Our Customers
Products & Pipeline
Science & DTx
For business
About us
Contact us
US Payers
next arrow
4 Min Read

Mental Health Awareness: Supporting others with feelings of anxiety

15 May 2023

In the UK, the 15th to the 21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week, with May also being US Mental Health Awareness Month. While in recent years, the public has gained a better understanding of mental health, unfortunately, there’s still a certain level of stigma surrounding mental illness. That’s why these awareness campaigns are so important; to start necessary conversations around mental health and educate people about psychological conditions.  

This year, the UK Mental Health Foundation has chosen the theme ‘Anxiety’. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues, with one in ten people in the UK living with an anxiety condition at any one time. With this number in mind, it’s very likely that most people living in the UK know someone that’s been affected. And in the US, there is a similar picture with 18% of people aged 18-54 having an anxiety disorder in any given year. So, supporting a person with anxiety can be difficult and saying the wrong thing may be a concern. It can be helpful to learn more about anxiety to gain a better understanding of how someone could be feeling and figure out how to best approach the situation.

What is anxiety?

The UK NHS describes anxiety as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.”

Everyone can experience anxiety every now and then, especially when faced with a stressful situation, like an exam or a job interview. These feelings are the body’s natural fight or flight response which kicks in when we encounter a potential threat; in preparation to respond to or run away from danger.

However, anxiety becomes a problem when people are unable to control their worries and live in fear of something bad happening. This can affect day-to-day living and influence behaviour, causing withdrawal or going to excessive lengths to avoid triggers. Plus, in some cases, a build-up of anxiety can lead to anxiety attacks.  

There are many different kinds of anxiety disorders, from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) to social anxiety, agoraphobia (which the Mayo Clinic defines as fearing and avoiding places or situations that might cause panic and feelings of being trapped, helpless or embarrassed) and more. And sometimes, anxiety can be the result of another mental health condition. Mental health is unique to individuals, and anxiety manifests itself differently from person to person in the form of emotional and physical symptoms:

Symptoms of anxiety

Emotional symptoms may include:

  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying
  • Feeling nervous, tense and restless
  • Feeling easily irritated
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Fearing the worst-case scenario
  • Needing reassurance from others

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath  
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling tired or lethargic  
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Digestive issues
  • Feeling nauseous
  • A dry mouth
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Shaking or trembling

Behavioural symptoms may include:

  • Withdrawing from people
  • Avoiding the things that make you nervous
  • Struggling with work
  • No longer doing the things you usually enjoy
  • Using substances like alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism

How you can support someone with anxiety

  1. Learn about anxiety

One of the best things you can do when supporting someone with an anxiety disorder is learning about their condition and the symptoms they may experience. This will help you to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they may be going through. Read some accounts of other people’s experiences here.

  1. Validate their feelings

Sometimes when people are experiencing anxiety, their fears may seem irrational and their worries out of proportion. Rather than minimising their feelings or saying things like “I don’t understand why you’re worrying about that”, approach the conversation patiently without judgement. Let them know that it’s okay to feel how they feel and allow them to talk it out.  

  1. Ask how you can help

If you’re unsure how to help a person who’s experiencing anxiety, ask them how they would like to be supported. Perhaps you could go for a walk in the fresh air or practice breathing exercises together. If they’re not sure how you can help, you may want to check in with them regularly just to let them know that you’re there if they need you.

  1. Support them if they need professional help

If you can see that a person’s anxiety is worsening or having a negative impact on their life, you could encourage them to seek professional help through their physician or a therapist. Offer to attend a medical appointment with them or help them to research the different ways that they can access treatment.

  1. Look after your own mental health  

Supporting someone with anxiety can be challenging and it’s important to take care of your own mental health, too. Be sure to set boundaries so that you don’t take on more than you can manage and end up wearing yourself out, emotionally or physically. If possible, it’s a good idea to share your caring role with others so that the person who’s struggling has other people to rely on, who you are also able to talk to about the situation.

Anyone struggling with anxiety should seek support, talking to their GP about what help is available. Depending on where you live in the UK, you may be able to access text-based CBT with ieso through your GP. Find out if you are eligible here.

If you live in the US, you can access further support by contacting your Primary Care Physician or learn about alternate options here.

For this year's UK Mental Health Awareness Week and as part of US Mental Health Awareness Month, our latest blog looks at ways you can support someone with feelings of anxiety.