What Not to Say to Someone with Anxiety

People with anxiety disorder often experience worry even in normal scenarios or situations that does not normally cause intense feelings. For these people, anxiety attacks can happen anytime, anywhere.


Unfortunately, anxiety disorder is often misunderstood by those who do not have the,. As if the sweaty palms, racing heart, dizziness and inner turmoil are not bad enough, many people with anxiety disorders also endure well-intentioned but insensitive comments from people who do not understand their condition. To clear up the confusion, here are the most common things often said to someone with anxiety but should not.

1.       “Calm down.”

This advice can be invalidating. You are telling the person to do something that’s impossible for him to do. If it’s easy for him to calm down, for sure would; but it’s not, so it only makes him feel even more anxious and frustrated. The person with anxiety will force himself to calm down, but fail to do so, leading to feeling of guilt and sadness.

2.       “Don’t worry too much. Nothing bad will happen.”

Someone with anxiety tend to focus on worst-case scenarios. It’s easy to reassure them that their fears won’t come to life, but these words of encouragement have opposite effects, too. So, instead of saying “Don’t worry,” say something like, “If something bad happens, it’s not going to feel good, but you’ll be able to get through it.”

Young woman covering face with hands, looking through fingers, close-up

3.       “It’s all in your head.”

Yes, anxiety is caused by problems that only exist in a person’s head. However, focusing on that fact alone puts a person with anxiety in a state of confusion where they doubt their feelings. Instead, help your loved one get through the activity that worries them by doing it with them or engage them in an activity they enjoy doing.

4.       “So, when are you going to see a specialist?”

There’s nothing wrong with suggesting to someone with anxiety to go see a specialist, if you really think they need one. However, do not be too pushy about it. Therapies can be mentally and emotionally invasive and it’s important that the person only begin doing so when they are totally ready.

5.       “It’s part of growth. You’ll get through it.”

You might feel the urge to burst this out when trying to comfort someone such as a teenager or young adult. Sure, some anxiety attacks are influenced by external factors and are part of growth and development, but there’s also due to genetics, medical condition and natural chemistry of the brain. Do not assume you know better. Even trained professionals spend years figuring out exactly the cause of one’s anxiety.

Keep in mind that a person with anxiety disorder will likely analyze things differently, so be careful with your words; and when in doubt, always choose compassion.


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