Ask Emma: How do I help a friend struggling with anxiety?

Emma gives advice on how to help friends struggling



Wondering how to help a friend with anxiety? Emma has you covered.

SAYDEE PHOTHIVONGSA, Evergreen news editor

Editor’s Note: Even though Emma Ledbetter has graduated, The Daily Evergreen has decided to continue the Ask Emma segment with a new author in honor of our friend Emma and all the people she has helped.

Dear Emma, 

I have a friend who struggles with anxiety. It’s not something she hides from people, she is pretty open to talking about it and helping her loved ones understand how she feels. Usually, she manages her anxiety really well. But lately, she has been acting strange and I’m afraid that it is because of her anxiety. When it becomes too much to handle, she tends to shut people out. I know that she only does this so that no one can see the worst of what she is going through, but I hate to think that she is going through this alone. I try to reach out to her but I’m afraid to push her away more. How can I show my support without intruding on her healing process? I’m just so worried about her. 


Concerned Bestie  


Dear Concerned Bestie, 

It can be so disheartening to watch a loved one go through struggles and feel like there is no way we can help them. Before I go on, I want to remind you of something: 

You are a good friend. 

It’s always good to remind yourself of this in situations like these because when anxiety causes our loved ones to pull away, it can feel personal. You may start to wonder if it was something you did or if you’re not someone they are comfortable talking to about it.  I can also understand the fear of not wanting to push her away any further. 

I’m glad to hear that you seem to know your friend well enough to know some of her anxious behaviors. I think the best way to know how she wants to be supported in these situations is to ask her.

Once this bout of anxiousness has passed, consider sitting down with your friend and telling her exactly what you told me. You hate to see her going through this alone and you want to know how to best help her. I think she will really appreciate being asked how you can help her because help looks different for everyone. 

I’m going to be honest here, this is about as much as you can do. You are showing her support by simply letting her know that you are there for her and would do anything to help if she needs it. 

It might also be worth it to ask if anything else is going on. You mentioned that she has been acting differently than she usually does when she’s anxious, so this behavior could be related to something else in her life.

As far as being able to cope in times when she is distant, revisit my little reminder that I began this whole spiel with. Remind yourself that you are a good friend. When you are feeling shut out or distant from her, try to remember that this is how she chooses to heal and supporting her means respecting her space. 

I would bet that you care at least a little about your friend (or else you probably wouldn’t be seeking advice on how to help her), so just know that when she feels ready, she will open back up to you again and let you in. 

Good luck!