7 things you should never say to someone with anxiety (and what to say instead)

Do you know someone who has chronic anxiety?

If you’re living in America, it’s highly likely that you do. According to recent statistics, over 3.3 million American adults have been identified as having an anxiety disorder. And that doesn’t include those who don’t seek help.

However, at school, we’re never taught what to say to someone with anxiety. So even when we have the best intentions in mind, what we say can be hurtful.

Below, I’ve gone over 7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with anxiety, and what you can say instead.

‘You Have A Lot To Be Grateful For’:

It’s understandable why someone says this. What they are really trying to say is “Look at the bright side”.

But a person with anxiety won’t see it that way. They’ll re-frame this to mean “I’m not doing enough to appreciate the good things in my life.”

Instead, you can say ‘I appreciate you’.

We all need to know we are appreciated, especially if you’re experiencing heavy anxiety. This lets an anxious person know that you understand they’re going through a lot, and you appreciate them for being so strong.

Never Use The Word “SHOULD”:

We often say things like “you SHOULD try meditation” or “you SHOULD just relax”. But this isn’t really helpful and can often backfire.

Don’t tell them what to do. Instead ask them what they’d like to do.

“What brings you peace”? and then if the conversations calls for it,  you can suggest some options.

‘Everything Will Be okay’:

These words don’t really mean anything. Instead say “Don’t worry I am here for you”.

A person with anxiety can feel quite lonely and letting them know you are there for them will make them feel less isolated.

‘Just Be happy’:

We all want to be happy. Believe me when I say a person with anxiety is trying to be happy. In fact, perhaps even more so than others which is why they have bad anxiety.

Instead, listen to them talk about their problems and even take them out to do something fun.

‘What Do You Have To Be Anxious About’:

It’s not necessarily what they have to be anxious about, but the anxiety itself. And what you’re getting across with this statement is that their anxiety is meaningless.

Instead, ask ‘what are you stressed about?’

This can lead to a productive conversation that might actually help them.

‘There Are People With Much Bigger Problems’:

True, but this doesn’t make them feel any better. Anxiety is a subjective experience and you don’t know what it’s like for them.

Instead, let me know that you’re sorry to hear that they’re anxious and you’re willing to listen to their problems.

‘It’s All In Your Head’:

It might be a mental issue, but it’s not in their control. This statement can make them feel like there is something wrong with them. Instead, try to have some fun with them! Take them out, do something positive. 

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