Viewing them as fragile only tends to lead to more anxiety.
It can be difficult for friends and families of people suffering from anxiety to not fall into the trap of over-protectiveness. We all want our loved ones to feel safe and happy, not afraid and miserable.
It might sound reasonable to think that when someone has too much stress in their life, we should spare them the extra burden. This idea is partially true. It shows care and kindness to refrain from providing opportunities for a person to worry. However, when doing this to the extent of keeping the person away from experiencing the realities of life, we might be doing the same thing anxiety is doing to them.
Fear and anxiety come to us to signal a real or potential danger. When we decide to act in such a way that we avoid the danger, the resulting experience teaches us several things:
- the danger was most probably real
- the danger was of large proportions (since it scared us so much)
- we don’t have the resources to handle the danger
- running away is the only effective way to survive the danger
At the same time, what it doesn’t teach us is how to actually approach this “danger” when it comes again. So next time we deal with a similar or new and unfamiliar situation, the same tape rolls in our minds: “Trust the feeling – it’s bad, don’t trust yourself – you can’t handle it, run away!”
On the long run, kind support in navigating through stress and fear without avoiding can be more helpful for the person feeling anxious. Confronting their fears with appropriate support helps people learn how to effectively deal with difficulties. They gradually build trust that whatever comes, they are able to find resources to handle it.