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How To Tell Someone You Have Anxiety

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Anxiety TEST: do you have anxiety? Are you prone to panic attacks?
  • Instead, make them feel safe, distract them from their worries, and keep them in the present.
  • You should never tell someone with anxiety to stop feeling worried or that they are irrational.
  • Avoid calling someone with anxiety “crazy” or “insane” or that they’re simple an “anxious person.”

While most people get worried about things from time to time, some people have anxiety disorders that are characterized by a disproportionate amount of anxiety. An anxiety disorder can interfere with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis, for an extended period of time.

“The problem with anxiety is that it may contribute to difficulty thinking clearly, communicating distress in effective ways, and finding solutions,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Sometimes, even people with the best intentions can make a situation worse by saying the wrong things to someone with anxiety.

“Telling a person who is feeling anxious to calm down or stop feeling anxious can make a bad situation worse. It’s like telling someone who is standing in the rain to stop feeling the rain,” says Jeffrey M. Cohen, PsyD, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Here are some of the things you should and should not say to someone with anxiety. Being prepared can help you be a better source of support for a friend, partner, colleague, or acquaintance who is experiencing anxiety.

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Being diagnosed as having a mental illness can be both scary and a relief. While its great that youre on the path to getting well again, telling people about your illness can cause anxiety and stress. Heres how to work out who to tell, how to tell them, and how to deal with any anxiety you might feel.

Things Not To Say To Someone Who Has Anxiety

Do you know somebody who struggles with anxiety?

What am I saying here? Of course you know somebody who struggles with anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , around 40 million adults in the United States are affected by one or more anxiety disorders. Not-for-profit organisation Anxiety UK similarly says that more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a debilitating anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. So if you know at least ten people, chances are you know somebody who has anxiety. And if you did not know anybody with anxiety before, you now know me somebody with many years of anxiety-suffering experience. How do you do?

Like most of my anxiety-suffering brethren, I have had my friends and family tell me things about my anxiety that are unhelpful at best and downright debilitating at worst. While I firmly believe these utterances are always said with good intentions, they usually do more harm than good. Bearing that in mind, here are ten things not to say to someone who has anxiety.

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Avoid Acting On Your Feelings

Feeling anxious about your relationship or your partner can sometimes make you want proof that everything is all right.

Its natural to want to reassure yourself, but resist the impulse to find this proof in unhelpful or harmful ways.

Pay attention to the difference between your usual behaviors and impulsive actions. Texting regularly might be normal in your relationship, and keeping up a steady conversation can help reinforce your sense of connection. But sending several texts in an hour asking your partner where they are and what theyre doing, when you know theyre hanging out with friends, can lead to conflict.

When you feel these impulses, try to distract yourself with some deep breathing, a walk or jog, or a quick phone call to a close friend.

How To Explain Anxiety To Someone Who Doesnt Have It

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Explaining your anxiety to someone who understand it can be difficult and challenging. I think the best way to illustrate anxiety is with examples.

Sharing your experiences of anxiety with others not only helps them understand and recognize your anxiety but enables them to better support you.

The support of friends and family can significantly contribute to the success of your recovery or treatment of a mental illness like anxiety.

Throughout this article, I will be illustrating anxiety with examples or analogies that have helped me better understand it. I hope you find these examples simple to understand so you’ll be able to explain them to others.

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How To Talk To Someone With Anxiety

    *This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you choose to purchase through links I provide . Please see my disclosure policy. If you need help finding a mental health professional, call 1-800-662-HELP or visit BetterHelp to chat with a licensed therapist for an affordable price.

    The Subtle Signs That Someone Might Be Struggling With Anxiety

    Anxiety is a very normal part of being human, and we all experience it on some level from time to time. Its our inbuilt early warning system that has been designed by evolution to warn us when there might be trouble, and ready us to deal with it. Sometimes though, the early warning system works a little too hard, switching on too often when theres just no need.

    Anxiety can be thought of as the workings of a strong healthy brain thats being a little overprotective. Its not crazy and its not troubled. Its overprotective. Like anything overprotective, anxiety can be intrusive, confusing and exhausting. For some people, there may be no outward clues that they are anxious at all. Their symptoms will be managed beautifully and will have minimal, if any, intrusion into their lives. For others, anxiety can be debilitating.

    The stats on anxiety are staggering. Anxiety is so common, that if you arent experiencing it yourself, its very likely that someone you care about is. Bupa has created an infographic that illustrates some of the statistics. Find it in the Blue Room here: Feeling Anxious? Youre Not Alone.

    Here are some subtle signs to watch out for. If you see them happening, dont make a big deal of things. For the person youre with, they would have been likely living with it for a while. Just be there and know that you dont need to fix anything.

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    Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety

    There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
    • Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.

    During therapy, continue to show your support by:

    • Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
    • Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
    • Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
    • Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.

    Helping Someone With Anxiety

    Do I Have Social Anxiety Disorder? (How To Tell)

    You mean well, and thats obvious. Often for friends and loved ones, it can be really difficult to figure out what to say to someone who is anxious, says Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist. The natural instinct is to assure them that everything is fine and to minimise the problem in order to minimise the anxiety, but it just does not work, she adds. In your effort to provide reassurance and address their angst, its useful to know what not to say to someone with anxiety, lest you make things worse. More importantly, youll want to know what to say to someone with anxiety instead.

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    Going To Therapy Yourself

    Whether your partner accepts or resists your suggestion to go to therapy, you should do it yourself. It will help you develop the skills necessary to understand and cope with your partners anxiety. A therapist can also teach you how to more effectively become a supportive partner.

    When you are dating someone with anxiety, its easy to forget about taking care of yourself. By going to therapy, you can ensure you are still focusing on your own mental health.

    How People Are Likely To Treat You In The Weeks And Months To Come

    Your friends and family have this new information about you, but in the future they may not treat you as differently as you expect. You may worry they’re going to walk on eggshells or stop talking to you or inviting you out, because they’ll assume you can’t handle it. They may mostly treat you as they always have. That’s mainly because they already have an image in their heads of what you’re like, and patterns of how they act around you.

    If you already came across as fairly shy and withdrawn, they may already have be used to working around that. If your anxiety is mostly internal and hidden, they can continue to treat you as if you’re comfortable in social situations, because that’s how you come across on the surface. Their abstract knowledge that you’re inwardly nervous won’t always be at the top of their mind. Sometimes you may even have to jog their memories that certain things still make you nervous.

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    When To Seek Professional Help

    While self-help coping strategies can be very effective, if your worries, fears, or anxiety attacks have become so great that theyre causing extreme distress or disrupting your daily routine, its important to seek professional help.

    If youre experiencing a lot of physical symptoms, you should start by getting a medical checkup. Your doctor can check to make sure that your anxiety isnt caused by a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, hypoglycemia, or asthma. Since certain drugs and supplements can cause anxiety, your doctor will also want to know about any prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and recreational drugs youre taking.

    If your physician rules out a medical cause, the next step is to consult with a therapist who has experience treating anxiety disorders. The therapist will work with you to determine the cause and type of your disorder and devise a course of treatment.

    Why Would You Be Anxious About That

    How to Help Someone With Anxiety

    “This response implies that they should not be anxious and their response is unjustified. By saying this, you’re positioning yourself against the person, instead of aligning with them against their anxiety,” says Romanoff.

    Anxiety is a condition that often has causes beyond the person’s control. According to the National Institute of Medical Health, genetic factors, childhood trauma, and health conditions like heart arrhythmias or thyroid problems could contribute to the risk of developing an anxiety disorder.

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    The Best Things To Say When Someone Is Anxious

    Have you ever not known how to talk to someone with anxiety? This list of 69 ideas of what to say to someone with social anxiety helps you offer support, be a good listener, acknowledge that mental health is a real issue, and test that waters a bit to explore the negative thoughts that underlie social anxiety in your friend or family member.

    Below is a list of 100 ideas of how to talk to someone with anxiety or what to say to someone with social anxiety.

  • This must be hard for you.
  • Its not your fault.
  • I am sorry you are going through this.
  • Tell me more about how you are feeling.
  • Its okay that you have to cancel, we can try to meet up another time.
  • Would you like to make plans just the two of us, instead of as a group?
  • I am here if you need me.
  • How can I help?
  • Would you like to go for a walk?
  • Take your time.
  • Would you like to talk?
  • Lets work through this together.
  • I know it feels bad now, but this feeling will pass.
  • I know you are not making this up.
  • I know that your anxiety is outside your control.
  • I love you no matter what.
  • Is there something we can do together that would be less overwhelming?
  • I want to know how I can best support you.
  • I know you have a real illness.
  • I know you cant control how you feel.
  • I care about you and want to help.
  • You are important to me.
  • It might not seem like it now, but how you feel is going to change.
  • You are not alone, I am here for you.
  • Talk to me, I will listen.
  • I cant really understand how you are feeling, but I can offer my compassion.
  • How Do I Get Tested For Anxiety

    While online quizzes like this can help someone understand their feelings, they should be followed up with a professional assessment. Your medical doctor or a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, can help.

    According to NYU Langone Health, an anxiety test for adults from a health care professional will include a physical exam, a lot of questions about your symptoms and any medications you are taking , and potentially a blood test, to rule out any physical conditions that could be causing anxiety like hypothyroidism.

    If physical or pharmaceutical causes are ruled out, a health care professional will then conduct a psychological evaluation, asking more questions about your symptoms including how long youve experienced them and whether they persist or come and go and whether anyone in your family has had a history of anxiety disorder or depression. This eval can also detect or rule out the presence of conditions like PTSD or an eating disorder, which can accompany anxiety disorders.

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    Sharing The News Electronically

    You could send a friend an email, or tell your social circle through a social media status update, or post a video and send the link to a few people. I know not everyone will be comfortable delivering the news this way, but it has some advantages. For one you can take the time to craft your message and say everything you need to say. You also don’t have to worry about people’s immediate responses. You can post or send off the message, then wait a bit to see if there are any comments or replies.

    Only Saying Something If You Have To

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    You can use this one on a situation-by-situation basis. Go into the interaction with the intent to only tell people about your anxiety if your nerves get out of hand. If you turn out to be calmer than you expect, you don’t have to bring it up. But you know if the anxiety gets to be too much you can explain yourself, which should take away some of the pressure to hold it together. For example, “Ughh… sorry… I just gotta say I’m feeling a bit shy right now… I can be like that at first… but what were you telling me?…”

    Similarly, you may decide to only talk about your anxiety if someone else comments on it:

    • “You’re not saying much” – “Yeah, I can be shy in groups until I get to know everyone better.”
    • “Whoa, you’re turning beet red” – “Ha ha, my face does that sometimes. I guess I’m feeling on the spot because everyone turned to listen to me tell my joke.”
    • “You’re shaking”, “Yeah, to be honest I’m kind of nervous right now. Hopefully it’ll pass soon.”

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