Second-Hand Anxiety

It’s hard knowing when someone you care about is not having it good…

Whether it’s a family member, friend or boyfriend.

As we’ve mentioned before, Dale has anxiety. What most people can just deal with within a second, or quickly justify the matter, anxiety is a longer and more exhausting process of doing what we non-anxieties do quickly. There are so many various ways of helping someone who is suffering anxiety, but not everyone’s the same.

Two of my colleagues at work suffer from anxiety, and both have different ways in which they express and deal with it. One needs time away from the situation and becomes very emotional. The other becomes angry or frustrated and needs to punch something. Dale withdraws into himself, going very quiet and distracted. I’ve worked out that talking to him, sometimes about what’s causing the anxiety or sometimes about something non-related can help him.

It’s important to know that there is no prescribed rule/guide book in dealing with Anxiety. 

I don’t suffer from anxiety so I’m not going to pretend that I understand what anxiety sufferers go through. The only experience I have is second-hand. I’m not going to proclaim my experience is any worse or any better, because it’s a totally different situation, but maybe this analogy can help you understand:

You’re on a frozen lake with a friend, family or partner. All of a sudden, the ice cracks and your companion falls in, and almost at the same time, your feet are frozen so you cannot move to help them, all you can do is shout for help and shout encouragement to the person in the freezing water. You can’t physically help them, and through the panic, the other person is only hearing a few words that you’re shouting.

When I see Dale withdraw, it’s like that analogy. Sometimes, the analogy will end in me being able to break the ice around my feet to help him, sometimes it’s him being able to get himself out of the water. Sometimes it’s a bit of both. It becomes even more difficult when other people around don’t understand, and make quick, outside judgements.

So how would I recommend helping out someone?

  • Take your cues from the person. Most of the time, they know best how to deal with their anxiety.
  • Don’t pressure them. Sometimes, just taking a step back, but being a presence for them for when they’re ready to talk is enough.
  • Don’t brush off their anxiety as something stupid or unreasonable. Sometimes, you will find that the anxiety sufferer knows that their anxiety is over something small but the last thing they need is someone telling them they’re being silly for how they’re feeling… they have no control over it.
  • Don’t say it will be okay, unless you know it will be okay. They will trust you more and feel more able to come to you with their anxiety when they know you are going to be honest with them.
  • If they are open to it and at that moment ready to hear it (and you feel able to give it), pass some advice on how to deal with the issue. Maybe even offer to be around when it comes to dealing with it, if it’s appropriate.
  • Be compassionate and not judgemental. Anxiety isn’t a personality trait and is very distressing. 

I don’t pretend to know all there is about Anxiety. In fact, I’m still learning from Dale. It’s not something you can take a course in, get a qualification and “hey presto”, there isn’t any Anxiety you can’t deal with. Most of the time, yes, I can bring Dale back quite easily, but that’s just one person who I spend a lot of time with. Even then, his anxiety is different every time. I also find it fairly easy with Dale because Dale trusts me to be honest, non judgemental and able to cope for him.

Sometimes, when I know that Dale has tried to overcome and deal with his anxiety himself but it’s become too much for him, I’ll just let him know that I’m proud of him for even getting as far as he did. Sometimes I worry whether it’s a little patronising, but I think in some cases, Dale needs to hear that he did well.

However, I don’t think I’d find it as easy with my work colleagues. Yes, I know the very basics of what they’re going through and what their brain is doing, but their ways of dealing with it are so different.


Do you suffer with anxiety? Or have any other ways of helping out?

So I want to try and open this up to people commenting (not for ‘blog brownie points’) to help everyone get an idea of how to help out. 

Do you have a way of which to deal with Anxiety, which either you’ve found helps your own anxiety or even another? Comment below so we have a wide range of ways of giving someone a friendly helping hand.

Thanks guys x

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Author: Alli

Howdy! Artist | Illustrator | Designer |Photographer | Waitress What do ya know... I'm a round-house aspie lover!

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