Friends and family often try to help someone with anxiety by giving the person suggestions on what to do. Those of us with anxiety may seem unappreciative or annoyed. We understand you're trying to help, and believe us, we're not trying to be rude or nasty to you. But it doesn’t help and we are often times left feeling worse than before.
Here are a couple examples of things one might find themselves saying to someone with anxiety. Maybe if someone is saying they're anxious, one says that they’re stressed too. Anxiety and stress are not the same thing. Stress is understandable, there could be a test coming up, money is running tight, or there's a lot going. Anxiety is taking that stress to another level and feeling like their running out of air, or their chests are going to cave in. One might tell them to calm down, but it doesn't work like that. Many times, someone with anxiety might have already tried breathing exercises or something else to calm themselves down. One might find themselves saying, 'stop overthinking.' Except that's the problem, someone with anxiety literally can't stop their mind from racing. If someone with anxiety explains why they're anxious, reassuring them that 'it'll be okay.' No matter what the situation or outcome the anxiety is not going away.
The worst thing to hear is that "you're stronger than this." People with anxiety are often very strong, and they normally appreciate hearing it. When you tell someone they are stronger than anxiety, you are assuming it’s something that can be put aside. They may already feel weak because they haven't overcome the questions and thoughts in their head. The sad truth is that instead of feeling better by calling them strong, they end up feeling worse about their anxiety and feel like they let you down, adding to the feelings of failure
People who suffer from anxiety have many triggers, that affect them differently, so the way they combat anxiety is different as well. While one might feel calmer when being hugged or held, others may feel better being completely alone. Someone might find grounding works, (this could be continuously counting various objects that are around them or even just moving spots or positions), whereas someone else might need the room to be completely quiet and dark. Everyone is different. In having a conversation with the person with anxiety one will not only start to understand that person's anxiety a little bit better, but they will also be able to figure out what helps them most. Which is all someone can ask for. Above all, through our anxiety or frustration, please know we love you and appreciate everything you try to do to help, but we want you to understand anxiety and what helps a little bit better. For most, nothing fixes anxiety, but you can absolutely make a friend feel better by switching efforts from suggestions to possibly different actions.