Words You Should Never Say to Someone Suffering from Anxiety
Sometimes people don’t know how to act around those who are known to have an anxiety disorder. The tendency to “walk on eggshells” may be well-intentioned, but it usually only serves to make anxious people feel even worse. In order to keep a conversation from becoming becoming awkward, avoid these hurtful words/phrases.
“It’s All in Your Head”
This is possibly the worst thing that can be said to an anxiety sufferer. Not only does it imply that the sufferer is weak, it also suggests that mental illness itself is a joke. Anxiety is just as real and just as debilitating as a broken bone. Unlike a broken bone, though, anxiety doesn’t heal itself after a few months. A better option to this is, “I realize that emotional disorders are very painful.”
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This popular phrase is commonly used to encourage somebody to tough out whatever they may be going through. While this might be a good motivational phrase during an intense workout at the gym, when spoken to anxiety sufferers it makes them think that if they were just mentally “tougher”, they wouldn’t have the problem to begin with. If sheer force of will was all that it took to overcome anxiety disorders, almost nobody would have them. A better way to encourage would be, “I hope your medications and/or therapy is beneficial.”
“People Like You”
This is a crushing description. Even if it is used as a compliment such as “I’m really impressed with all the things people like you can do”, it still makes the sufferer feel horrible. People with anxiety are simply people. Do people go around saying “hey blind guy” or “hi there cripple”? Of course not. A better approach would be to simply refer to the sufferer without any label whatsoever.
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“You’re in Denial”
This is a tricky one because sometimes anxiety sufferers are, in fact, in denial. However, a blunt statement like this may provoke anger, self-loathing, or isolation. If the goal is to get a sufferer into some beneficial treatment, start very small. Gentle observations about fatigue, shakiness, or any of the many symptoms associated with anxiety disorders are a good place to start. If possible, include personal examples of time(s) when a similar experience was felt.
There is no need to feel like an anxiety sufferer will get “set off” if you say the wrong thing. Just try and remember anxiety disorder sufferers are not “freaks” or “psychos”. They’re neighbors, friends, and family.