Communicating with Someone with Anxiety  

Dr. Kristyn Gregory

| 2 min read

Dr. Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Dr. Gregory received her medical degree from the Chicago School of Osteopathic Medicine. She then completed residency training in Adult Psychiatry at Henry Ford, and a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Wayne State University. She is board-certified in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She has practiced in a variety of settings in the metro Detroit area including inpatient, residential, outpatient, school-based and juvenile justice programs.

Mother works from home to takes care of daughter.
Each year, 18% of adults in the U.S. experience an anxiety disorder. However, less than 40% of people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment. Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways physically – but a key function that is disrupted is a person’s ability to communicate clearly. Anxiety can cause someone to overthink, get easily distracted and become overwhelmed by someone’s nonverbal cues and facial expressions instead of paying attention to what the person is saying. Anxiety can be a natural stress response to fear. It can be an indicator of disease when these feelings become excessive and interfere with daily living. For example, generalized anxiety disorder is a diagnosable condition in which a person worries much more than normal about everyday things.

Navigating Changes

Changes in life can cause anxiety and stress. For someone with existing anxiety or panic, changes can be particularly debilitating and can trigger a relapse or regression. Here are some techniques that can help:
  • Deep breathing: Take long, deep breaths. Breathe in for four counts, hold the breath for six counts, and exhale for eight counts.
  • Journal: Write down what’s causing the anxiety. Ask: “what is the worst thing that could happen? What’s the probability of it happening?” It’s very likely none of the worst-case scenarios will happen.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can calm an anxious mind.
  • Yoga and stretching: The combination of breathing and stretching can provide a sense of calm and relaxation.
  • Avoid caffeine: Too much caffeine can mimic feelings of anxiety or panic.

Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sudden episode when intense fear can trigger a severe physical reaction. At times, panic attacks can be confused with heart attacks because the symptoms are so strong. Here are some of the signs of a panic attack: 
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chest pain
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling detached

When to Seek Help

Anxiety and panic attacks can be difficult to manage alone. Over time, severe anxiety and chronic stress can worsen other health aspects such as blood pressure and diabetes management. While panic attacks aren’t necessarily dangerous, their symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other serious health issues – so it’s important to see a health care provider for both physical and mental health reasons.  Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. More from
Photo credit: Getty Images

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Blues Perspectives

Dec 15, 2021 at 8:52pm

Hello Isabel. If you are a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan member, we would recommend using our Find a Doctor tool to find an in-network provider that can help meet your need. Consulting with your primary care physician about your symptoms is also a good first step. We also welcome you to visit our online behavioral and mental health resource center: – Thank you, James

Blues Perspectives

Dec 15, 2021 at 8:48pm

Hello Jim. We’re sorry to hear about your health complications. If you are a member seeking medical services to help you with your breathing issues, we recommend using our BCBSM Find a Doctor tool to find support in your network. – Thank you, James

Isabel grovom

Dec 12, 2021 at 11:08pm

Where can we get treatment for bipolar condition

Jim golob

Dec 4, 2021 at 3:54pm

I hate when I have breathing problems.that lasts for hours sometimes..

MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association