Anxiety Support.... Pushing vs. Encouragement
Anxiety disorders are when negative thinking patterns build into further anxiety and eventual panic and although it's not a physical condition in itself, symptoms are often similar to a range of other illnesses.... chest pain, palpitations, nausea, dizziness, irritable bowel and/or skin conditions.
Friends and family may not always recognise situations which trigger "anxiety attacks" or, may downplay them by not telling you what you feel you need to know beforehand.... in the belief it will make things easier. It’s important however for friends and family to explain things clearly, answer any questions you may have and recognise that you are already trying to manage potential triggers.... by becoming aware of coping strategies in difficult situations.
If family and friends are going to help, they need to know more about effective ways to support you. If you are facing a fear of going into a crowded party for example, arrange to go with a loved one; making sure they agree to stay with you during the evening and understand why this is important for you or alternatively, consider arriving a bit later and only staying for a short while instead.
Loved ones can also remind you about coping strategies if they know what these are; suggesting a coping thought, action or smell before things become too overwhelming. They may also want to practise some of these strategies with you, such as controlled breathing - it is sometimes easier to practise coping skills when someone is with you or willing to do them alongside you than it is to cope alone - but try not to assume friends and family will understand why you need their support; understanding is a two way street....
Despite what you (or they) may think, it's not helpful for friends and family to encourage you to avoid situations that make you feel anxious. Although avoidance may reduce anxiety in the short-term, it's not helpful in the long-term - using skills in anxious situations is the best way to cope with anxiety and stop it from controlling your life. Although you will benefit from encouragement and support, it's important to confront anxious feelings at your own pace and no-one elses because.... if you try and cope before you feel ready (to please someone else), you may instead feel overwhelmed, try to escape the situation or give up altogether. Exposure to anxious situations works better if it’s done gradually; starting with small steps and building from there.
Family and friends are therefore advised to gently coax you into facing your fears but not push if you say a situation is too overwhelming at the moment. They can instead support you to think about what you can do to face those fears in future, rather than focussing upon the fear itself and the avoidance you’ve attached it.