Anxiety: When You Can't Just 'Chill Out'
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Health and Wellness

Anxiety: When You Can't Just 'Chill Out'

What to say and what not to say to someone dealing with anxiety.

Anxiety: When You Can't Just 'Chill Out'

Living in a shifting society which consistently demands the acquisition of innumerable responsibilities and impeccable social competence allows for normal feelings of nervousness and apprehension. For someone with clinical anxiety, these feelings of nervousness, tension and unease are rather atypical and can often become debilitating and misunderstood. Although, anxiety is hardly new. In fact, Sigmund Freud wrote a book about it in 1926, as did Soren Kierkegaard 80 years prior. In the fourth century BC, Hippocrates wrote that anxiousness is “a difficult disease” and that one with anxiety “thinks he has something like a thorn, something pricking him in his viscera, and nausea torments him”--sounds about right.

Anxiety has become entirely misunderstood and the word “anxiety” and all of its subsidiary variants have become excessively misused in everyday communication. Often, people tend to describe something which may generate nervousness in them by saying, “(blank) gives me so much anxiety!” I am not perfect myself, as I have used “anxiety” as a method of describing things that would typically induce nervousness…and I have an Anxiety Disorder.

The careless use of the word goes to show how inconsiderate we as a society have become to vocabulary usage and a mental illnesses impacting the lives of nearly 40 million adults in the United States alone.

People with anxiety are not “shy” or “incapable of handling stress.” Our thoughts are merely running marathons. There are many days I wake up anxiety-free and eager to take on a seemingly less stressful; day. However, there are also days that I wake up with crippling anxiety and the sheer thought of seeing, doing and interacting trigger the same bodily responses one would get if they were about to be mauled by an angry Chewbacca-like creature.

When someone with an Anxiety Disorder is feeling anxious, there are many ways you (as a friend or kind stranger) can help. There are also many ways that you can make it (the anxiety) much worse.

Things NOT to say to someone with Anxiety:

1.Calm Down

Okay, but how? Studies indicate that telling someone with an anxiety disorder to ‘calm down,’ is like telling someone with allergies to ‘stop sneezing.’” Anxiety disorder is not a choice, it’s a disorder of a turbulent and excited mind.

2. It's All in your Head

Why, yes Doctor, yes it is. People with anxiety understand that their thoughts are irrational most of the time, but are unable to control or eliminate illogical thoughts or behaviors associated with those thoughts. Telling someone that it is "all in their head" just allows them to feel more of a lack of control.

3. You need to start exercising more or take on yoga. I heard drinking green tea helps.

There is no scientific research that demonstrates a positive correlation between anxiety and any of the healthy tactics mentioned above. Although I would definitely recommend living a healthy lifestyle to improve your physical health, diet and exercise cannot actually directly influence your mental health.

4. Why can't you just do it yourself?

My brain is weird, sorry. If someone with anxiety asks you to accompany them while they fill up their gas tank, or check out at a grocery store, they are comfortable with you and need your support. Personally, I understand that many times I will have to do things alone, but when I am incredibly anxious, having a friend alleviates some of my nervousness.

5. Me too, that happens to me all the time.

DO NOT compare anxiety disorders (especially if you are one who does not have one but you consider your normal test anxiety or classroom anxiety to be of equal value). Comparing your struggle to someone else's is uncool and insensitive. Even if you do actually have an Anxiety Disorder too, this is not the best thing to say.

Things you SHOULD say to help someone with Anxiety:

1. I'm here for you!

It is as simple as that. Allowing someone with anxiety to understand that you support them and care for them despite their irrationalities speaks volumes of who you are as a person.

2. Let me know what I can do to help.

If someone with anxiety is panicking about a certain situation or perceived notion, try to ask if you can be of any assistance. There were many times where I have felt the need to go to the hospital because I misinterpreted the smallest bodily sensation for a terminal illness...let’s just say that the hospital staff knows me well. My friends were always kind and supportive even when they knew I was being irrational.

3. I will consider learning more about Anxiety Disorders!

The more you understand the symptoms of anxiety and various methods of coping relative to this disorder, the more capable you will be of helping someone with this disorder.

4. Silence

Sometimes, silence really can be golden. If you do not know what to say in a certain situation or if you believe that remaining quiet is the best option, please do so. Do not stay silent during a maniacal state of panic, though---that’s just inconsiderate.

Although anxiety can often be crippling, many individuals with anxiety disorders get by just fine. Despite my social anxiety, I am proud to say that I am not a recluse. I hold multiple jobs and leadership positions, which I must admit, can get difficult on days when my anxiety is intense, but most people are understanding. I also try to have a sense of humor regarding my anxiety disorder, as I jokingly call myself the “Anxiety Princess.”

I refuse to allow my anxiety to ruin me or anyone else. I refuse to permit the glamorization of this disorder. Bob Marley claimed, “None but ourselves can free our minds,” but I think sometimes, we all need a little help.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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