We often feel we’d like to be able to help a family member or friend who is suffering from anxiety but we don’t know where to start. Though we cannot solve the problem for the person who is suffering, we can help.

There are many effective treatments for anxiety disorders, but they demand commitment and determination on the part of the person suffering to seek professional help. A valuable first goal of a friend or loved one is to estimate how serious the situation is and, if necessary, encourage turning to professional help. Here are five suggestions about how to help our loved ones in this difficult life situation.

1. Learn about anxiety.
Reading up about anxiety can help us understand what our loved one is going through. Behaviors that in the past seemed illogical and unexpected become more understandable and we can learn about how common these disorders actually are. The knowledge you gain will also enable you to refer the person to sources of help and practical methods of coping with their anxiety symptoms, and may clarify to you just how much professional help is really necessary.

2. Practice relaxation techniques together.
Relaxation techniques will help you and your loved one to better cope with common challenges. Relaxation calms the fear and recharges the body with new energies. Practicing these exercises together also helps to strengthen the connection between you and your loved one and reduces the loneliness that the anxious person may be feeling.

3. Be patient.
Anxiety disorders cause a great deal of distress. It doesn’t help to add to this distress by being critical or by pushing an anxious person beyond his/her limits. On the other hand, it is important to maintain a routine and not to sink into your loved one’s cycle of anxiety.

4. Share the burden with others.
Sometimes you may find yourself becoming the only sounding board for the anxious person. This can cause you to become exhausted and wear yourself out. Help your loved one find other outlets such as internet forums, support groups or other friends and family members. Share your feelings and the difficulties that you are encountering with friends or family members. This will help you to feel that you are not the only one carrying the responsibility of helping your loved one.

5. Consider recommending professional counseling.
Anxiety disorders are a medically recognized condition for which there is effective treatment. In many cases it is not possible to cope with an anxiety disorder alone and professional help is required. If you feel that anxiety is affecting your loved one’s ability to function normally in their day-to-day lives or is causing significant distress, suggest that he/she seek professional help.