Hey there, and welcome to a slightly sarcastic anxiety masterclass that’s cleverly titled: What Not To Say To Someone With Anxiety. In this post I want to talk you through some of the worst possible things you could say to someone who has anxiety (especially if they’re in the middle of a panic attack because that’s! not! helpful!)…
“There’s nothing to be scared of”
Alright buddy, let’s say you were being chased by a pack of lions and you were about to hit a dead end. You’d be scared, right? What I’m feeling right now is as real and intense as that situation would be for you. Whether you understand the fear or think it’s irrational is completely irrelevant, because it’s real to me.
“At least you don’t have [another illness]”
I’m gonna stop you right there. I am well aware that an awful lot of people are dealing with much worse things than me, but that doesn’t make what I’m going through any less valid or important.
“It’s all in your head”
If someone breaks their arm, you don’t just say “It’s all in your arm,” because that would be stupid. Well anxiety is a mental illness, so in some ways it is in my head because it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain, but oh my god it’s 2020. Can we stop talking about mental illnesses as if they’re less important than physical illnesses. Also, you wouldn’t believe the number of physical symptoms that I get as a result of my anxiety.
“I have that too!”
Obviously if you do have anxiety then this doesn’t apply to you, but so many people self-diagnose and label general human emotions as an anxiety disorder when it’s not. Anxiety is not a trendy personality trait, it’s a genuinely horrible thing to have to live with and it really sucks when people trivialise it like that.
“Have you tried cutting out sugar?”
Thank you for that absolutely fascinating suggestion that I have absolutely never heard before! I’ll totally check that out! No need to send me 20 links about it! I’m quite capable of researching it myself if I think it’s helpful! But thanks!
It can be difficult knowing the right things to say to someone dealing with any mental illness if you haven’t been through it yourself, but if you steer clear of these five phrases (and anything else that generally lacks empathy and compassion) then you’ve got a good start.