Why Are You So Stressed
Asking our friends or family what is wrong with them can be nice when we are genuinely wanting to know and help, but if its in an exasperated, why are you so stressed out?! kind of way, forget it.
Making the person with anxiety feel bad about their anxiety can just feed the loop, and asking them vague questions that only serve to express your frustration rather than actually helping them isnt good.
Why Are You Always So Overwhelmed By Everything
The good times and get-togethers you enjoy can be completely paralyzing for someone with anxiety.
They often exist in a hyper-alert state, which means that a situation that doesnt seem that overwhelming to others can cause their head to spin. Theyre overly aware of everything going on around them every noise, action, smell, light, person, object.
Its incredibly overwhelming and overstimulating.
Don’t Say: You Dont Have To Come To My Party
Theres a fine line between being understanding and being overly accommodating. If youre having a party with 20 people and you know your friend with anxiety wont feel comfortable, its tempting to tell her she doesnt have to come. But this only confirms that the person isnt able to get through it and perpetuates her anxiety, Domingues says. It makes the person feel sad and guilty for burdening another person.
Say instead: “I know it’s not always your thing, but you’re always welcome. If you’re up for it I think youll really get along with this one friend I have.”
It’s more helpful to come up with a plan for how they can attend, since people with anxiety tend to like concrete plans. You could even try practicing conversation so the person feels more confident. At that point its up to her to decide whether shell come. And if she says no, keep inviting her. She might say yes the next time.
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You Need To Keep Yourself Busy
Its not that I choose to sit around and then my anxiety sets in because Im being lazy. Most of the time Im productive and busy, even. I go to work, I do housework, I see friends and family, I hang out with my husband and puppies. But there are times when my anxiety builds up to the point when I become so exhausted and paralysed from the constant worries and negative thoughts that wont turn off that all I have energy for is lying down and looking at the ceiling.
P.S. Keeping busy can be an avoidance coping mechanism for people who have chronic anxiety, rather than a cure! Just another reason this is bad advice!
You Should Try Meditation/yoga/veganism/etc
I am not here to deny the potential of any of these activities in helping people with anxiety. Meditation, for instance, has been known to work wonders. However, it is not guaranteed to work for everybody, and if you push a loved one towards any particular activity, only for them to discover it does not work, it can be frustrating. Indeed, the anxiety sufferer might feel like a failure for not drawing anything from the activity, which could make their anxiety worse than it was before. By all means feel free to suggest different anxiety-curbing activities, but be sure not to pressure them into doing anything they do not want to do.
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How To Avoid Giving Bad Advice To Someone Who Wants To Talk About Their Mental Health:
Looking for more helpful things to say to your loved one who has a mental health condition? Or, if its you that has a mental health condition, want some inspirational words to keep you in a positive headspace? Check out this list of 21 motivational quotes about mental health.
What to say and what to avoid saying when discussing mental health
Beautiful article! I so much agree with most of the things you write in here!
These expressions are all too common. I cant believe a psychologist would tell someone just dont be anxious. Sorry you had to experience that! Very helpful post!
Its Really Not A Big Deal
Whenever I hear about this one, I want to respond with a sarcastic youre right. And now that youre done completely invalidating my feelings and my mental illness, lets go to the nearest kids birthday party and see how many of those small humans we can make cry. Although the things those of us with anxiety worry about might seem trivial, for us, they are anything but. We are aware that our fears and our thoughts are often irrational, but we cant control the way these things affect us. That is how anxiety works. By saying that the things we fear are not a big deal, you are inadvertently implying that our anxiety, and the suffering we endure as a result of our anxiety, is also not a big deal.
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When Was The Last Time You Saw Your Therapist
This is a very sensitive question to many people who experience mental health challenges.
Yes, it is incredibly helpful for those with anxiety to work collaboratively with a therapist or other provider, Towner states. However, treatment should be determined by the individual and their therapist, not a concerned loved one.
Youre Only Like This Because Its So Trendy To Be Anxious Right Now
Anxiety disorders arent trendy theyre just incredibly common in fact, theyre the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older.
Let me make this perfectly plain: being diagnosed with a mental illness is not trendy
With some of the stigma surrounding mental illness starting to fade, more and more people are discussing their struggles with this debilitating condition.
While I would never argue against this discussion, I can see how it may cause those with little understanding of anxiety to think this is nothing more that a passing fad.
Let me make this perfectly plain: being diagnosed with a mental illness is not trendy. Its not tragically beautiful, romantic, fanciful or glamorous. Its a soul crushing, constant battle to reach a state of something even resembling normalcy.
Furthermore, treating anxiety as a trend only adds to the confusion and misconstrued ideas that lead to mental illness stigma.
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Helping Someone With Anxiety
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.
Try This Instead: Im Here
You dont need to have all the answers, or even say much at all. Knowing that someone will support them and listen to them can make a big difference for an anxious person. All you have to do is show up. Spend time with them. Check in with them. And you dont always have to talk about the anxiety.
Try not to introduce anything that is unexpected. When possible, keep things structured, expected, timely, and predictable so that they can feel safe.
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Quick Read Anxiety Support 101
- Theres a difference between normal, everyday anxiety and having an anxiety disorder.
- If an anxious friend decides to confide in you, show you support them.
- Validate, rather than minimize, their experience.
- If you dont have an anxiety disorder, avoid offering advice without listening to your friend.
- Tell them youre there for them, ask how you can help and listen to what they have to say.
Its never not awkward telling someone I have anxiety disorders. And Ive had to tell a lot of people: friends, family, supervisors, dates.
Opening up to others can be validating and freeing, but its always stressful at first because I dont know how theyll respond. Being stereotyped or treated insensitively when youre struggling can be nerve-wracking, especially if you already get down on yourself for having anxiety.
What Ive learned in my many years of coming clean is that most people mean well. They dont want to say the wrong thing, but it can be hard for them to know the right thing to say if they dont know much about anxiety.
While everyone experiences anxiety, people experience differing degrees of severity, says Ty Lostutter, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety and treats patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance at South Lake Union.
Anxiety is normal and healthy. It keeps us safe and motivates us, Lostutter says. It only becomes a problem when someone becomes overly anxious and it interferes with daily life.
You Arent Trying Hard Enough To Get Better
Saying this to someone who is attempting to combat their anxiety is one of the most frustrating and damaging things you can possibly say. Fighting anxiety is a constant battle that never seems to end its incredibly exhausting.
Sometimes even when theyre working towards a treatment plan and finding medications that relieve their symptoms no matter how hard they try, they are still overcome with fear and worry.
If theres one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, its that anyone suffering from chronic anxiety is trying with every fiber of their being to be get better.
When you tell them theyre not, you may cause them to give up hope and cause damage that cant be undone.
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Your Anxiety Isnt An Excuse To Be An Asshole
Out of everything in this article, this is perhaps the statement that affects me most deeply.
A few month ago, my best friend of 17 years said many of the things you see on this list to me in series of messages. She ended our conversation and friendship with a link to the Thought Catalog article Your Anxiety Isnt an Excuse to be an Asshole, written by Chelsea Fagan.
In it, Ms. Fagan says,
And if I were, the last thing in the world I would need is this dumb f****** self-care rhetoric that essentially tells you, Youre a golden anxiety flower, and everyone else has to deal with you.
Your anxiety is not an excuse to be an asshole. Its not an excuse to not follow through on things, or be caring, or be dependable. If you break the social contract and decide to be the full asshole your anxiety-riddled self wants to be, fine. But you dont deserve close friends, because no one deserves that. No one has to put up with your bullshit, and if you dont actively work on making yourself a better and more rewarding person to be around, no one should wait around for you.
It was almost as if Ms. Fagan knew all the things my anxiety regularly whispers to me
When I read this article, my body reacted as it often does to anxiety inducing events. I felt the white-hot rush of adrenaline and cortisol, the dizzying nausea, the crippling guilt and shame that I try so hard to keep at bay.
After making it through my panic attack, the anger finally set it.
Do Look After Yourself
When you offer to help with anxiety, it is understandable for you to feel frustrated, scared or tired from time to time. It is likely that their anxieties are having an effect on you too.
Make sure that youre dealing with these emotions and maintaining your wellbeing. Talk to other friends or family members about how you are feeling, think about accessing therapeutic support, take really good care of your physical and mental health, and book in time every week to do activities that you enjoy. By keeping yourself well, you will be in a much better position to help the person with anxiety.
And always remember, youre doing your best.
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Other People Are Suffering From Much Worse Conditions
I like to call this one the Shut Up and Stop Complaining You Selfish Cow move, because that is precisely what I hear whenever anybody says it. Anxiety makes us feel a lot of things , and one emotion we feel that does not attract a lot of attention is guilt. Personally, I feel guilty most days for being anxious about things that might happen to me, because I know there are people out there dealing with these same things, or worse things, that have happened to them. Believe me we know that there are many out there who have it worse than us. To point it out just adds to the guilt we are already feeling.
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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