are just as chemical-related as they are thought-related. People suffering from this type of anxiety are often aware that their fears may be irrational, but they cannot stop the thoughts from coming as much as they try. It is unfair to expect them to use logic to control their anxiety, as it can be close to impossible.

Try your best not to bring up their anxiety often as this may trigger them to have a panic attack. If they need to talk about it, let them bring it up. Conversing about things other than their condition will help maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives as they move through this difficult phase.

Kate Thieda, therapist and author of the book "Loving Someone with Anxiety," outlines ways a partner can better understand anxiety and strategies they can use that will allow them to effectively communicate with their significant other, without feeding into or enabling their fears.

Thieda advises educating yourself about anxiety. The more you learn, the better you will understand what your partner is going through. Let your partner know they can talk to you openly, without any fear of judgement.

It is important to avoid accommodating your partner’s anxiety, though, even if it makes both of your lives easier in the present moment. For example, if you do all the errands, eventually you will burn yourself out, which will be detrimental for your relationship.

Believe it or not, making accommodations can exacerbate your partner’s anxiety. It gives them little to no incentive to overcome it and it may actually fuel their anxiety.

You can avoid increasing their anxiety by setting boundaries. For example, if your partner continues asking you to drive everywhere, you are allowed to tell them on occasion that you cannot because you wish to do other things. Be empathetic when you speak to them. Use “I” in your statements often, and specify your requests.

For example, instead of saying “Don’t call me at work,” you can say, “I need to get some work done. I will talk to you after work.”

Instead of saying, “You want me to do everything for you,” you can say, “I can't run that errand for you today.”

Instead of saying, "You are driving me nuts," you can say, "I won't be able to see you this afternoon."

You want to help this person you care about. That can be a difficult and sometimes long-term challenge.

The most important takeaway message is: You have your own needs that also need tending to. You have a right to do things independently, and taking care of yourself is essential if you want to maintain your relationship.

Read my article Crisis Communication 101 for more information on communication insights.


12 Tips for friends and family of those with anxiety. Calm Clinic. 24 May 2015.

What to do when someone you love is anxious. Psychology Today. 24 May 2015.

How to support an anxious partner. Psych Central. 24 May 2015.

Reviewed May 25, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment1 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I refuse to perpetuate the already debunked "brain imbalance" theories that keep people stuck in their diagnoses for life. After all, if a patient is told it's permanent, it's more likely to become permanent. I have seen this in my own life and the lives of others. I am happy to say that by ditching that brain theory and disposing of "diagnosis," I became happier and healthier than I have been since the day I walked into the Mental Health System and said those three words I now regret: "I need help."

Julie Greene

May 28, 2015 - 1:36pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Anxiety Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!