What you should and shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety

Over the last four years I have become more comfortable with having anxiety. It is a massive release when you can comfortably talk to people about it. However this release it not always possible when people don’t understand the suffocating nature of anxiety as conduction.

So here are my pet hates when people talk to me about my anxiety (in no particular order):

  • Why don’t you just think happy thoughts.”…. Because obviously telling myself think happy thoughts will definitely make me truly happy. No, no it will most certainly not, in fact it will most probably do the complete opposite.
  • Just calm down.”… Because when having a full on panic attack calming down is as easy as clicking my fingers. It is helpful to be direct, yes, but be more specific of how to help them.
  • Comparing anxiety to a stress…. Anxiety will cripple. At my worst I will be too scared to leave the house. A life stress might be that my cars broken down, it doesn’t make me scared of life though! There is a difference with these two things!
  • It’ll be fine”… How do you know it’ll be fine?! How can you full understand the fears that go through the mind of someone with anxiety? How can you guarantee those thoughts aren’t going to happen?
  • Stop being so annoying, why can’t you be like everyone else?”…. Surprisingly I don’t live in fear of leaving the house some days just for the fun of it. It is how my head works, I’ve accepted it, why can’t everyone else?! Saying this kind of thing will always make me incredible angry and it will absolutely not magic away how my head processes.

Some things that I do want to hear (in no particular order):

  • I’m sorry you’re feeling down, how about we get a coffee/ go for a walk?”…. This response accepts it’s ok to feel sad and scared but also offers a safe opportunity to get out of the house (which always helps even if I will fight it myself if I’m feeling super anxious).
  • If I’m having a panic attack where I’m struggling to breath, I won’t really be listening to you much. Just be super clear. Say clearly breath and do it with me, taking in long deep breaths and exhaling slowly, while hold on to both my arms. The touch of knowing someone is there is always really reassuring.
  • I think this restaurant will be fun, I’ve made sure it’s not too busy, there’s only a few of us going and I’ll send you over the menu, you in?”… This would help me with my anxieties of going out. It starts off positively saying it will be fun and then goes on to reassure me they’ve thought about how to look after my anxieties. Even if this means I’m still scared, the fact they care and understand means I’ll happily go out with them.
  • I know it’s harder for you, but sometimes you’ve got to challenge yourself and I’ll always be here too if it’s too much.”…. This is good because I will often fall into the cycle of not trying things and using my anxiety as an excuse so I need people to push me but it’s important for me to know those people are still there if it doesn’t work out.

These are of course just things I’ve experienced as the bad and good responses to my anxiety. Not everyone will experience anxiety in the same way but I do hope these give some ideas or if others have had similar experiences!

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