Mental illness isn’t only difficult for the person with the diagnosis. It can also be difficult for friends and family too. As someone who’s had an anxiety disorder in the past, I’ve definitely noticed the effect it had on the people around me. Some of which, had never had any experience with anxiety or mental illness at all in the past. Which is why I wanted to share this post on what not to say to someone with anxiety.
So it can be difficult to adjust for both parties. And if you’re the person who’s never experienced mental illness before or have never known anyone with a mental illness, it definitely can be hard to know what to say – or what not to say!
I’m always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, as long as they’re sorry and they’re willing to learn and not use those phrases again. But others – well they’re just downright ignorant, aren’t they?
Our words are powerful. Extremely powerful. And they matter. And if you’re the person who doesn’t have the mental illness, then you really have no idea what’s going on inside someone else’s head, nor do you know how powerful your words might be.
Want to know what not to say to someone with anxiety? Here are 8 things to start with!
Just chill out
Please don’t say this. It’s not helpful to anyone with anxiety or anyone WITHOUT anxiety for that matter. It’s just not a helpful phrase to say. Just “chilling out” isn’t something that comes easily to people with anxiety disorders.
Go out and do something, you’ll feel better
This one is particularly poignant for those with Agoraphobia. And can be an extremely triggering thing to hear for someone who can’t leave the house. My GAD was flecked with periods of agoraphobia and it broke my heart to think of all the things I was missing. Hearing it from someone else doesn’t make it better.
You just need to get back to normal
What even is normal, anymore? Nobody is the same, nobody is normal – telling us to essentially just, “be like everyone else” isn’t nice or helpful. Normal looks very very different to people. If 2020 didn’t teach you that, I don’t know what will.
Related read: 10 Mental Health Lessons From 2020
It’s nothing, everybody gets anxious
This one is just frustrating because yes, everyone gets anxious at times. It’s a normal reaction to things like job interviews and doctors appointments. You’re not wrong. But being anxious and having an anxiety disorder are so far from alike. An anxiety disorder is life-altering. Debilitating. Soul destroying. It can take years (or sometimes a lifetime) of therapy or medication to manage.
And that’s just to “manage”. Sometimes, an anxiety disorder is here for life. But after your job interview, you stop feeing anxious, pop down the pub for a pint and then get on with your day.
You’ve got nothing to be anxious about
If you took the time to research what Generalised Anxiety Disorder is then you’d know that most people that have it do in fact get anxious for no apparent reason. That’s what’s so scary about it. But even if you have a different type of anxiety disorder; health anxiety or social anxiety for instance, the things that make us anxious might be nothing to you but feel very real to us.
Lots of people have got it worse than you
Wow, really? You’re playing that card? Well next time you moan about how much something costs or that there’s nothing in the fridge you fancy eating, I’ll remind you that some people have it worse than you and you’ll see how quickly that gets annoying.
You don’t have to have an anxiety disorder to know how irritating and stupid this is. Yes someone has it worse. Someone has it better. It doesn’t make your experiences any less valid.
You’ll look back and regret spending so much time feeling anxious
I didn’t chose this but it’s a part of who I am and as much as I hate it with every ounce of my being, I’m not going to regret fighting something and *hopefully* getting through it. If you’ve never experienced an anxiety disorder, you just won’t get that. But that’s okay. I wouldn’t wish it upon you anyway
It’s all in your head: The clue is really in the name, isn’t it? “Mental” health. I’ll leave that one here.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, what things do you HATE to hear? Let me know in the comments!
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