Often those who struggle with anxiety are afraid of what others will think of them. They don’t want people to see them experience a panic attack or other anxiety-related problems. Often, they try to hide it. They may avoid social gatherings or skip church. Here’s how you can help them.
Help them understand that we’re all alike. People who struggle with an anxiety disorder are normal human beings responding in a predictable way to a certain set of beliefs, thoughts, and fears.
Try not to be judgmental. Anxiety is not a weakness in the person. Experiencing normal anxiety shows we care about the thing we’re anxious about. A positive way of looking at people who struggle with anxiety is this: they just care too much.
Empathize with them. Be genuine. Listen to understand their feelings, appreciate why they struggle, and communicate what you understand. Empathy is the most effective quality of counseling.
Don’t tell them not to worry. It won’t give them any relief. It also shows that you don’t understand how change occurs. Help them identify what they can realistically do about what worries them.
Don’t tell them they’re being irrational. They’ve got to recognize troublesome thoughts and behaviors for themselves. If you tell them they’re being irrational, they may stop confiding in you, thinking, “I can’t talk to you. You think I’m an idiot.”
Give them support. Encourage them to get help. Their bishop can help them find a good counselor. In a crisis or on a difficult day, offer to help with a difficult demand or task, such as teaching a lesson, fixing a meal, doing laundry, mowing the lawn, tending children, and so on.
To learn strategies for controlling anxiety, read the full Ensign article, “Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders.”