Updated: Apr 23, 2022
The Millennial Londoner (Claire)
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This blog is purely for informational purposes compiled from personal experience and reputable sources. If you require any health advice please speak to a medical specialist. This blog also contains affiliate links that allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
Anxiety can be awful for anyone who experiences it, if gone untreated it can take hold of your everyday life and in some extreme cases, it can make you housebound. If you have anxiety you'll of had someone say this to you all too often, "you have nothing to be anxious about", "you just need to relax" or my personal favourite "you're being so dramatic there is nothing wrong with you". These are some of the worst things you can be told during a panic or anxiety attack when your emotions are heightened and your adrenaline is kicking in.
Over the years I've had so many people tell me how to handle anxiety when they hadn't experienced it themselves or had limited knowledge of it (very frustrating). I know people mean well but sometimes they just say the completely wrong things that just end up making you feel worse than if they had said nothing at all.
Here's a list of things NOT to say to someone with anxiety.
1. "You Don't Need To Be Anxious There Is Nothing To Worry About."
We know there is nothing to worry about but still struggle to control our anxiousness even if we are aware it's irrational. Our brains have been wired to fear the worst in any given situation even if there is no immediate danger. Please don't patronize or belittle our emotions because they are very real to us even if you don't see what the fuss is about.
2. "You're Being Overdramatic Right Now"
We get overwhelmed easily. It can seem like we're too sensitive or possibly being overdramatic but anxiety and the symptoms that accompany it are very real. While we may seem like we're rehearsing for a role in Keeping Up With The Kardashian's I assure you it's an accurate representation of the chaos going on inside our heads.
3. "Stop Cancelling Plans Do You Not Care You're Letting Everyone Down?"
Cancelling plans last minute is annoying but sometimes necessary for a person suffering from anxiety. I can assure you it is 10 times worse for the person with anxiety not only dealing with the debilitating symptoms and crippling fear but also has the added guilt of flaking on people and having to deal with the understandable disappointment that comes with it.
4. "Why Are You Always In A Bad Mood What Is Wrong With You?"
Anxiety can make us really irritable, when you are anxious it's like your fuse is shortened drastically and any tiny insignificant thing can get under your skin. I personally get agitated with someone who tries to distract me from what is making me anxious as if I was too busy being anxious to not be anxious. It's bizarre to explain but irritability is a common thing especially when you consider how much stress anxiety puts on the body it's no wonder people get snappy really easily.
5. "Get Off Of Your Phone You're Being So Rude"
We know there is nothing more annoying than being on our phones constantly but please understand it's our social anxiety making us feel really uncomfortable and our phones give us a distraction. Sometimes the anxiety makes us want to leave the function and go home to our safe space, having a phone to fidget with can ease our crippling fear of social situations and make us relax a bit better. Making awkward eye contact or not knowing anyone makes social anxiety kick in REAL QUICK so having a distraction is helpful.
6. "You're So Ungrateful You Never Acknowledge All The Things I Do For You, It's Always About You"
We appreciate how much you do for us even if we may not always show our appreciation it can be so easy for us to get caught up in our daily anxiety to stop and think about anything else. This is no excuse though don't get me wrong, we should be more aware of how much the people around us do to make our lives easier, sometimes our anxiety is the ONLY thing we can fixate on.
7. "Calm Down Just Breathe"
Once we're in a panic attack please don't tell us to breathe, this has been instilled in our brains 1000 times before but never makes the panic attack any easier. Shallow breathing isn't helpful either so if you see your anxious friend doing this try to encourage them to slow their breathing down.
8. "Why Are You Always Tired? It's Not Normal To Be This Tired All The Time"
If we always seem tired it's because we are. Anxiety can drain your energy and leave you with anxiety hangovers I go into depth on that in my other blog post HERE. Tiredness is a common symptom of anxiety so unfortunately, it's something most anxiety sufferers will have to grow accustomed to.
9. "You Just Have A Bit Of Nerves You'll Be Fine, Stop Being So Dramatic"
It's not just a little bit of "nerves" or us being "dramatic", anxiety is VERY real and even though the intensity might seem irrational it's our adrenaline and noradrenaline kicking in making our bodies react that way. Once your body is fired up it's hard to control those symptoms or nervous energy so telling us it's a bit of nerves not only belittles our emotions but also doesn't help the situation.
10. "Why Are You So Bothered By This Just Forget About It"
We can't just "forget" like the saying "an elephant never forgets" well neither do anxious people (I'm not calling anxious people elephants although it would be pretty cool to be an elephant for a day...okay I'm getting distracted). We can't just forget about things that bother us or make us feel anxious. We will overthink to no end and then end up making ourselves even more anxious from thinking of the hypothetical situations we made up in our heads.
11. "You're Being So Negative Stop Assuming The Worst And Just Relax"
We ALWAYS assume the worst, we're not pessimistic (intentionally) but sometimes it can be easy to let our anxious thoughts out and we end up telling people what we're worried about which probably makes us seem like a negative nancy but in reality, our brains are constantly on high alert preparing for imminent danger.
12. "It's All In Your Head"
We know that it's all in our head but our anxiety consumes our bodies and minds to the point we don't know what we're anxious for but still get anxious anyway because why would our bodies lie to us about being in danger right?
I can make a follow-up post in the future if you find this helpful or insightful. It's not easy comforting someone with anxiety but it will mean so much to them knowing they have a support network around them.
What Can You Take Away From This Post?
Be patient with your anxious loved ones
Anxiety symptoms are very real
Be mindful of the things you say, you might mean well but if the anxious person interprets it differently then you may have just fuelled their anxiety further
Your efforts don't go unnoticed or unappreciated
Learn about anxiety so you can get a better understanding of it and how you can be more helpful to your anxious loved one.
Your wording is important, it can either help or hinder someone sufferig with anxiety.