20 Ways To Ask For Help If You’re Experiencing Anxiety

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When you have anxiety, it isn't always easy to figure out where to start or what to do in order to feel better. And it can be even more difficult to reach out to friends or family for support, thanks to the stigma that often surrounds mental health. But it's important to keep in mind there are lots of ways to treat anxiety, as well as plenty of folks who are willing to help.

"There's a societal pressure to keep going, put your best foot forward, and never show vulnerability or weakness," licensed clinical psychologist Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, tells Bustle. And yet, one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is acknowledge your anxiety, and then try to develop a few connections.

"There's strength in opening yourself to another person and asking for help and support," Dr. Lopez Witmer says. "It's freeing and leads to closer relationships and improved mental health." This might include going to therapy, having a heart-to-heart with a friend, or even joining a support group.

Of course, there are ways to ease yourself in if talking about your anxiety makes you uncomfortable — or if it feels inaccessible. There are anonymous chat lines you can call, as well as affordable (and even free) therapies you can try. It's all about figuring out what sounds good to you, and deciding to go for it. Read on below for ways to reach out for help for your anxiety, because you can definitely feel better.


Consider Your Resources

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Anxiety can make you feel alone, but there are all sorts of people you can reach out to for support. "It can be anyone: a family member, friend, colleague, religious leader, and of course, a therapist," Ruthie Kalai, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Don't suffer alone because help is out there."


Set Up A Time To Chat

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Once you reach out, "let the person know that you need to talk and ask if they have time," licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD, tells Bustle. That way they'll be in the right frame of mind to listen, and you'll feel more supported as a result.


Be Selective

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Keep in mind, though, that not everyone will be receptive to hearing about mental health issues, and not everyone's a good listener. So you'll want to be selective when it comes to who you reach out to, Dr. Daramus says. Choose someone you know will be respectful, such as a friend or family member who has dealt with anxiety before.


Take To The Internet

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If you don't have anyone to talk to, or feel uneasy about opening up, never fear. "There are anonymous helplines, websites, and forums [where] you can connect to talk about what you're struggling with," Kalai says.

This is often a great way to start talking about anxiety in a nonjudgmental environment.


Try Twitter

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"Twitter has a great mental health advocacy community, 24 hours a day," Dr. Daramus says. You can find a lot of support there, and feel less alone.


Share A Safety Plan

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"If you have panic attacks or other severe anxiety in public, consider sharing a safety plan with friends and family so they’ll know how to help you," Dr. Daramus says.

After all, not everyone understands anxiety or knows how to help. But they can get better at it, especially if you let them know what you'd like them to do or say the next time you're feeling bad.


Be Specific

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It's also a good idea, in general, to be more specific about what you need.

"People can generally better respond if you give them concrete ideas," clinical psychologist Lisa Stines Doane, PhD, tells Bustle. "So rather than saying, 'I need you to be there for me,' say [...] 'I've been so worried lately, so if I come to you with these worries, please ask me if I want you to listen or if I want you to help me minimize it.'"

That way your friends/partner/family/etc., won't have to guess, and you'll feel more supported.


Find A Therapist

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"Therapy for anxiety can be extremely helpful," Dr. Doane says, "so if you're not getting the support you need from friends or family, or if your typical ways of coping aren't cutting it any more, reach out to a therapist." You can find one via a quick online search, through a therapy app, or by asking your general doctor for a referral.


Talk To A Friend Who's Been To Therapy

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Another great way to find a therapist is by asking a friend who's been in therapy themselves, Dr. Lopez Witmer says.

Ask if their therapist will provide a referral or set you up with an appointment. And while you're at it, see if your friend would be down to talk about their anxiety and what therapy has been like for them, so you can know what to expect.


Look For A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

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"Consider finding someone with specialized training in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is the gold-standard in the treatment of anxiety," Dr. Doane says. All therapists have specialities, and this form of therapy can be a big help.


Call A Community Mental Health Center

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If you aren't sure where to turn for help, give your local community mental health center a call, especially if you're worried about money. "These non-profit agencies usually are funded by local government or are funded by Medicaid and Medicare," licensed psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR, tells Bustle. "To find one in your area, call 211 or SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP."


Call A Local School

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Another great place to get help is at your local university or medical school. "Many master’s programs in counseling have clinics for students to train," Megan N. Long, LPC, CRC, NCC, tells Bustle. "If you are on a budget but want help, this can be a great solution. These students are closely supervised, so you are also getting the support from a seasoned therapist."


Talk To A Guidance Counselor

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If you're in school, head on over to the guidance counselor and ask for help, Scott-Hudson says. Many schools and colleges offer counseling for free right on campus.


Meet With HR

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If your job has a human resources department, ask them about EAP, or an employee assistance program, which provides counseling to company employees, Scott-Hudson says. They may be able to offer you a few therapy sessions for free.


Join A Therapy Group

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Many therapy groups meet up on a regular basis, so pop online and see if you can find one in your area. "Groups may decrease feelings of isolation," Scott-Hudson says, which is why going to one, and forming connections, may help you feel better.


Schedule A Phone Consulation

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If you don't connect with your therapist, don't give up hope. "You do not have to go with the first one you meet," Long says. "Instead, find someone who has a style that resonates with you."

You can do so by setting up a phone consultation, Long says, or reaching out by email or through their website, which is always a good option when you don't feel up to making a call.


Let Your Yoga Teacher Know

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If you go to the the gym, or attend a yoga studio, consider letting your trainer or teacher know how you feel.

"They can help use movement therapies to provide a healthy outlet for your anxiety and stress," yoga therapist Katie Ziskind, tells Bustle. "And, your yoga teacher might have a perfect routine to help with anxiety."


Text A Friend

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Sometimes, the smallest thing can make the biggest difference when you're feeling anxious, such as texting a friend. "Simply reaching out and knowing someone is there can really help right away," Ziskind says.


Describe Your Anxiety

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Is your anxiety making you feel sweaty, panicked, suffocated, or stressed? Describe it out loud to yourself, Leslie Huddart L.Ac, tells Bustle. This can help you get better at naming your feelings, which can be a relief in and of itself. But it can also help those around you understand what you're going through.

"It's also a way of practicing vulnerability," she says, "which leads to deep connection and a feeling of acceptance and safety with other people, all of which have a grounding, healing effect on anxiety."


Let Someone Know You Need Help

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When you have anxiety, it can be tough to find a therapist or figure out what to do, so "talk to a trusted friend or family member about wanting help," Long says. They can help you find a therapist, drive you to appointments, or even offer their own support.

There are so many ways to get help and ease your anxiety, so don't be afraid to talk about it, text a friend, or reach out.

Editor's Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.