With nearly one in five Americans suffering from an anxiety disorder, chances are good that you know someone who is also struggling with anxiety.
As a friend, loved one, or colleague, you may have said or done things that were perceived as less than helpful by the person you’re trying to support.
Having an anxiety disorder is different from experiencing normal anxiety. When an anxious friend comes to you for support, let them know you’re there for them. Validate their experience rather than downplay it.
Don’t say that he or she needs to calm down, get over the situation, and stop worrying about it. Avoid saying hurtful and unhelpful words like he or she is crazy, that anxiety is just in their heads, and don’t force them to overcome their anxiety.
What to say when someone you care about suffers from anxiety can be difficult. So, in this article, we’ll discuss the things you should not say to someone with anxiety.
Identifying Signs of Anxiety
Anxiety is something that affects everyone from time to time. There are those, who are so anxious that their daily routines are disrupted.
Anxiety disorders affect up to 19 percent of the adult population in the United States. There are many different types of mental illness, and anxiety is among the most common.
A variety of anxiety disorders exist, and their symptoms may not be immediately apparent. In stressful situations, not everyone reacts in the same way to the same stimuli.
The symptoms of anxiety can be difficult to detect in close friends and family members. One thing that all forms of anxiety disorders have in common is that they make people more susceptible to feeling overwhelmed.
They may also react negatively to these feelings because of this. As a friend or family member, you may find it difficult to watch someone you care about battle anxiety. There are things you can say and do to help if you notice someone is struggling.
13 Things You Should Not Say To Someone With Anxiety
A person suffering from anxiety may find it difficult to tell what to say and what is inappropriate, even if you have the best intentions. Helping someone with anxiety can be difficult if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
You don’t have to feel bad about being unsure about something. Anxiety is a multifaceted illness.
There is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with sharing my thoughts and feelings with others because you don’t know how they will respond.
When you’re already feeling down on yourself because of your anxiety, it can be even more difficult to deal with being misunderstood or treated insensitively.
The severity of one’s anxiety varies from person to person. Stress and worry are normal. It protects us and gives us a sense of purpose. Anxiety is only a problem if it gets out of hand and becomes a problem in one’s daily life.
It’s no coincidence that anxiety disorders are on the rise as a result of the pandemic. Around 19% of the adult population in the United States is affected each year. Chances are, you know someone who suffers from clinical anxiety.
If you have a friend or a family who suffers from anxiety, avoid saying the following:
Don’t Say: “Get Over It!”
Even when you’re not anxious, hearing the words “get over it” can be incredibly frustrating. It takes time to learn how to cope with and manage anxiety.
It’s no different than dealing with or recovering from any other physical condition. It’s like telling someone with diabetes or gluten intolerance to snap out of it.
If you want to learn how to talk to someone who has anxiety, avoid telling them to do something they can’t control.
Don’t Ask: “Are you okay?” repetitively
Anxious friends should not be confessing to you about their state of mind. They may feel under pressure to improve quickly if you ask them frequently for an update on their condition.
Attempting to alleviate someone else’s pain is a natural reaction when we care about them. Outsiders, on the other hand, cannot fix everything, and this includes anxiety.
You can try to bring your friend back to the present moment if you know him/her well enough. Take a walk with your friend, play music for them, or find a quiet place to relax.
If you don’t get a little push from a friend or family member, you can spiral into a panic-induced spiral.
These techniques are used by trained psychologists and therapists in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard treatment for anxiety disorders.
Don’t Say: “You have to calm down!”
If you say something like this, it could worsen things. Anxiety can manifest as a racing heart, rapid breathing, or dizziness.
They’d love to be able to calm down. When your friend or family is feeling anxious, it can be hard to control their thoughts, feelings, and body.
There is no such thing as “turning it off,” so telling someone with anxiety to “calm down” is not the best way to approach them.
Don’t Ask: “Why aren’t you taking medication?”
As long as you don’t appear accusatory, showing concern for a friend is fine. If you tell your friend they should be doing something and they aren’t, they may feel judged or embarrassed.
If they determine that they require professional help or medication, they must do so independently and at their own pace.
Knowing that your friend is experiencing an increase in anxiety and has not sought professional assistance is a valid reason to voice any concerns you have about this.
Consider how their anxiety has changed their behavior instead of blaming them. You may be worried that they are feeling lonely as a result.
Remind them that anxiety disorders are treatable and that they are not alone in their struggle with anxiety.
Don’t Say: “You’re crazy!”
As a result of their condition, people with anxiety are often hyper-aware of everything they do, think, and feel. They may be a little too close to the ground. To be honest, I thought I was going insane when I was suffering from anxiety.
Remember to avoid saying anything that could reinforce someone’s negative self-talk if you’re not sure what not to say to someone anxious.
Don’t Ask: “Did you do something wrong?”
It’s not just one specific event that causes anxiety disorders. There’s a good chance you didn’t do anything wrong.
Anxiety-stricken people may find this question difficult to answer. As a result, they may feel the need to care for you as well, or they may feel guilty for not treating you as you had expected them to.
Don’t Say: “It’s all in your head forget it.”
Anxiety can affect the entire body. To name a few symptoms, you may experience sweating, tingling limbs, nausea, shaking, and a sense of impending doom. You shouldn’t say that anxiety is only something in their head.
People who suffer from anxiety may lose their strength and release the triggers leading to a more complicated situation.
Your mind and body seem to be intertwined, with either one having the power to set off the other. In reality, the person is likely experiencing both physical and psychological symptoms.
Don’t Ask: “Have you tried meditating?”
Meditation, deep breathing, and all the other anti-anxiety trends currently popular in pop culture may be beneficial for some people, including your anxious friend. However, they won’t.
Small actions like taking a few deep breaths may not be enough to alleviate panic at the moment because of the intensity of the anxiety. You may be unable to sit still and let your thoughts float away if you’re suffering from anxiety.
For some people suffering from anxiety, sitting and breathing deeply isn’t enough; they need to get their blood flowing, which can be accomplished by going for a jog or other physical activity.
A therapist may be necessary for some people. In general, don’t advise people with anxiety disorders unless you’ve been trained in treating them or have one yourself and want to share your own experience with them.
Don’t Say: “You’re toxic!”
You may be looking for answers about how to help someone with anxiety, but you may get frustrated and say something like this. People who suffer from anxiety are more likely to have low self-esteem, confidence issues, and even feelings of self-hatred.
Any comment that reinforces what they may already believe about themselves is likely to cause great pain, even if you don’t mean it.
Don’t Say: “Take a good night’s sleep”
Anxiety will not be cured by a good night’s sleep. It also doesn’t alleviate the symptoms of stress. It’s critical to get plenty of sleep, maintain a nutritious diet, and work out regularly.
There’s a lot more to recovery than just getting some shut-eye. Recovery is a long and arduous process. Therapy, medication, support from loved ones, and grit may be required to get through this process.
Don’t Say: “Don’t worry about it.”
“Stop worrying” is an unhelpful response. The person with anxiety wants to stop worrying more than anything. However, in the here and now, worrying is not a conscious decision or a choice that can be made voluntarily.
The individual can be helped to slow down and challenge their anxious thoughts by you. Let your friend or family know that it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous.
Don’t Say: “You have to overcome this.”
If you’re trying to get someone with anxiety to do something they’ve already ruled out, don’t try to force them into it.
Because of this, they are unable to attend that event, party, or gig. A sense of helplessness or panic can be induced in some people by large crowds or other constrictive conditions.
Try to see things from the perspective of someone who suffers from anxiety. Gentleness and patience are essential.
One thing you should not say to someone suffering from anxiety is to pressurize them into joining you, even if it’s for small occasions, gatherings, or events. Instead, invite them without pressuring them.
Don’t Say: “Why are you so anxious?”
Although some people may be able to pinpoint the exact moment of their distress, anxiety and panic attacks can occur at any time and for any reason.
Attempting to explain to someone why you think they have anxiety and what they should do about it is also not helpful. In times of severe anxiety or a panic attack, your friend wants someone to listen and be there.
If you know someone who suffers anxiety saying that they are anxious or experiencing a panic attack, the most important thing to remember is that their feelings are important.
With such transparency comes the need for confidence. Pay attention to what they have to say, and don’t try to minimize their feelings.
You don’t want to make them feel ashamed or ignore their pain. Even if you can’t remove your friend’s anxiety, showing support can help them feel more comfortable and remove some of the stigmas that force them to hide.