How Can I Help My Anxious Friend? She is Scared of Life

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Reader’s Question

My friend (yes, my friend) has problems socially. She has friends. She is smart. But she has no confidence. She can barely talk to me face to face. She only talks by text. She won’t take phone calls for the same reason that she won’t talk face to face. She detaches herself from people. But with all of this, she comes back for some reason. After she says she’s crawling back into her hole, she talks to me more. She is scared of life. She is scared of tomorrow. She is scared of her parents.

What should I do?

Psychologist’s Reply

What you are doing may be the most valuable thing that can be done: be with her. She is not afraid of you. Knowing that she has one person in the world she can trust and talk to might make the difference between her managing her fears as she now does, or falling into fear and despair. Don’t underestimate the importance of being her friend, being available, concerned, and safe.

When I hear about generalized fear and anxiety like this, I naturally wonder where it all started. You mentioned that she is afraid of her parents. I wonder whether she has reason to be afraid; whether she’s safe. If she cannot talk to you about it, I wonder whether she feels like she could talk about it at all, to anyone.

If you can, see if she will come with you to talk to someone. Perhaps she would come with you to the student health center at your school. See if there are any resources for individual counseling there. Gently, let her know that you are there for her and let her know what you’d like to do. Let her choose to accept help. Let her be in control. Accepting help may be the first step for her to regain control of her life and help her to help herself.

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