Being there for someone with anxiety or depression


When a family member or friend is feeling sad or anxious, it can be awkward when you don’t know what to say. You want to help – and not make matters worse – but how?

Dr. Emanuel Maidenberg, UCLA psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, has recommendations about how to help someone in distress.

Offer a consistent, calm and reassuring presence. Doing so demonstrates love and support for the person and shows him or her that there is someone to provide perspective and help problem-solve.

Remind them of their strengths. Recall instances when they overcame tough situations by using certain qualities. Often people feel disconnected from the most positive aspects of themselves when suffering from depression and anxiety.

Be prepared to have your suggestions ignored. Be patient and continue to show up. Encourage them to take care of themselves, such as by exercising and eating healthy.

Use helpful phrases. These include, “I can see how what happened makes you feel upset,” “I wish I could do something to help you feel better” and “Can I tell you what helps me when I feel stressed and upset?”

Avoid other ones. “You have so much to be grateful for. How can you be sad?” “Try to get over it,” and “I know how you feel.”

Remember that depression and anxiety, although common, can be debilitating and may worsen over time. Formal diagnosis and treatment from a mental health professional may be necessary for some people, Maidenberg says. Depression and anxiety are often treated with medication, psychotherapy or both.