If you aren’t going through anxiety, sometimes it is difficult to know what to say(or not to say) to someone going through anxiety. What you want to say may sound great in your head and have the best intentions, but it doesn’t always come across how you hoped when you say it to the person struggling. I decided to research some advice for how to talk to someone with anxiety. Everyone is different, so while some people may find certain things helpful, others may feel the opposite. I recommend making sure you use your best judgment and have the best intentions when trying to comfort someone with anxiety.
I wanted to start with what you should NOT say before I talk about helpful things to say.
- Calm Down – When you have anxiety your goal is to calm down. Someone telling you to calm down isn’t helpful. This phrase can be annoying because the person trying to help doesn’t get how difficult calming down can be.
- It’s Not a Big Deal – Telling someone with anxiety that what they are panicking about is not a big deal is pretty much telling them that their feelings are not a big deal. To that person with anxiety their feelings ARE a big deal.
- I Know How You Feel – Telling someone you know how they feel in the midst of a panic attack is like a competition. Yeah, it may be nice to know you are not alone, but save the shared experiences for when the panic attack is done.
- Have you tried…? – This one makes me the angriest. Everyone is different so what works for one person may not work for another. I’ve always suffered with acne and when people would suggest what I should do it always made me mad because I had already tried what they were suggesting. What works for one person doesn’t always work for others.
Now that I’ve talked about what not to say, I will talk about things that you can say that may be helpful. Again, they may not be helpful for everyone, but they are probably going to be more helpful than the phrases above.
- I’m Always Here For You – Even if you may not understand what someone is going through, it is nice to show that you are there for them. Sometimes it can help to just listen without judgment.
- What Can I Do To Help You – It’s best to just come out and ask what will be helpful because everyone is so different. As I mentioned above, what works for one person probably won’t work for the next. This phrase also shows that you are taking their anxiety seriously.
- I Notice You’ve Been Anxious A Lot And I Am Concerned – This phrase can be very helpful as long as you come from the right place. Mention what you have noticed and offer your support. It’s nice to know you are noticed and that others feel concern for you.
The sources below have more helpful tips about what to say and not say to someone with anxiety: