It is easy to think that when speaking to someone with anxiety, the best thing to do is to empathise. That might sound like, ‘I know how you are feeling, I get anxious before interviews.’ For someone with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not just go away once the event is over. It is a continuous, background noise of anxiety and worry. So, when we compare it to ‘normal’ anxiety, it can feel invalidating and dismissive.
A much better approach is rather to seek to understand how it is for the person. To let them know you are with them and they are not alone. A question like ‘What can I do to help you right now?’ lets them know you are there and also invites them to check in with their own needs and then ask.
Sometimes when people are in the midst of an anxiety attack, it can be incredibly helpful to just sit with the person and be together until it passes, or something changes. Affirming that you have as long as they need, that you are not going anywhere can provide immense reassurance.