Let me start by saying if you have a loved one who may suffer anxiety, don’t start being pushy about it. Anxiety will make them defensive and pushing can make them less likely to help themselves. You need to be supportive and to help them to learn more for themselves so they can recognise it. Shock tactics rarely work and often make things worse.
One thing we do when anxious is we hide it. Think about it. Anxiety makes us overly sensitive to criticism, if we felt like that, wouldn’t we work very hard to hide something that we fear might make people judge us and that would make us stand out?
Anxiety sufferers are usually overly concerned with other people’s opinions. As such they hide their anxiety. I hid mine for decades. Few people could spot it.
They will usually be more likely to be stressed and unhappy with work and relationships. Some people are driven to success by anxiety but it’s much more common for it to hold us back.
So, given that it’s hidden what can we spot? There are a number of common factors. If several are present it might be a clue. They include:
· Are they always busy at parties – always helping, in the kitchen working – but not mixing at social gatherings, never seem to sit still?
· When they are involved in a group or society are they always happier to be holding an office, doing a job, or volunteering than just being a regular participant?
· Do they promise the world but seem very poor at delivering?
· Do they seem tired a lot? They can go great for short periods but then seem fatigued most of the time?
· Are they overly defensive? Do they seem to hold on to small slights and stay upset about them?
· Do they over explain things even when it’s not necessary?
· Do they have to be seen to be right all the time?
· Are they touchy about small things?
· Do they seem to always have to be giving advice but do not take it from anyone else? Is their opinion being given a lot?
· Do they micro manage? Do they point out a traffic light has changed before you can react or similar?
· Are they the person to whom others go for advice or a shoulder to cry on, but never seem to need (or be able to take advantage of) help themselves?
· Did they perform worse than expected in school/college/further education?
· Do they work in a job that keeps them from having to deal with many people?
· Do they tend to avoid many social situations – always busy, unavailable, other excuses?
· Always busy but rarely seen to get good results?
· Are they putting things off a lot? Do they seem to be unable to get small things done, does it take ages to get around to simple tasks? Do things usually get done at the last minute?
· Are they always talking about what they will do, or what is coming down the tracks, rather than living in the now?
These are all examples of behaviour that is common to people with anxiety. None of the points, by themselves, mean a person is anxious, but if a person does many of these things then it might indicate that they are anxious. Remember anxiety will make them take things overly personally, worry about other people’s judgement of them, keep them from risking failure, and so on. Can you see how this can be the case in the examples above? If so then you can get a sense of how to spot anxiety.
If you’re seeing people acting like these examples, hopefully some insight into what they might be feeling will make it easier to be patient with them and less likely to argue back or get upset yourself.
Be gentle with anxious people and offer support or information if you can. Don’t push or give out to them, it only makes things worse. Help them move towards a better understanding of what they are feeling and how to reduce those unpleasant feelings.
I’ll post more tips to help deal with anxiety and some advice on how to help someone who is suffering with it in the coming weeks.