Anxiety sufferers experience a state of unrest exposing them to heightened sensitivity.

So it stands to reason there are some things you should never say.

Anxiety is not uncommon, dear. Did you know that, according to the National Institute of Health, anxiety affects about 40 million Americans age 18 and older? It’s true, and that’s a load of people! These people, including myself, are misunderstood, for the most part, and suffer random panic attacks that take away irrationality and reason. It’s chaos, for lack of a better word.

Anxiety takes away self-control and replaces it with panic.

Anxiety is cruel, and unfortunately, others who try to understand are unintentionally cruel as well. They just don’t know what to say, what to do or how to respond to those who suffer from this illness.

Here are a few things that may be the worst way to respond to anxiety.

“Calm down”

While this may seem harmless, it can be damaging. Let me explain. Although I have anxiety myself, I have been guilty of telling others to calm down. But this statement is demanding. It says that anxiety is nothing more than a choice, and it should be easy for its sufferers to stop feeling or responding in a negative manner.

It’s not that simple, however. Anxiety sufferers cannot always calm down when you need them to. It is alarming and insulting at the same time to assume they can. Just as chronic pain victims cannot stop hurting by suggestion, neither can those with anxiety just “calm down”.

“I know how you feel”

Unless you have anxiety, you cannot possibly know how anxiety sufferers feel. Give me a break! Do you suffer from panic attacks, sweating, gasping for breath and losing control?

Telling someone that you know how they feel, just because you get nervous sometimes, is not the same as truly understanding the depths of anxiety. This only alienates the victim and makes them feel like they’re being silly. When they feel this way, their self-esteem takes a hit, further irritating the already raging anxiety within them.

“It’s all in your head”

Okay, let’s tear this one apart, shall we? While anxiety is a disorder within the brain – the brain is actually wired differently it is not a part of our imagination. When we suffer from panic attacks, it is just as real as a heart attack or allergic reaction. We cannot, nor would we want to, make this stuff up. Anxiety is a real sickness.

“Why are you anxious?”

This question may seem innocent to someone who doesn’t suffer from anxiety, but it can be hurtful to those who do. Just because you don’t see a reason why someone is upset and panicking, doesn’t mean they are being petty. You can live in poverty or you can be in the richest household, but you can still suffer from anxiety. Anxiety sufferers don’t have to have a reason why they are sick in order to be affected by the illness.

“What did I do?”

Anxiety sufferers may lash out, and that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you caused the problem. It’s not always about you, and you may have done nothing wrong. Asking someone with anxiety if you are the cause of the issue, may make them feel worse or guilty for having panic attacks. Try not to ask this question, just be there to listen if they need to talk.

“You’re being irrational”

The strange thing is, we know that we’re being irrational, we just can’t stop it. Having anxiety is like being trapped in your own body, and at the mercy of it’s malfunctioning. It’s really no different than other defeating illnesses.

Those outlandish thoughts we have, yeah, we know how crazy they are, but for a few moments they make perfect sense and something has to be done about the crisis. Anxiety sufferers are experiencing a harrowing ordeal.

Those outlandish thoughts we have, yeah, we know how crazy they are, but for a few moments they make perfect sense and something has to be done about the crisis. Anxiety sufferers are experiencing a harrowing ordeal. Our reality is much different from others, most of the time, so it’s best if you are kind, without criticism.

“Are you crazy?”

This is probably the worst thing to say to anxiety sufferers and the cruelest form of criticism. While you may not understand how we think or behave, you should never call us crazy. Maybe we think you are crazy for not worrying a little more about your own life.

Well, it’s possible. Although most of the time these cruel statements come from toxic relationships, even friends can make the mistake with this one when they are angry and overwhelmed by our illness. Just be careful and think before you speak out of emotion.

“You just love attention”

I’m sorry but anxiety sufferers do not act the way they do because they are drama queens, quite the contrary. We wish that we could hide away when we feel a panic attack coming on. At the same time, we need your help.

When we lose it at the grocery store because the line is too long or when we yell at you for doing the same thing over and over, it’s not because we want to make this huge statement. We simply cannot handle the over-stimulation that reality has given us. It’s just too much, and no we don’t need an audience of a spotlight. We don’t care for lots of attention.

“Stop being negative”

I guess it’s easy for others to say this, but it’s so hurtful to hear it. Those who suffer from anxiety don’t see their actions as negative. As a matter of fact, we see our statements and reactions as a defense mechanism, a protective tool – yes, our worrying is the way we keep sane. Our panic attacks, however, are just system overloads during stressful situations or likewise during normal days.

Panic attacks don’t always come when we are stressed but can appear randomly even when nothing seems wrong. When you say “stop being negative”, it doesn’t always make sense to us. Instead, try showing us positive things, and offer calm words to counteract our panic.

As I said before, anxiety is cruel, it has no favorites, no scheduled events, and no mercy. I have anxiety, and I know how perfectly hopeless it feels sometimes. When those you love the most cannot or will not understand, it can feel horrible. If you have anxiety, my heart goes out to you.

But remember, we are spreading the word and educating those you love the most, so hold on. As for those who love someone with anxiety, I suggest you become educated so that you can help them along the healing journey.

Your love and understanding mean more than you could possibly know. Be the best friend you can be and watch your words, learn what builds up and what tears down the unique minds of the mentally ill.

You may be amazed by how much you can really do to help those in need.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. J.Picard

    This article is interesting however borders on using mental health issue as an excuse for bad behaviour, which is not cool. As a person who has suffered with anxiety all my life and the learnt behaviours that go with it…..has caused me years of hurt and pain until I learned to manage my thought processes and apply other modalities to calm the sympathetic nervous system and prevent outburst and bad actions.

    Its one thing to ask for understanding and quite another to keep repeating the same bad behaviours over and over again…just because someone says or does something displeasing to us….. The onus lies within the person to help themselves create a better future by educating themselves first and perhaps a better road to stable mental health.

  2. Lori Howle

    After a lifetime of exposure to a parent with anxiety and a sibling, I disagree with the basic blanket commentary expressed in this essay. It sounds like a collection of excuses for some behaviors that can be treated very effectively with the correct medications, meditation, mindfulness, and counseling. It is a matter of choice…always as to whether or not one chooses to and continue to “suffer.”

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