8 Ways to Help Someone With an Anxiety Disorder

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Chances are you or someone you know has an anxiety disorder since it is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over eighteen percent of the population (reference). But do you know how to help that someone, or better yet tell others how to help you if you are the one who has the anxiety disorder?

Below are eight ways to help someone with an anxiety disorder.

  1. Be predictable. Don’t surprise them. If you say you are going to show up at a certain time, be on time. Don’t change plans at the last minute or bring an unplanned guest to dinner or take them on an impromptu date or a spur of the moment trip. People with anxiety need time to prepare mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, for most events. Give them that time and notification well in advance.
  2. Don’t assume you know what the person needs, ask them. How long do they need to prepare for events? Don’t guess. Ask them. When they are worried or stressed, don’t come up with solutions for them. Ask them what would help them at that moment or in general. If they don’t know then tell them you are there for them when they think of something, which brings us to number 3.
  3. Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery. Don’t pressure them to get well quicker than they are able to. Don’t expect fast fixes or for coping skills to work perfectly every time in every instance. Recovery is slow and messy. It is not a straight forward moving process. It is some steps forward and many back and some more forward and back again. Eventually the forward steps out number the backward ones, but it happens over time, not over night.
  4. Speaking of progress, it is best to find something positive in every attempt at progress. Meaning even if the attempt is unsuccessful that time, something positive should still be acknowledged about the attempt so as to encourage subsequent attempts in the future.
  5. Take care of yourself first. Don’t sacrifice your own life wants and needs too often. This will only lead to resentments later on. It will do neither of you any good if you both are ill.
  6. Don’t get emotional when the person with the disorder gets upset or panics. Keep a calm, cool demeanor, talk with a compassionate tone and when all else fails take a time out, telling the person you need to walk away for a moment to gather your thoughts, and come back when you can deal with him or her. If he or she is being irrational, sometimes it is impossible to rationalize with him. It is best just to validate his feelings (because feelings are not right or wrong, they just are) and keep him safe and see number 7.
  7. Encourage them to seek out therapy. You are not a professional. And even if you are, you cannot treat your own friend or family member objectively. Most people with anxiety disorders need some type of professional help.
  8. Finally never ridicule or criticize a person for being anxious or panicky. It is truly a physiological and psychological phenomenon beyond their conscious control in many instances that takes months, if not years, to figure out and overcome.

If you have any questions about anxiety disorders in general or panic disorders or complex PTSD, I have experience with all of them and would be glad to discuss. Leave a comment or contact me via my Facebook page here.

Reference: http://www.HealthyPlace.com

Why I Never Get Used to Being Stable as a Person with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Not barely one month ago I wrote here about my mental illness, and praised the universe for my glorious period of stability.  Months of relative non-dramatic and chaos and anxiety-free days left me to do as I pleased with family and friends; with hobbies and productive work.  I even made money doing something I absolutely love to do!  ME!  Someone on disability, making a dime doing a creative job for people that I would be doing anyway on my own.  It was a dream come true this summer, I tell you, a dream come true!  And then IT happened.

One day, all of a sudden, I dreaded the next paid gig that I was so eager to do just weeks prior.  The thought of having to do it; of being obligated to do it now weighed so heavily on me I started feeling panicky.  I was overwhelmed at the thought of all it entailed and so, so unmotivated to go through with it.  All I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and hide for the next … well, indefinitely.  I couldn’t focus on the amount of steps the whole job called for and I especially couldn’t cope with the social interactions it forced me to have.

Then two weeks later, the kids went back to school and things only got worse from there.  My depression plummeted to another level as I spent every day at home alone in bed with no purpose other than to get up when they came home seven hours later.  I came across this awesome mental health pain scale put out there by Rori, the Graceful Patient, and thought, “By God, I am already at a solid 6 going on a 7 here, and I was a fricking 1 five weeks ago!”

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As an aside, before my stable period this summer, I was in a mild depression for several months through the end of spring.  This is me.  This is the life of rapid cycling bipolar disorder.  It is not pretty or fun or predictable.  Although, many times the depression does coincide with transitional events like the kids starting school in the fall and ending the school year in the spring, so there is some predictability in that sense.  But, for the most part it is riding a mood wave that ebbs and flows over the course of weeks or months, sometimes even days when it gets really ugly.

So, here I am, turning to the thing I always turn to when I start to feel crazy: writing.  I get into that darkness and I write myself out (i.e, “write into the light” = this blog’s name.)  I also went and saw my doctor, of course, and told her what was going on.  So, I’m starting yet another new med this week.

I have been on so many medications I couldn’t even name them all.  No joke!  I seriously wouldn’t remember all of them that I’ve tried over the last 17 years.  I do know we make changes or adjustments at least a couple of times a year due to my rapid cycling.  She told me one time she has some patients with bipolar that go years without a med adjustment but not me and my rapid cycles.  I’m what they call “hypersensitive”…to people, to meds, to situations, to changes, to seasons, to temperature, to noise, to lights, crowds, to smells.  I also fall under the description of an “empath” as well, which explains a lot of my ills after being around certain people and large crowds.  It also explains my excellent intuition.

All of this just makes me realize this whole mood disorder, sensory system, personality thing is very complicated and intertwined.  Who’s to say what one thing is and what’s another or where one thing begins and another ends?  People are complex.  Don’t judge or compartmentalize, if you can help it.  We are all so much more than our labels.  Kind of makes me want to retitle my post.  But, for Google’s sake I won’t.  Google search likes labels. 🙂

Do you or anyone you know experience rapid cycling moods?  How do you cope with it?  What helps you manage?

Things are Getting a Little Personal

I noticed over the past year my posts have become somewhat generic and distant, like making small talk with someone at the water cooler. I haven’t offered much of anything in the way of myself or my personal struggles with mental illness. It’s not for lack of having symptoms, trust me! It’s just been easier to report the facts and keep anything extra under wraps.

My fear is mostly that my anonymity will be compromised, so I hesitate to write about anything in too much detail. I suppose my paranoia could be considered a symptom of my anxiety disorder, so there’s that.

I have recently become more open with family and friends about the limitations my anxiety disorder places on me as far as the things I can’t do, the places I can’t go, and the physical pain it causes me, especially if I push myself beyond my limits. I think this has surprised them some these last few months. I’m not sure they understand, but they seem supportive.

I feel blessed that I haven’t had a major depressive episode in quite a while. I do a little dance between hypomania and a brief down fall every spring turn summer, but other than that my mood disorder is fairly stable. It’s just this darn anxiety mixed with intermittent panic attacks.

I’ll continue to write what I know, sharing knowledge about mental health and mental illness, incorporating my voice a little more than I have been lately.

In the meantime, I’d like to know what you would like me to write about. I’ve written meditations, essays, writing prompts, poetry, and reported on research articles. What would you like to see more of?

When Panic Attacks Here is What You Can Do

Symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • Racing heart
  • Shallow, rapid breaths
  • Tunnel vision
  • Sweaty palms
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Crying
  • Shaking, tremors
  • Irritability
  • Increased sensitivity to sound, lights, touch
  • Inability to focus or concentrate

There is usually a precipitating factor or something that has caused or is causing the panic attack to occur. Or fear about future events or a future incident can incite an attack. 

One way of dealing with it is to distract yourself from thinking about said event by reading a book, watching a show or playing a game. Draw, paint, listen to music or go for a relaxing walk. Find something to distract youself from your anxiety producing thoughts. 

Another way to cope is to take a short nap. Sometimes your brain just needs a break and it is okay to give it one. Just make sure not to overdo this one as it can become chronic and unhealthy. 

Talk to a trusted friend or professional to get the thoughts and feelings out of your head. Releasing them decreases the power they have over you. Also, problem solving ways to reduce anxiety is way more successful when you work on it with someone else. Keeping it to yourself only intensifies it. Trying to figure it out on your own only makes the anxiety worse. 

When possible don’t.do.anything.  Panic attacks are the body’s response to overstimulation. Resting in a quiet calming room may help tremendously. Experiment with what works best for you and take the time and breaks you need to let your system return to normal. 

Panic attacks are scary. Uncomfortable at best. Not your fault. Be kind to yourself when they come. Get through them the best you can and move on. Talk to a healthcare professional if they become chronic or significantly interrupt your life or cause you serious adverse effects.  There is medication and other treatment options that can help. You are not alone.