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Helping a Loved One with Panic Disorder

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Updated March 04, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Do you have a loved one who is faced with the difficultly of having an anxiety disorder. If you have a friend or family member with panic disorder, you may know all too well about the challenges they must handle. People diagnosed with panic disorder often deal with complex symptoms that may negatively affect various aspects of their lives.

It can be tough to watch a friend or family member try to deal with panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms. You may need to be supportive, patient, and encouraging towards your loved one who is managing life with panic disorder. The following describes some ways you can assist a friend or family member who is dealing with this condition.

Gather Information

Panic disorder is a mental health condition that is often misunderstood. There are many prevalent myths about panic disorder that only seem to contribute to the stigma of this condition. For example, many people believe that panic attacks are exaggerated or can be controlled. Even professionals who treat panic disorder debate about the diagnostic criteria of this condition.

You can be supportive to your loved one with panic disorder once you sort through some of the misunderstandings about his or her condition. To better understand his or her symptoms and recovery process, try reading more about risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options. Understanding more about panic disorder can also help you to empathize with their experience.

Information on Panic Disorder Basics:

End Enabling

You may be unknowingly preventing your loved one from recovery by enabling her or somehow allowing her to continue without seeking treatment. For example, you may run his personal errands or otherwise help him avoid situations that may trigger panic attacks. It’s possible that you believe you are being protective. However, enabling a friend or family member with panic disorder prevents them from managing their condition and building their coping skills.

It is your loved one’s responsibility to seek out treatment and manage his or her condition. You can be supportive without doing the work for them. For example, encourage your loved one to seek out treatment options, offer to be there when they face different challenges, or simply listen when they need a shoulder to lean on. Just do not enable them. Allow your loved one to do the necessary work to recover.

Support Their Treatment Efforts

Your friend or family member may deny that they need to find help or may not want to seek out treatment. You can be helpful by encouraging them to get professional help. Let them know that you will be there for them as they work through the treatment process.

Your loved one will have numerous treatment options to choose from. Prescribed medication, psychotherapy, and self-help techniques are the most popular choices. Expect them to experience both success and setbacks throughout the treatment process. It will be beneficial for you to remain encouraging that they stick with treatment without pressuring them to do what you believe is best. It will also be very helpful to remain reassuring as your loved one tries to maintain success after treatment.

Practice Patience and Praise

Panic disorder is marked by many difficult symptoms that can take time to overcome. Give your loved one the time and space they need to work through their challenges. Their small successes may not seem like much to you, but will gradually make up the building blocks of their recovery. Praise your friend and family member for their progress and try to remain patient as they learn to manage their condition.

Find Additional Support

Caring for someone with panic disorder can lead to a lot of personal stress. To deal with your own feelings, consider joining a local group for loved one’s of people with mental health disorders. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) offers resources and support groups nationwide for friends and family members who have been affected by a loved one’s struggle with mental illness. Such groups can help you learn more about their condition, express your concerns and emotions with others who can relate, and learn more ways to help your loved one cope with panic disorder.

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  5. Helping a Loved One with Panic Disorder - Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Panic

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