10 ways to help a friend with anxiety

Fatmata Kamara
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager
08 March 2023
Next review due March 2026

If your friend often struggles to sleep, worries a lot, or is easily overwhelmed, they might have anxiety. Anxiety is common and can affect people of all ages. It can be hard to know how to help someone with a mental health condition. Here are some things your friend probably wishes they could tell you about their anxiety, and how you can help.

group of people having a warm drink together

1. Understand that anxiety can be hard to control

Your friend may be struggling to control their anxiety as sometimes it can appear without an obvious reason. Being anxious can be exhausting and can make it hard for people to focus on anything other than how they’re feeling. People with anxiety can have physical and mental symptoms which can make daily life a challenge. So, understanding this can help you offer your friend the support they need.

2. Support them with social situations

Having anxiety can make it more difficult to socialise. This can be because of social anxiety, or because they find it difficult to be out in crowded places. When someone is experiencing a sudden(acute) episode of anxiety, they might be worried about the visible symptoms this can cause – such as sweating or shaking. It may help your friend if you offer to go with them to new social events or meet up on a 1-2-1 basis.

3. Do relaxing activities together

Your friend may be exhausted and always seem tired. You might not understand why. But even though they aren’t doing a physical workout, their mind can be very active, which is tiring, and can cause physical symptoms. Why not suggest you do a relaxing activity together, such as yoga, or swimming, which may help to reduce their symptoms.

4. Be aware of their anxiety triggers

Different situations and environments can bring on anxiety. Public places, social situations, work events and even using a public toilet can be very anxiety-inducing for some people. If your friend has social anxiety, they might be worried that people are going to laugh at them, or that they will say or do something embarrassing. They will probably be worrying about it before, during and after the event. Reassuring your friend that you can’t notice any visible signs of anxiety can help them to relax.

5. Be patient with your friend

Anxiety can come out in a variety of ways. Your friend might be irritable with you or overreact to things they wouldn’t normally react to, such as being startled or surprised. Try not to take it personally and be patient with them.

6. Offer support

Ask your friend what they need. Sometimes they might just need a hug. It’s important to let them know that you’re there to support them, and they can ask you for help without being scared to do so.

7. Avoid saying “stop worrying”

People with anxiety are often aware that they’re worrying too much, that they need to try and calm down, or that they are overreacting. But telling them this won’t help. They already know it and if they could do it, they would.

8. Accept that your friend might cancel plans

If your friend doesn’t want to do something, it might be because they are really struggling with their anxiety. Don’t try to persuade them to change their mind or force them into situations, as this can make them feel worse.

9. Don’t give up on them

Don’t disappear. Keep up the invitations – even if your friend continually declines or accepts and then cancels later. Suggest something that will involve just the two of you. Some days are better than others and your friend will feel better for being included.

10. Think about how you would like to be helped

If your friend tells you they are feeling anxious, be aware that they might not know why, or be able to explain. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. But also accept their answer if they can’t tell you what’s worrying them in that moment. Instead try and empathise with them. Think about how you would like to be helped in a situation when you’ve felt upset or anxious.

The best thing you can do to help your friend is to learn about, and understand, what they’re experiencing. Be patient and kind, and don’t give up on them – they need you. Encourage them to seek help from a medical professional, such as a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) therapist, who can help them manage their symptoms.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. You’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara (she/her)
Mental Health Nurse Global Case Manager



Julia Ebbens, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • Generalised anxiety disorder. Patient., last reviewed 23 March 2022
    • Anxiety and panic attacks: What does anxiety feel like? MIND., published 2021
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    • Anxiety and panic attacks: How can other people help?MIND., published February 2021
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