When you have anxiety, it isn't always easy to figure out where to start or what to do in order to feel better. Add in the stigma that often surrounds mental health, and the process of figuring out how to ask for help for your anxiety can feel even more overwhelming.
"There's a societal pressure to keep going, to put your best foot forward, and to never show vulnerability or weakness," says licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer. And yet, one of the most helpful things you can do is ignore all of that, fully acknowledge your anxiety, and begin tapping into the countless resources for support available.
"There's strength in opening up to another person and asking for help and support," Witmer tells Bustle. "It's freeing and leads to closer relationships and improved mental health." Opening up might include going to therapy, joining a support group, or finally agreeing to have a heart-to-heart with a friend.
If you don’t have much support in your day-to-day life, you might find yourself leaning more towards in-person therapy, support groups, or even yoga classes. If you’re worried about finances, a free chat line might be a great choice. It's all about figuring out what sounds good to you and deciding to go for it. There are so many ways to get help with anxiety and often all it takes is that one step in the right direction. Read on below for 25 therapist-approved ways to start asking for help.
Set Up A Time To Chat
Once you land on someone you’d like to speak to, "let them know that you need to talk and ask if they have time," suggests licensed clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD. You might, for example, ask a friend to meet for coffee so that you can vent about your anxiety. That way they’ll show up in the right frame of mind and ready to listen, and you'll feel much more supported as a result.
Not everyone will be receptive to hearing about mental health issues, and not everyone's a good listener, so remember to be selective when choosing who you reach out to, Daramus says. Pick someone you know will be respectful, such as a friend or family member who’s dealt with anxiety themselves. If you don’t feel supported, quickly move on to someone else.
Try A Helpline
If you don't have anyone in your immediate circle to talk to, or if you feel uneasy about opening up to people you know, never fear. There are plenty of anonymous helplines to call that’ll connect you with someone who’s been trained to listen, Kalai says. These helplines are a great place to start talking about anxiety in a nonjudgmental and safe environment.
Try Instagram Or Twitter
Believe it or not, both Instagram and Twitter have great mental health advocacy communities, Daramus says. And they’re both “open” 24/7. If you’re experiencing anxiety, peruse various anxiety hashtags for advice — and to feel reassured that you aren’t alone.
Find A Therapist
Of course, the best person to turn to is your very own therapist. "Therapy for anxiety can be extremely helpful," says clinical psychologist Lisa Stines Doane, Ph.D., “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 anymore — reach out to one." You can find a therapist 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
Another way to find a therapist is by asking a friend who's been to therapy to find out where they go, Witmer says. See if their therapist will provide a referral or set you up with an appointment. And while you're at it, ask your friend if they’d be down to talk about their own experience with anxiety and what therapy has been like for them, so you’ll know what to expect.
Look For A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist
There are lots of different types of therapy, from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Doane suggests heading to Google to find a therapist who specializes in CBT, which she says is the gold standard for the treatment of anxiety.
Search For Anxiety Specialists
Another trick is searching for therapists who specialize in anxiety on sites like Psychology Today. “Do a search online for qualified professionals who are certified in the field of anxiety and stress,” says licensed therapist Dr. Toscha L. Dickerson. “Finding support is so necessary because you don't want to face this alone.”
Be Specific About What You Need
Whether you’re talking to a friend or a therapist, the more specific you are about what you’re going through, the better the help you’re likely to receive. Doane suggests sitting down with a trusted confidant and saying something like, “I’ve been so anxious lately. Can you help show me that my worries aren’t real?” Just throw it out there, as honest as can be.
Another way to get help is by naming your emotions. Licensed acupuncturist Leslie Huddart L.Ac suggests describing them to yourself on a regular basis so that you can go on to accurately explain them to others. "This is also a way of practicing vulnerability," Huddart tells Bustle, "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."
Share A Safety Plan
"If you have panic attacks or other severe anxiety, consider sharing a safety plan with friends and family so they’ll know how to help you," Daramus says. Do you find it helpful when people remind you to take a deep breath? Or does it feel better when they help you get home, or sit quietly with you till you feel better? Let them know so they can swoop in with the exact type of help you prefer.
Call A Community Mental Health Center
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 the cost of treatment. "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 University
You can also give a university or medical school a ring. "Many master’s programs in counseling have clinics for students to train," says licensed professional counselor Megan N. Long, LPC, CRC, NCC. "If you are on a budget but want help, this can be a great solution.”
Look up “social work programs” at your local colleges and see if they’re accepting patients. “These students are closely supervised,” Long says, “so you are also getting the support from a seasoned therapist."
Schedule A Phone Consultation
If you don’t feel a connection with your therapist or counselor, don't give up hope. You might not click with them right away. Keep trying until you find someone who has a style that resonates with you.
One way to assess a therapist’s vibe is by setting up a phone consultation, reaching out via email to explain what you’re looking for, or scrolling through their specialties on their website. Long says the latter is a good option if you don't feel up to making a call.
Talk To A Guidance Counselor
If you're in school, Scott-Hudson suggests heading on over to your guidance counselor or advisor and asking for help there. Many schools and colleges offer free counseling on campus. Tell them you have anxiety or are experiencing a lot of stress, and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Join A Therapy Group
If you aren’t down with the idea of individual therapy, try group therapy. In many ways, “group therapy can be even more effective because it also provides additional support and ideas,” says therapist Laurie Groh MS, LPC, SAS. You might make friends with the folks who are going through a similar situation. Plus, hearing other people’s perspectives can be quite eye-opening.
Sit In On A Support Group
There’s also the option to join a more casual support group, either in-person or online. “We often feel isolated in our anxiety, and like we are the only ones who are excessively worrying,” says neuropsychologist Dr. Jen Wolkin. “Rumination is usually an internal process, and so it’s easy to feel isolated in the experience. Support groups help bridge this gap.”
Post In An Online Forum
You can do something similar with anxiety support forums online. There, you’ll meet lots of like-minded people devoted to coping with their anxiety who want to share ideas and lend an ear. Scott-Hudson says this type of group atmosphere — even if it’s just with strangers online — is a surefire way to decrease feelings of isolation. Not to mention, it’s free.
Let Your Yoga Teacher Know
If you go to a gym or attend a yoga studio, consider letting your trainer or teacher know how you’ve been feeling. "They [might be able to suggest] movement therapies to provide a healthy outlet for your anxiety and stress," says licensed marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind, LMFT. If you’ve become friends, it might also feel nice to get things off your chest.
Look For A Meditation Studio
Signing up for a guided meditation at a studio might also feel right, says counselor Kailey Hockright, MA, EdM, LPCC. “As research has shown, these practices can significantly reduce anxiety for folks who engage in them regularly,” she tells Bustle. “If attending classes in-person isn't accessible to you, head to YouTube to find free options you can practice right at home.”
Meet With HR
If your job has a human resources department, ask them about EAP or an employee assistance program. Many companies provide counseling to employees, Scott-Hudson says, and they may even be able to offer you a few therapy sessions for free.
Check In Regularly With A Friend
When in doubt, remember that texting a friend can do wonders, especially when anxiety strikes out of nowhere. "Simply reaching out and knowing someone is there can really help right away," Ziskind says. It’s also good practice to share how you’re feeling. “Not only does seeking support help you to feel less alone, in doing so you're also acknowledging to yourself that what you're experiencing matters,” Hockright says.
Ask For A Workbook
Ask your therapist or local bookstore owner if they have any workbooks for anxiety. “Using a workbook can be useful because it can actually change the way you think,” Groh says. Since your mind is used to thinking in an anxious way, practicing anxiety-reduction techniques provided in the workbook will actually help retrain your brain. Groh suggests The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution.
Ask Someone To Do All This For You
If you feel too anxious or overwhelmed to do anything on this list, Long suggests asking a friend or family member if they’d be willing to help you find a therapist, drive you to appointments, download Zoom, find forums, etc. There are so many ways to get help for anxiety, so do whatever you can to take that first step.
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.
Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, licensed clinical psychologist
Ruthie Kalai, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker
Aimee Daramus, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist
Dr. Toscha L. Dickerson, licensed therapist
Lisa Stines Doane, PhD, clinical psychologist
Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR, licensed psychotherapist
Megan N. Long, LPC, CRC, NCC, licensed professional counselor
Laurie Groh MS, LPC, SAS, therapist
Dr. Jen Wolkin, neuropsychologist
Katie Ziskind, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist
Kailey Hockright, MA, EdM, LPCC, licensed professional clinical counselor
Leslie Huddart L.Ac, licensed acupuncturist
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