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Supportive Friends Help to Reduce Anxiety

The Anxiety Bible, in a brief few paragraphs, asserts that a supportive social network is one of the many parts of a successful recovery from anxiety.  However, the few brief paragraphs there do not e...

The Anxiety Bible, in a brief few paragraphs, asserts that a supportive social network is one of the many parts of a successful recovery from anxiety.  However, the few brief paragraphs there do not elaborate enough to help an individual to understand what a supportive friend exactly is, and what effects can result from having supportive friends (Stelter, 2009, 4).

The best way to demonstrate this point is simply to use a hypothetical example that is based on real-life experience, in this case, my own.  Having at least one person or place (There are group anxiety meetings available; some are paid, some are free) to discuss anxiety is very beneficial in life, and the more places and opportunities one has to discuss the situations which are causing him or her anxiety, the better.

First, let us detail what a supportive friend or relationship is like.  It should be noted at this point that many of us anxiety-sufferers have no supportive friends at all and have no idea what a supportive relationship is even like (which explains higher anxiety levels for many of us).  A supportive relationship is one where one can talk about his or her feelings without fear of judgment or repercussion.  The supportive friend, when hearing that a certain person or situation is causing his or her friend anxiety, will try to relate or sympathize with the person suffering anxiety.  Supportive friends will also try to help in any way they can, and are always available to chat and are generally good about returning calls promptly and making appointments.  Being able to disclose feelings that bother us, like anxiety, leads to an increased level of emotional well-being and happiness.  When someone discloses these anxious feelings and is heard and understood, that makes the person feel valued.  This feeling of happiness and value means that a person’s anxiety level reduces.  Even though it may seem small, each and every time a person discloses anxiety successfully, he or she reduces his or her anxiety and increases his or her relaxation and happiness.  This technique is universal to all human beings and has the same positive benefits to all persons on earth.  Long-term physical effects that result from decreased anxiety and increased happiness include fewer physical sicknesses (flu, fever, cold etc…), reduced duration and intensity of physical illness, and reduced chance of almost any medical condition one can think of (more anxiety leads to increased stress which leads to poorer personal health, so the more one addresses his or her anxiety, the better his or her mental and physical health).

Now, let us delve into the negative aspect of this concept.  Unsupportive friends are by far the majority of people.  People in general do not know how to talk to one another, or have very superficial friendships.  This accounts for probably 90% of all relationships on earth, and yes, the author does realize how drastic of a claim this is, but it seems to be true.  An unsupportive friend, when hearing that his or her friend struggles with anxiety, will dismiss the feeling as being invalid.  He or she may tease the anxiety sufferer, laugh at him or her, state that his or her own problems are much worse, say that this issue is really not a big deal, or may simply tell the sufferer simply to get over the problem.  These types of responses make the anxiety sufferer feel invalidated, humiliated, stupid for having such “silly” problems, and just generally worthless.  This increases the sufferer’s anxiety level, reduces his or her relaxation and happiness, and encourages the sufferer to keep his or her feelings to himself and not trust other people, which is a difficult way to live life.  Long-term physical health effects include increased frequency, intensity, and duration of physical illness (fever, flu, cold etc…), as well as depression, sleep deprivation, increase risk of addiction, and increased risk of suicide.  Anxiety-sufferers in particular are at a much higher risk than non-anxiety-sufferers in relation to addiction.
It is very obvious from this information that the best thing to do is to find someone that somebody can talk to so that he or she can live a much happier and healthier life.  But, as noted before, many of us have never experienced a supportive relationship, so where do we go about even finding one?  Well, this can be quite a daunting task, but the following paragraphs will present a few ideas.

First, check out the local library (this is where anxiety and other mental health groups often meet) to see if any free anxiety-relief groups exist.  Also check your local NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill – typically found only in more urban areas) chapter, as this is another possible resource that would supply free anxiety support groups.  These groups are excellent places to build supportive and caring relationships.  Another idea would be to get involved in volunteering at local human services organizations; people that volunteer at these local organizations or that work there are typically more focused on the value of people, rather than the value of the money the organization is producing, and are willing to take the time to listen to the problems of others.  The last free resort might be to call the county or city department of human services or a local counseling agency, as they might be able and are generally willing to point people in the right direction of free services.

A few of us have good insurance policies, or make enough money such that we can afford professional services.  The previous paragraph discussed free resources because many of us do not have the money to afford professional help.  If one has financial access, he or she will easily be able to obtain supportive relationships relatively quickly.  Paid anxiety recovery groups and counselors are readily available anywhere and everywhere, so if this is an option, the pursuant will find much quicker success than the one pursuing free help.

A couple more tips to keep in mind while one is seeking the supportive relationships one needs will now be discussed.  The first is that, as noted before, the vast majority of people are not interested in or have no knowledge of these types of relationships, so finding a supportive relationship may be very difficult.  It is cliché to say, but it is often true that if “a person can make one real friend in his or her lifetime, then that is no small accomplishment.”  I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.  The final thing to keep in mind is that friends come in all shapes and sizes, so be open-minded and remember that your needs are more important than what your friend looks or acts like.  For example, one might find a friend or mentor that is twenty or thirty years older, the opposite sex, or perhaps from a very different cultural background.  The person may seem strange at first, but if you take the chance and get to know them and they get to know you and you both find that you have quite a lot in common and can trust one another to help each other in time of need, then you have found a friend indeed.
Keep working away it; all good things come in time if you just keep working at them!  And remember, you always have your friends at the Anxiety Support Network’s anxiety forum if you ever need help!

Stelter, D.J.  (2009).  The Anxiety Bible.  The Anxiety Support Network 2009 Article Series.  Retrieved February 10Article Submission, 2009 from

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