How to Help Someone with Severe Anxiety

by - April 21, 2021

Mental health, anxiety, depression, trauma. I've heard these words float around quite recently, because I feel more people are opening up about their emotions off late. Mental illnesses have always existed. From the kings to the inventors, to a commoner like you and I. But they would suppress it in. Now I'm glad more number of people are coming out and expressing themselves. Probably the reason why a lot of us have become sensitive about mental health and prioritising it over any other thing. Probably why mental disorders and therapists are as important as any other illness and regular doctors. 

Just a disclaimer before we begin: I'm no psychologist. I don't intend to know more than a psychologist. I just want to help those having anxiety and their closed ones who so desperately wanna help but don't know how. Given the kind of situation we are in, with Covid related stress, I know it's likely to feel this way. I want to help more people feel safer and happier during this pandemic. 

Something I would personally like to add to those who are here to help a friend or a relative: Treat the person having anxiety like a flower; they're delicate, sensitive, and beautiful!


There are many people who still have no idea what is anxiety and/or what kind of feeling is called anxiety. Anxiety is your body's normal reaction to stress. It's a feeling of dread or worry about what's in the future or is to come. A job interview, a public speech, a client meeting, etc. may make some people feel scared and nervous.


Occasional anxiety is quite common and it is a part of life. However, when it happens frequently and when it is intense, excessive and continual, it is probably an anxiety disorder. Often, a person having anxiety disorder experiences repeated occurrences of instantaneous feelings of extreme anxiety/fear/terror that reach a height within a few minutes (known as panic attacks). 

Panic attacks are difficult to restrain, affect daily activities and can go on for a longer time. People experiencing these attacks may avoid certain places and/or situations to prevent from feeling anxious. Symptoms can be seen during childhood or teenage and may continue later on. 

Examples of anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder (obsessive-compulsive disorder or symptoms that include constant worry, restlessness, lack of concentration, etc.), social anxiety disorder (which is social phobia), specific phobias (fear of height, darkness, etc.), and separation anxiety disorder (high levels of anxiety/panic attacks when loved ones are out of reach). A person can have more than one anxiety disorder and sometimes anxiety results from a medical condition that needs treatment.


Ask them to go to therapy

"But can everyone afford therapy?" was my question to a college senior who recommended this. "There are plenty of group therapy options, which help to deal with anxiety specifically. The idea is to help people know they are not alone and we must make people aware about taking help for anxiety. Also, therapy costs a fraction of what we’d spend on conventional medicine." 

Here are a few therapist/group recommendations: Therapize IndiaAnxiety Drop (it's a new startup by a friend), Moving Minds India, Horizons Meet, Minding the Movie, Mindpeers, Sushreeta Sule, Inner Calm

Listen without judgments 

To be honest, unless the person asks you for advice, all they expect is an ear to hear them out. If you keep putting your own opinion on the table instead of listening them out, they will just shut the door. A lot of people do this. 

So just sit with them during their periods of anxiety. Just be with them on a call––or physically––whatever is possible. Things might be uncomfortable, like they may not talk, but try to be okay with it. Sometimes, people just want to have the presence around. So you can just try and sit with them in silence. However, different things will work for different people. Some may need to hear things like, "You've got this", "you have done this before, I know it's hard but you can do this", "this shall pass", "I am here for you", etc. Sometimes these statements too can ease out things. And some would prefer you not telling them things like "It's temporary; it will get over soon" or "It's just a phase of life".

Do not force things

Try to gauge the situation and do not 'force' them to be positive or happy, or do certain things. It's okay to be anxious and it's perfectly fine to just be without doing anything in those periods. This is what people need to know especially during anxiety attacks. And one has to know that this is temporary, and with small efforts, with small steps from both your and the person having anxiety's end, things can get smoother. 

Create a feel-good ambience

Placing an ice cube on the back of the neck helps. Lighting a eucalyptus candle or any diffuser helps too. What helps most though is understanding that you gave your best to things that were in your control and anything beyond that is destiny.

Change the schedule

Be available to people having severe anxiety; let them know they are not alone. Take them out somewhere to a nice place that would help them ease out or arrange an outing with friends. Make them read books when they are out. Change their daily sitting place, as the environment can play a huge role. Gradually, change their timetable. If they sleep early, make them stay awake by talking to them or watching movies and playing games. Make them sleep late. 

And if they sleep late usually, try to make them sleep early. Exercises will help them feel fatigue so they will sleep earlier. Increase their protein intake with some sweets and do not allow them to skip meals. 

The 5-4-3-2-1 method

This technique helps the person get back to their senses during anxiety attacks. It's basically being aware of these when you're having an anxiety attack:

- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell and
- 1 thing you can taste. 

This technique helps the person calm down as it is the use of all five senses. Ask the person having severe anxiety to say out loud what he/she can can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. 

Grounding technique

Another method to regain control over mind is by following the Grounding technique. Ask the person having severe anxiety to close their eyes and move their attention from their head to toe slowly. This technique also helps in noticing where one feels anything different in the body. 

Ask them to set smaller goals

When I'd raised the question How to Help Someone with Severe Anxiety on Instagram, a friend replied, "What I believe and what I know is that people with sever anxiety often only see the bigger picture and get intimidated by it. Because of this they start overthinking and that leads to anxiety. So I believe instead of looking at big picture or setting big goals, they should have a road map or set small goals which they can achieve easily and which will eventually lead them to achieve what they want."

Lastly, getting to the root of it and going back in time where the seed of fear was planted is important to design a solution. Secondly, accepting the fact that it is normal is vital. Ask the person to alienate themselves from their past and listen to them objectively. Ask questions in a way which would not feel invasive. Do not blame on small issues. Help them in social circle. Don't get them feel guilty. Appreciate and motivate on small successes. This will help them and they will get a sense of security and support. Medication and consultation will also help. 

Anything you would like to add to the list? Please comment below and help our readers out. 

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  1. Very informative and very well written.


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