How to Help Others with Anxiety and Worry

Helping a Friend with Social Anxiety

A friend who confides in you that she has social anxiety is indeed a good friend because she trusts you with her worries. Reassuring her that you will be with her on social occasions when that’s appropriate and possible would be a great support.

Also, asking her what worries her about being with other people can help her sort out her problem.

Does she get anxious in small groups, large groups, one on one, or with mixed company of various sorts?

That will narrow down her anxiety.

Then look at each time she gets anxious and see if she can specify what she is worried about and take each item nonjudgmentally one by one and discuss it.

Be careful not to be blameful in any way or make excuses for the other people who make her anxious. If it’s certain group of individuals who make her anxious, see if there’s a pattern in this group of people.

If the person is self-conscious about conversations, let them know that listening is a great way to ease anxiety because the other person will feel pleased by your attention and it give you time to think as well. Focusing on the other person you are talking to helps ease one’s own tension. Just follow along with the other person’s interests and thoughts and they will appreciate it and you will calm down.

Share with your friend her assets as a friend and companion so she remembers what is likeable and lovable about her. She needs this feedback especially when she self-doubts. Offer to talk on the phone before a social occasion that you won’t be at  with her. Then she can calm herself before she goes out.

What’s the Difference between Worry and Anxiety?

As a psychoanalyst I do not find there are too many distinct differences between worry and anxiety. In my book, The Busy Parent’s Guide to Managing Anxiety in Children and Teens: The Parental Intelligence Way, I point out that a state of worry gives way to anxiety.

Worry is defined as a state of anxiety over actual or potential problems. If we try to separate out the two worry is a lesser amount of anxiety over some problem. However, when it increases and someone becomes preoccupied with that worry we can definitely call it anxiety.

That is, worry can become obsessive which is anxiety that’s unrelenting.

Anxiety is a state of mind or mental condition that reflects concern that may be real or it may be undue concern or an overreaction to something that is disturbing a person. It’s helpful to help clarify the difference.

 8 differences between worry and anxiety

  1. Worry is temporary and brief.
  2. Worry is realistic concern about a situation such as a child touching a hot stove.
  3. Worry does not escalate rapidly. It refers to something that can be taken care of quickly.
  4. Anxiety is generally more prolonged.
  5. Anxiety can cause breathing problems with shallow breaths as one becomes more anxious.
  6. Anxiety can take different forms such as separation anxiety, obsessive compulsive anxiety, social anxiety, phobias, generalized anxiety or free floating anxiety and panic attacks.
  7. Anxiety when prolonged can lead to depression.
  8. Anxiety requires professional help when it is prolonged whereas worry may not unless it is obsessive.

In conclusion, I would say anxiety and worry have become interchangeable because worry is usually not brief and does lead to anxiety. Each could be considered to be on a spectrum of increasing distress. A last difference may be that when someone worries another person can reassure them quickly and permanently. Whereas, an anxious person also seeks reassurance but then needs that reassurance again within a short time, is more likely anxious. Furthermore, anxiety can be treated with medication whereas worry if it is incidental wouldn’t be considered a reasonable cause for medication.