Suffering from anxiety is incredibly debilitating. It can cause a person to quickly fall into a panic attack over even the slightest contingency in their daily life, and it’s almost impossible to break out of the downward spiral that this panic causes.
Since there’s such a social stigma behind the disorder, those who suffer from anxiety tend to keep quiet about it. And it can affect anybody. Celebrities like Johnny Depp and Adele have faced their share of panic attacks over the years, even though you could never tell by their on-stage personas.
Keeping anxiety under control is difficult enough as it is — it’s even harder to do when people start giving advice you’ve heard a thousand times before. Here is a sampling of that advice.
1. “Stay calm”
I wish I could. That’s literally what anxiety prohibits me from doing. To a person with anxiety, whatever caused them to have this panic attack actually feels like an emergency akin to a house-fire. It will pass in time, but for now you just have to deal with your companion being frantic for a while.
2. “Don’t worry so much about it”
Telling a person with anxiety not to worry about something only does one thing: makes them worry more. In fact, they’ll start coming up with reasons why they should worry. They’ll go through the worst-case scenario possibilities in their head over and over until they feel like they’re going to explode. It might not be easy, but you have to let them worry about whatever it is they’re worried about on their own terms.
3. “You’re so pessimistic”
No, I’m realistic. Like I just said, when you tell a person with anxiety not to worry, all they do is think of the negative possibilities that could occur. Even something like an F on a college exam could cause them to seriously question their future, as they will extrapolate their current failure throughout the rest of their life. If it’s in the realm of possibility, no matter how pessimistic it may seem, it’s going to make them freak out.
4. “Others have it so much worse”
I know there are kids starving all over the world and people who don’t have clean water to drink, but now is not the time to remind me. I know I’m having a pity party, and I know I’m lucky to be alive and have a roof over my head, but all I can think about is whatever bad thing just happened to me. Anxiety gives people tunnel vision. They find it impossible to see from an objective perspective, and unfortunately only focus on themselves for the time being.
5. “It’s not the end of the world”
Again, I know that. Deep down I know that one bump in the road isn’t going to derail my entire life. But, in the heat of the moment, it sure seems that way. When a panic attack hits, it truly feels as if a person’s life is crumbling down around them. No piece of advice is going to make them think otherwise until the attack fades away. Just help them deal with it as best you can.
6. “Have you tried ______?”
Counting to ten? Yep. Breathing into a paper bag? Check. Meditating? Of course. I’ve tried everything. You think I’d not do something to try and fix this mindset? If I found something that worked, do you think I’d avoid doing it? If anxiety had a quick fix, millions of people wouldn’t suffer from it on a daily basis. But thanks for the suggestion, I guess.
7. “Everyone has rough days”
I wish I had your rough days. But I would never wish for you to have mine. Anxiety is not a case of “Ugh, everything’s going wrong today, and of course my ice cream cone falls apart!”
It’s an underlying condition that makes a person on edge at all times, regardless of the situation. Even on a person’s best days, there’s still a possibility that something will happen that will derail everything. The best you can do, as a friend to someone suffering from anxiety, is to accept them for who they are and be there for them when they need you.
Featured photo credit: Hunter McGinnis via farm8.staticflickr.com