With how common anxiety disorder has become, there’s a good chance that you know at least one person who suffers deeply from the impact of anxiety on them. Mostly, it is hard for those suffering from anxiety to open up about how they or the thoughts roaming their mind. Unable to relate to what they’re going through, we end up giving the wrong advice, though with the kindest, best intentions. So, if you are trying to be of good help, avoid saying these things that would instead trigger their anxiety.
1. “Stop worrying / Calm down”
These two statements are among the most commonly used. However, they are the furthest from being helpful or constructive, simply because, if they could have calmed down or stopped worrying, they just would have done it and spared themselves the impacts of anxiety.
2. “Don’t think about it”
Anxiety is more than just a thought. In addition, in asking someone not to think about something, they will end up involuntarily overthinking it. Telling someone experiencing anxiety not to think about something is not helpful and would actually make them overthink it.
3. “It is not a big deal / It is all in your head”
Such phrases make an anxious person feel they are incongruent with reality. Saying things such as “it’s all in your head” dismisses the concerns of an anxious person. It also makes them feel it is pointed out as a judgment and this will make the situation worse.
4. “You need to relax”
The inability to relax comes as a symptom of anxiety. Accordingly, asking an anxious person to calm down is as useless as asking a person with a fever to stop feeling body aches. In fact, if anything an anxious person would wish for would be the ability to relax.
5. “Others might have it worse”
An anxious doesn’t want to know whether others are having it better or worse, they want to individually feel better, without comparison with others. Such as a statement, though being told with the kindest of intentions to ease someone’s suffering, can indirectly make them feel guilty for being ungrateful for what they have or where they are.
What to say instead?
• “I’m here to listen if you want to talk.”
• “I can stay with you if that will make you feel safe.”
• “Would you like to do something to take your mind off things?”
• “We’ll find a way to make things better for you.”
• “I know you are going through a hard time.”