We have all been there: the anxious, worried feeling before a big change occurs or you have to speak in front of a large group of people. This is a natural reaction to stressful situations, and can often help an individual to manage a difficult situation. However, many people feel this kind of anxiety, fear and worry outside of these challenging situations and without a reasonable cause. If you have noticed these feelings have started to impact yours or a family member’s daily life, then it may be indicative of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is not a single condition, but rather an umbrella term that is used for a group of related conditions; such as acute stress disorders, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorders. Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state and affects the emotions and behaviours of an individual; it can create feelings of fear, worry, concern and uneasiness. When this anxiety becomes so excessive that it affects your mood, relationships, behaviour and responsibilities, it may be considered a disorder.

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterised by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for this concern. People exhibiting symptoms of GAD tend to expect the worst; they have difficulty suppressing their worry about their health, finances, family, relationships, work, and/or schooling. Often the fear and worry experienced is unrealistic or out of proportion to the situation. These negative feelings tend to take over the person’s life to the point where their fears severely affect their daily functioning causing them to avoid certain situations due to their unrealistic fears and irrational thoughts.

It is difficult to watch somebody that you know and love to suffer with these difficulties on their own. It not only affects their own life, but the lives of those around them from living carefree and happy. You may have tried to support them, talk to them about their concerns or push them to try to do things even though they feel anxious about it – but often none of these will work. They may need professional help from a practitioner who has specialised training in breaking down the underlying concerns and reducing the symptoms.

Additionally, the emotional strain the occurs from watching a family member suffering with these difficulties can be immense. The impact of this may be starting to impair your own functioning and ability to support them. It may be beneficial for you to seek your own help as well in order to be a better support for your family as a whole.

Psychologists can provide specialised assistance through:

  • Relaxation training
  • Educating you on the disorder of anxiety, common experiences of people who have it, and the treatments that are effective in reducing the symptoms
  • Providing you with information on the best ways to support people who have anxiety symptoms, and building up your skills in this area
  • Providing an emotional support for you to release any concerns or negative thoughts
  • Help you find ways to discuss the disorder with your family member and encourage them to accept help for it