Mental Health Monday | 6 Things Not to Say to an Anxious Person

I'm not an expert. I don't speak for everyone with anxiety. But in my anxiety experience, these are some of the worst and digging phrases people have said to me and stuck. Anxious people can relate, non anxious people who know anxious people, take note:
  1. "Don't worry about it" – This is the worst one. Telling an anxious person not to worry is akin to telling a baby not to cry or a cat not to meow. It's utterly pointless and next to impossible for an anxious person to achieve. It does nothing more than make them feel bad for worrying and cause them to (you guessed it) worry even more.

  2. "Why can't you just calm down?" – In the midst of an anxiety attack or panic attack, it is again next to impossible to just calm down. Eventually, yes, people do calm down from an attack, but having people suggest they just calm down or ask them to calm down is asking the impossible. When the brain and body are on a rampage and the adrenaline is running wild, one can't simply just shut it off. Once a panic attack is in full swing, it can take minutes or hours for the body to calm down.

  3. "You're overreacting" – If you want to piss off and alienate an anxiety ridden person this is how to do it. Those who don't understand anxiety can, understandably, see anxious people as overreacting to situations. In certain terms sure they are "overreacting", but it's by no choice of their own. Having a scratchy throat or a sore back can go from reality to cancer in the matter of a few seconds or minutes in the mind of an anxious person. 

  4. "You're being dramatic" – This one is a close cousin of number three. Non-anxiety sufferers think anxious people are often being dramatic about situations or their anxiety. But if you could spend an hour in an anxious person's head, you would realize how one man's dramatic, is another man's reality. 

  5. "Oh, you'll be fine" – Yes, more than likely you will be fine. Once the panic attack or anxious episode passes, often times you realize, ok, yes I will be fine. But in the midst of an attack or episode, comfort with the phrase "oh, you'll be fine" goes totally wasted. In an anxious person's head, they are far from fine. In fact they are dealing with the (false) reality that they are facing death or a similarly dark end. They will be fine more than likely, but in that moment they are so far from fine that hearing the hope of a "fine" future, goes unregistered in their heads. 

  6. "Don't panic" – If only it were that easy... 
Part of the reason people don't understand why these phrases are hurtful is that one, if you don't have anxiety, it's difficult to understand. And two, people don't talk about anxiety enough. So many times people have said these things to me and I've just bitten my tongue because I honestly didn't feel like explaining to that person why it was hurtful or why they shouldn't say something like that to an anxious person. 

It's my new mission and hopefully yours as well, to speak up about these things and educate people who don't suffer with anxiety, why these things are not effective or helpful things to say. By doing so, maybe more and more people can be educated on anxiety as it's so prevalent in our modern world. Food for thought.

- Nikki 

Check out some of my other mental health related posts:

Tips on How to Live with Anxiety                      Mental Illness                          Day Without Stigma

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