5 Things You Should Never Say to Someone With Anxiety

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Having lived with anxiety for over 13 years, speaking publicly about it for almost 3 and having finally been officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder recently, I’ve heard just about everything. While my family and friends mean well, so many of them have a knack for saying the wrong thing when my anxiety is at its highest. It occurred to me that they aren’t trying to be hurtful, they are really just trying to help me to get over that “moment”. So instead of getting upset, I figured I’d share the 5 things you should never say to someone with anxiety.

According to the ADAA, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States, or 18.1% of the population every year. What this means is, someone, if not multiple people in your life, are suffering from some type of anxiety. I’ll be talking about the warning signs in an upcoming post, but for now, I want to share some tips that can help you when those people in your life are having a bad day.

Here are the 5 things you should never say to someone who is suffering from anxiety:

 

Just Don’t Think About It

Let me make something clear. No one that suffers from anxiety is choosing to think about it. We don’t wake up in the morning and think, “what a beautiful day to stay in bed and feel anxious, sad and helpless”. When the anxiety gets bad, in most cases, we can’t stop thinking about it. It’s just not an option. We have to let those crazy thoughts make their way through our brain, until they are ready to leave. If you tell us not to think about it, the only thing we’ll be thinking is how much we want to punch you in the neck, for suggesting such a ridiculous thing.

What you can do instead: Try to distract us. Don’t tell us that you’re doing it, just do it. Distraction is a great way to take our minds off of whatever it is that’s causing the anxiety. We may be hesitant or might not want to pay attention to what you’re doing or showing us. Music has always worked well for me. If someone turns on a song I like, and I start singing, it takes the focus off of whatever it was I was thinking about and I forget. Read the situation. If we aren’t responsive, don’t push too hard.

Calm Down

I think this is the worst of all the things you can say to someone with anxiety. We can’t just “calm down”. It’s not an option. We need to breathe, work through it, let it pass… however it is that they deal with anxiety. Everyone is different. Eventually, we will calm down, but telling us to do so will only make the matter worse.

What you can do instead: Just be there. Listen. Hold our hand. Rub our back. Believe it or not, sometimes it helps just knowing that we aren’t alone. We are looking for compassion, understanding and support. Providing those three things can make all the difference.

Have You Tried This Miracle Product

Do not, under any circumstances, use the opportunity to sell us a product. Please. I beg of you. There is nothing more irritating than someone claiming that a product will miraculously take our anxiety away. This method is especially awful if you are trying to use the moment to make some money off of us or recruit us. We are dealing with enough as it is. In no way, will buying a product from you, or signing up for your team, ever make our anxiety magically disappear. Don’t do it. Ever.

What you can do instead: Keep your sales pitch to yourself. If you suffer from anxiety and have found something (a method or a product) that calms you down, you can reach out as a fellow-sufferer and find out what they have tried, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and then (only if we ask), tell us what you do when you’re feeling most anxious. If we know that it’s coming from a good place and from someone who understands, we will be more receptive. But NEVER have that conversation with the hopes of making a quick buck off of us. If you’re constantly posting about your MLM, we are well aware that you sell it. Believe me.

Snap Out of It

If snapping out of it was an option, don’t you think we would just flip that switch? If it was that easy, don’t you think anxiety wouldn’t even be an issue? People with anxiety can’t just snap out of it. We can’t stop worrying. For many of us, the more we try not to think about something, the harder it is to get it out of our head. When you say “snap out of it” we think you don’t believe that what we’re feeling is real. Would you tell someone who had a cut in their hand that they weren’t really cut? Chances are you wouldn’t, because you can see the cut. While you might not be able to see anxiety, it’s just as real and it hurts just as badly.

What you can do instead: Do some research. Learn about anxiety, it’s causes and what could trigger it. Try to understand what occurs when we are having an anxiety attack. You’ll find that it’s so much easier to help and you’re less likely to make the anxiety worse, when you understand what’s happening.

Stop Over Analyzing

For most of us, anxiety and over analyzing go hand in hand. When we are on our way to a special event or vacation, many of us will analyze every second before we even get there. We imagine everything that can go wrong and plan out how we will cope with each awful situation. It’s our way of feeling in control. And our anxiety is usually at it’s highest when we feel like we don’t have complete control over every minute, of every day. For some of us, this over analyzing helps us to get past the anxiety, though at the same time, we are magnifying the anxiety by thinking about all of the things that can go wrong. It’s a vicious cycle but it’s something we can’t just stop doing.

What you can do instead: Help to make us feel as though we are in control. Allow us to make lists, talk about alternative options or just humor us when we make a comment about how we don’t want to go in the water in case there are sharks. Let us see that it’s safe for ourselves. Once we feel in control, we will ease up and join in. You just have to be patient and let us do things on our own terms.

I hope, if nothing else, this helps you in dealing with those of your loved ones that suffer from anxiety or panic disorder. And if you aren’t able to come up with the right words, please remember that the best thing you can do for someone who is having an anxiety attack, is to just be there for them. They may not acknowledge you, but they know you are there and that makes all the difference for us, when things are at their worst.

When a loved one suffers from anxiety, there are certain things you should never say to them. These are 5 things you should never say to someone with anxiety.

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. My husband is guilty of telling me to calm down, and stop overanalyzing things. I just side-eye him hard.

  2. Calm down and Snap out of it are the most common things I hear people say. It’s great to know more about handling people who have anxiety.

  3. Yes! I am dealing with postpartum anxiety right now and love how you rephrased all the common things that I have heard from people who don’t get it.

  4. This is such good advice. It’s easy to forget that things that may work for us personally, don’t work for everyone else, and that anxiety is serious

  5. Ugh I think the stop overanalyzing one is the worst. I know that people mean well but it’s like impossible for people to just stop doing that. It’s become a defense mechanism and until they are able to feel safe in themselves and their lives they will not be able to just stop doing that.

  6. Great advice! I really wish people would think before they speak. I suffer from anxiety and can’t tell you how many times people have said to me – “just don’t think about it.”

  7. Oh, my biggest pet peeve is for someone to tell me to ‘calm down’. It only aggravates me. Anybody who hasn’t dealt with anxiety shouldn’t be offering advice either. Ugh!

  8. This a great post that someone without anxiety will definitely find handy. Thanks for taking the time to put it together!

  9. Yes, to all of this! I think people’s intentions are good, but it’s hard for people to seriously understand what it is like to experience anxiety if they have not had to deal with it.

  10. It’s great to know what NOT to say or do in situations like this one. The best thing is just be, hug, hear out with your heart and soul.

  11. These are definitely some things you should NOT say to a person with anxiety. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

  12. One of my loved ones has really bad anxiety and this was helpful for me. Thank you for this

  13. It took me years to figure out that I had anxiety. I thought I just couldn’t let things go. It is mostly controlled with medication now and it is so freeing.

  14. Thanks for the reminder of what to say and what not to say. I have been known to use the “calm down” only to escalate things.

  15. Honestly, I have never encounter a person who has an anxiety but I am glad to know these things at least I was able to know to learn how to handle this kind of situation. Thanks for sharing your tips with us!

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      I’m willing to bet you have, you just didn’t know it. Many with anxiety hide it from their friends and family.

  16. These are all very good tips and I know when someone has said any of these things to me it does make it worse.

  17. These are some great tips for what not to say to someone struggling with anxiety. Unfortunately there are people who don’t care, are insensitive or worst of all gaslighting. This should help!

  18. It can be a hard thing to discuss with those who do not understand. Sometimes friends try to offer suggestions but without a real understanding, they seem to minimalize it without that being their true intention. I hope you find what works for you.

  19. I agree with this list. My husband has PTSD and my daughter has generalized anxiety. I still sometimes say the wrong things but I work hard to make sure that they know I love them and am there to support them.

  20. Great topic, we tend to try to solve things by saying things that might not be the best, this is a great reminder of just listening instead of trying to make it better when we can’t

  21. A big hug for you, Heather! I love the info and tips you have shared on living with anxiety. I truly truly hope someone picks them up and makes good use of them.

    1. My husband has told me to calm down in the past, I’ve said to him “do you think I choose to be like this and that I look forward to something for months only to ruin it in my head”, if think he understands a bit better now, when he sees things are getting too much for me he is talks with to me about otherwise things and tries to distract me, sometimes it works an sometimes it doesn’t but at least he tries.

  22. These are all so true! I really hate hearing things like this, make things worse. I hope my family will be more aware and sensitive about it.

  23. That calm down stuff gets on my nerves especially when they aren’t even trying to hear my side. These are some great tips!

  24. So So true!!! I have anxiety and I agree with this completely. It’s hard because people who haven’t experienced it don’t quite understand how we can’t just do these things and move past it.

  25. This is such a great post. I deal with anxiety myself, and I definitely hate when some say some of these. I love the alternatives you have mentioned.

  26. Those are great tips. Snap out of it does not sound like a sympathetic thing to say! I suffered years ago from anxiety myself, it’s hard.

  27. All good points as I have dealt with depression and people say the same sort of things. Some people don’t care what they say. Others mean well and just don’t know what to say.

  28. A couple of people that I love suffer from an anxiety disorder. These are great reminders for me, so I can be helpful instead of adding to the problem.

  29. I really enjoyed reading this post. Your tips are really helpful. At times, I really don’t know what to say.

  30. I hate all of those! I went to my first therapy session last week to work on my anxiety. I had to reschedule the next because I fell so now I have to wait a bit to go back. I’ll be happy to at least get it under control!

  31. Telling someone to calm down is so bad in every scenario. I definitely agree with the points you made

  32. Oh my gosh, the miracle product thing gets so old. Sometimes, a pill won’t fix it! Plus, I don’t want to spend hundreds to attempt something I know won’t work.

  33. Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable… and for helping others too! This is such good info to know.

  34. I completely agree with all of these! Another one that makes my anxiety worse is when people tell me that the situation “isn’t THAT bad”. The worst! There are so many more productive and kind things you can use instead.

  35. This phrase, “Have You Tried This Miracle Product” is a big NO for someone with anxiety. They should be more sensitive about their words and carefully select it.

  36. I try to always be understanding. I know I can get anxiety at times–social anxiety, for one, and my husband has gotten better with it. He used to say things like “calm down” and realized quickly it was the wrong thing to say.

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  37. Thank you so much for sharing this and I will be sharing this to my Facebook. So many times I hear a few of the things you listed above from family like I can control my anxiety and that’s just not accurate. 😘

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