There are over 40 million people in the US that are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. While it may not seem like that big of a deal, it is actually something that can control a person’s entire life. Imagine not being able to get in a car because you are too anxious about driving since you had been in an accident a few months ago. Or what about if you couldn’t be near large groups of people because crowds make you have a panic attack? If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, you cannot fully understand the power it can have over someone’s life. Here are seven things that you should never say to someone with anxiety if you don’t truly understand the disorder:
1. “Have a drink, it can help you relax”: While having a drink or two may relax them and take their mind off of the anxiety for a short while, it can be a gateway to alcohol abuse.
2. “Don’t sweat the little things”: What may be little to you may not be something little to someone with an anxiety disorder. If you say something is small and they don’t think it is you could end up demeaning them without realizing it. Try to be positive about the thing that they are having trouble with instead.
3. “Did I do something wrong?”: Just because they are having a hard time does not mean that you are the cause. Often anxiety disorders are triggered by multiple incidents, not just one. Understand their feelings and do not assume that you are the cause. Talk it out with them if possible.
4. “Just do it”: Intimidation and tough love does not make someone with anxiety instantly think, “Oh hey, I can do this!” In fact, it can make things much worse. Show them empathy so that they will calm down a little and know they have support.
5. “Calm down”: When you have anxiety it doesn’t take just a snap of the fingers to calm down. If they were able to do so, don’t you think they would have? Medications and intense therapy may be able to help them learn techniques to calm themselves down.
6. “I’m stressed out too”: Your stress is which shirt to wear to the big meeting. Their stress is how they are going to go to the mandatory company meeting when they are so anxious about being in a crowd.
7. “Everything is going to be fine”: Telling someone with anxiety this does no good. While it may be said with the best of intentions, they will not believe you and will actually become more panicked because they will be thinking about all of the ways it won’t be fine.