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.

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.

what not to say to someone with anxiety

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, what things do you HATE to hear? Let me know in the comments!

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22 Comments

  1. Great post Jenny, hopefully it will help people to stop and think before they say something they shouldn’t. That’s the last thing that an anxiety sufferer needs. Support, and understanding is what they should have.

  2. I can relate to so many of these! I love how you’ve written this especially with the responses we wish we could say to them. Love your blog header btw 🙂

    Beth // Polishedcouture.wordpress.com xo

  3. I love this list so much!! #1 particularly pisses me off… if I was easily able to “just chill out”, I wouldn’t be having a problem with anxiety in the first place, now would I? It’s like when I’m having an episode of depression and people say, “just look on the bright side”… the whole point about having depression is that you can’t ‘just look on the bright side’. People sometimes, eh? And #8 made me laugh out loud 🙂 Thanks for a great post!

  4. I absolutely agree with you. Many of these things I have heard so often… Most people simply can’t understand someone else. So often I heard guys trying to convince me that I just make my own problems, that I’m telling myself to have anxieties when there is no way I could actually suffer from them. And then I think: “oh really? So, you know me better than I do?” Thank you for writing about it. Love your post.

    1. Nobody can understand what goes on inside anyone else’s mind but you don’t need to be judgemental and cruel if you don’t get it! Oh my gosh, really? I’ve heard that before too – that I’m making up problems for myself like yes, that’s absolutely what I want to have, MORE problems haha! xx

  5. I love this. I’ve suffered from severe anxiety and panic disorder for years now, and no one seems to get it. I always feel so alone and I hear these things constantly. It’s so difficult to just get out of bed and function sometimes…it’s really nice to have a community of people who understand.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Kelly 🙁 It is tough but the blogging community is actually so supportive and open about mental health which is so important. If you ever want to chat about it, you know where to find me! Don’t feel alone – that’s the worst feeling in the world when you’re riddled with anxiety xx

    1. I understand and I sometimes say things to myself which would sound quite mean but it’s a totally different ball-game from saying it to yourself and someone being judgemental and saying it to you xx

  6. A fantastic article and I love how open you are. I have worked in mental health for many years now, and it’s articles like this that help others to understand, they also highlight subjects that are important and hopefully result in a better understanding of the subject. Wishing you all the best and keep up the good work X

  7. Omg YES to all of these!! I seriously can’t stand how people who do not suffer from anxiety think its something you can just shrug off. So annoying!!

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