Anxiety is a terrible disease. Not only do those who suffer from it live in a constant state of worry and panic, but they also have to deal with those who don’t truly understand the nature of the disease. Although friends of those with anxiety are, for the most part, attempting to be sympathetic, sometimes their “words of advice” end up doing more harm than good. Even if you are trying to help, you should never catch yourself saying the following to a person suffering from anxiety.
1. “Stop being so negative!”
People with anxiety wish they could stop focusing on the possibility of bad things happening, but they can’t. Their minds are full of what-if scenarios, and will unwittingly latch on to the worst-case outcomes as if they’re 100% guaranteed. For people with anxiety, pessimism and realism are one in the same.
2. “You just like being miserable.”
We’ve all heard people say “you’re just not happy unless you have something to complain about,” but to a person with anxiety, this simply isn’t the case. They don’t like being miserable, but for many of them, it’s the only way they know how to live.
3. “You’re so dramatic.”
Life isn’t a TV show. People with anxiety don’t sit around writing their lives out in a script in an attempt to make every situation they face as dramatic as possible. They don’t thrive off of the panicky feelings they get, and they certainly aren’t entertained by them. They know they’re dramatic, and would give anything to not be.
4. “You’re being ridiculous.”
Along with knowing they’re dramatic at times, people with anxiety often know their feelings and intuitions are ridiculous, but they can’t help feeling them. Also, by saying this, you put a label on a friend because of an illness that they can’t help. Do you really think that will help at all?
5. “Try not to think about it.”
This is like saying “Stop thinking of purple elephants.” If you tell someone, especially a person with anxiety, to stop thinking about something, all they’re going to do is think abut it (no matter what “it” is). As a friend, the best thing you can do is steer clear of talking about “it” altogether, and bring up just about anything else to the person’s mind.
6. “Get over yourself.”
Those who don’t understand anxiety might think the sufferer is just throwing a pity-party. If anything, though, it’s the complete opposite. People suffering from anxiety hate being in the spotlight and don’t want to be the center of attention. They’re not making a huge scene because they want people to feel bad for them; they truly cannot help themselves.
7. “What do you have to worry about?”
A person who truly suffers from anxiety will probably answer this question with “everything and nothing all at once.” They know that, for the most part, there really is nothing to worry about, but since they can’t stop worrying about something (usually an intangible, unreachable something), they tend to worry even more. And insinuating they don’t have anything to worry about, of course, only exacerbates the issue.
8. “You just need to try harder.”
Though anxiety obviously creates observable reactions from those who suffer from it, it’s an internal disease of the mind that can’t be seen by others. Saying that a sufferer needs to “try harder” to deal with their issues makes it clear that you have no idea how much they are struggling to keep it together at any and all times.
9. “It must be horrible being you.”
File this one under “Gee, thanks.” While you might think such a statement is a sympathetic way of saying “I feel your pain,” a person with anxiety is just going to hear “Sucks to be you.” They really can’t imagine what it’s like to not suffer from anxiety, but would do absolutely anything to live life free of chronic worry. They know it’s horrible; they don’t need you to reinforce that.
10. “Everyone feels that way sometimes.”
Again, this is a vain attempt to commiserate with an anxious individual, but all it does is minimize everything the person is going through. Sure, everyone feels uneasy every once in a while, but the definition of anxiety is a chronic feeling of uneasiness. By definition, unless you feel anxious all the time, you have no idea how a person with true anxiety feels.
11. “You’re just lazy.”
At least the rest of the items on this list are attempts at being sympathetic; this one’s just straight-up mean. It goes along with “you need to try harder,” as if a person with anxiety deserves to have to put extra effort into beating their disease. And, again, just because you can’t see how hard they’re trying doesn’t mean they’re not.
12. “It could be worse.”
Of course it could be worse. But then, once you say that, all an anxious person is going to think about is how much worse it could be. As I said before, those suffering from anxiety tend to extrapolate and predict chains of occurrences that will lead to even worse scenarios. Saying “it could be worse” might be an attempt to let a friend know they don’t have it that bad, but all it really does is lead to them coming up with hundreds of what-if scenarios leading to pain and suffering.
Featured photo credit: Anxiety / Diane Northman via farm9.staticflickr.com