However you got here, you likely clicked this because you want to find out how to help a friend with anxiety. Thank you for being here and being a good friend!
You also may have clicked on this because you struggle with anxiety yourself, and want to see if these tips ring true for you. If that’s the case, let me know what you think of this list!
A quick disclaimer, I am NOT a mental health professional, I am speaking from my own experience with anxiety.
1. Be clear about your plans
If you make plans with a friend who struggles with anxiety, try not to change them at the last minute. Gatherings or events can take a lot of mental preparation for someone with anxiety, and changing plans at the last second moves the goalposts.
If you’ve invited them over to your house but forgotten to mention that you’ve invited over 4 other people also, this will cause them anxiety.
You may not intend to put them in an uncomfortable position, it may not have even occurred to you to mention it, but I promise it will make the world of difference to your anxious friends.
Make sure you give them a heads up about what to expect! They’ll appreciate you for thinking of them and be better mentally prepared.
2. Forgive them for bailing
Sometimes they will bail on plans. Understand that it’s not personal!
I have been invited to many things that I was genuinely excited to go to, only to wake up on the day and want to vomit from anxiety at the thought of going. It was never anyone’s fault, I just couldn’t face it that day.
You may be tempted to simply stop inviting them to things, maybe you believe it will help their anxiety, but being left out can often feel worse.
I have had people tell me they didn’t invite me to something because they know I have anxiety. It came from a caring place, and they believed they were saving me from anxiety, but it really just made me feel like a burden.
Remember that people with anxiety want to feel like normal people too! Keep inviting them, but be prepared to be a bit forgiving if they can’t make it.
3. Don’t ditch them
This one is simple.
If you’ve invited them somewhere, stick with them! Obviously you’re not a babysitter, but there is nothing worse than getting ditched in an unfamiliar situation.
If you have to go do something, or see someone, check in with them and let them know, don’t just disappear. This goes double for a situation like clubbing!
4. Don’t make fun of them
If they mess something up or are uncomfortable, please don’t turn that into a joke for everyone else at their expense.
I can promise you if your anxious friend messes something up, it will be burned into their brain, and it’s probably one of their biggest fears.
Even if you mean to poke fun in a lighthearted way, it can be hurtful. No one likes to have their flaws or mistakes loudly pointed out, and that is especially true for people with anxiety!
5. Don’t get frustrated
Please don’t get frustrated at your friends anxiety. They don’t mean to be the way they are, and your frustration will absolutely make them feel worse.
6. Don’t brush it off
If they tell you they’re anxious about something, believe them! Don’t assume that it’s something they can just get over.
Anxiety is not something that responds to logic or reasoning. Telling your friend with anxiety that there is nothing to worry about, as helpful as it may seem, will not help them.
Don’t assume that they will be fine in a situation just because you would be.
Anxiety is such a beast because we know there are no man eating monster waiting in the walls to devour us, but that doesn’t mean the anxiety isn’t very real.
Anxiety does not require a genuine threat to be debilitating.
7. Don’t make a big deal out of them needing help
Ordering food, going through a checkout and other seemingly simple things can be terrifying. If they ask you to do something like that for them, please do not make a huge deal out of it.
Something as small as grabbing your friend a drink, can be hugely helpful, and they will appreciate the consideration. What may be a small task for you may feel monumental to them!
8. Be a friend they can talk to
Just because they may struggle with interactions doesn’t mean they don’t want friendship! Let them know that you’re there for them, and try and spend some time with them in a low pressure environment.
Let them know that you understand that they’re anxious, and that you love them anyway! A common theme in anxiety is believing no one likes us, having a friend who will accept the anxiety and be there anyway, is priceless.
9. Don’t out their anxiety to others
Struggling with anxiety can be a great cause of shame. It may seem small to you to share their anxiety with other people, but it may feel like a betrayal of trust to them.
People struggling with anxiety will generally be very careful who they tell, as a self protection measure. If they’ve shared that with you, that means you’re someone they really trust!
Please don’t betray that trust by sharing their anxiety with others, unless you have their permission.
10. Don’t pressure or guilt trip them
What you may see as encouragement, may come across as pressure. Unfortunately this usually has the effect of causing them to withdraw further.
For example if they tell you they don’t want to drink alcohol, don’t tell them they have to, or try and convince them.
If they tell you they are not comfortable being in a large group of people, don’t tell them they’ll be fine and assume that should change their mind.
If your friend has told you that they don’t want to do something because they’re uncomfortable, listen to them. Just because you don’t understand the hesitation does not mean it doesn’t come from a very real place of discomfort.
Invite, support, but don’t pressure.
Remember to look after yourself!
The fact you are looking up how to help a friend with anxiety, means you are a great person and a caring friend. However if you’re an empath, you need to look after yourself too.
Remember that while your anxious friend will greatly appreciate your place in their life, you shouldn’t ever feel like you’re managing their anxiety for them.
If you enjoyed this article or found some good tips on how to help a friend with anxiety, please consider giving it a share! You also may like this gift guide to shopping for people with anxiety.