In honor of mental health awareness day on Wednesday, Oct. 10th, there are many things I have thought of that you should not say to a person who is struggling with anxiety. Having anxiety is not something we make up, it is very real, and knowing what will help someone during a panic attack or an anxious time in their life can help them and you! If you don't have anxiety, it might be difficult to know how to help them so hopefully, these tips can give you some insight.
1. "Just get over it"
Telling someone with anxiety to "just get over it" is like telling someone with a broken back to do 10 backflips in a row, it just doesn't make sense. If you want to help them get over it, try just being there for them and asking them what is wrong.
2. "You are fine"
No, they are not fine. They can be fine eventually if you do not put down their anxious feelings and try to calm them down instead. Ask them what will help and start from there.
3. "Anxiety isn't real"
If you have never had anxiety, you won't know what people with anxiety feel like when they experience this but it is 100% real to them. It is a feeling they get, just as real as when you feel hungry 'cause you have not eaten in 12 hours. It is so real to them, so make sure you recognize that!
4. "It is all in your head"
Telling us that it is all in our head makes us feel like you do not believe us and that we are just making this up for attention. If people with anxiety made up panic attacks for attention, we would be pretty twisted. Being anxious and everything that comes along with it is not fun, I promise it is not all in our head. We wish it was.
5. "I totally understand what you are going through"
For people who have anxiety, you know that this is one of the most annoying ones ever. If you are someone who does not have anxiety and you complain all day about how hard everything is in life and how you got a little nervous before a test and you think that is anxiety, and you bring your everyday problems and compare them to anxiety you are wrong. Anxiety is a recurring thing, it does not just show up when one little thing in our lives goes wrong. It never goes away. Saying you have anxiety because you missed your nail appointment is ridiculous because that is not anxiety. If you are not clinically diagnosed with anxiety, do not throw it around like you have been.
6. "I don't know why you're so upset, chill"
I wish I could chill, and I also wish I knew why I was upset too! You could be sitting in a room full of all of your loved ones with all the best food in the world and some music playing and all of a sudden a panic attack could hit you. That is the most difficult part of anxiety because you don't know what it stemmed from so you have a harder time trying to calm yourself down. I know you may not know why people with anxiety get upset, but 99% of the time we don't either.
7. "You need help"
Telling someone with an anxiety disorder that they need help can only make them feel worse because it will make them feel like people think something is wrong with them and they aren't normal. That is how anxious people think, trust me. Instead say, "Is there anything you think would help that I can help you with?" and go from there!
8. "Have a drink, you will feel better"
No. No, they won't. Drinking will probably make them feel worse because drinking alters how you feel and drinking is something that suppresses you! You want them to do something that is good for them, not something that makes them feel not like their own self.
10. "Let it go"
Being anxious is something we wish every day could be just "let go" but that is completely impossible. We do not choose to be anxious, it stems from things in our past that have led us to feel this way and letting it go is not the answer.
11. "Be more positive"
This is what people with anxiety want to do! But, anxiety holds us back. It's like being trapped inside a small box while everything good in your life is outside of it but you cannot get out, you are stuck. We want to get outside of the box and reach that positivity but the box is glued shut. So trust me, we want to, we just struggle with it.
Being anxious is not something everyone understands and that is OK! Just remember to ask more calming questions rather than jumping to conclusions when you are talking to someone with anxiety. Anxiety sucks, so spreading awareness so everyone knows it is real is what I hope this brings!