People who struggle with anxiety often feel frustrated and overwhelmed by persistent worries, fears, and negative thoughts. This can be exacerbated by some seemingly ‘harmless’ and ‘well-meaning’ comments people make when talking with them.
I’m sure that if a person close to you who suffers from anxiety has opened their heart to you about their issues, you’ve tried to comfort and give them bits of advice. But, you should know that even if you have the best intentions, these seemingly well-meaning comments and comforting words can actually be harmful.
When you say something, such as “You should see a doctor” or “Everything will be okay, just be happy,” you make their mental condition look as if it’s something easily understood and you minimize their issues. And for those with anxiety, dealing with these responses in addition to their mental condition is nothing else but a waste of energy.
You want to have answers and help them overcome their problem, but you need to know that oftentimes, a person with anxiety only wants to have someone who will just listen to and be there for them.
So, if someone with anxiety comes to you for help, make sure you never say the following 7 phrases:
1. “Don’t worry. Everything will be okay.”
You can bet they hear this every day. Yet, this doesn’t make them feel better nor does it give them hope. Yet, nothing gets better. When you say this to them, you make them feel like nobody understands them, and you also make their condition appear as something that can be easily dealt with. Well, this is definitely not the case.
Instead, tell them “I’m here for you.” Let them know they can always count on you for your help and support.
2. Don’t use the word ‘SHOULD’.
“You should see a doctor,” “You should meditate,” “You should come to the gym with me,” “You should do this, you should do that,” and the list goes on. Most probably, should is the word that irritates anxious people the most. One crucial thing that people who don’t suffer from this disorder fail to understand is that what anxious people usually want is someone who will just be there to listen to them, instead of giving them a heap of totally useless bits of advice.
So, instead of telling them what to do, think, or feel, ask them what they enjoy doing. Ask them if they’d like to do something that would take their mind off their worries and make them feel better.
Of course, that’s the place where all our thoughts are formed. Anyway, what you mean by this statement is that they should ignore and replace their negative feelings with positive ones.
Yet, they actually understand this as “Your mind is defective” because being aware that thoughts fuel anxiety doesn’t make it easier for them to stop having them. That’s simply beyond their control. Such a comment will definitely make them feel helpless and as if they have a defect in their mind.
So, tell them this instead: “If you can, talk to me about what’s going through your mind. Maybe if you share your anxious thoughts with me, they won’t be that persistent.”
4. “I don’t see any reason you should be anxious about.”
This one is probably the cruelest thing you can say to an anxious person. Who would like to be told that their worries, fears, stress, and negative thoughts are meaningless and unimportant? And honestly, worrying is what they do on a daily basis.
So, if you know they’re going through rough time, either let them know they can talk to you about it and have an absolute trust in you or don’t say anything at all – just be there.
5.“ Just be happy.”
This is probably the worst thing you can say to someone with anxiety because it’s not like they’re not trying to. It’s not like they choose to worry and stress about everything that happens around and inside of them.
Instead, why don’t you suggest something like: “Is there anything that you enjoy doing and that makes you happy? Let’s do that now.”
6. “There are people with much more serious problems than yours, you know?”
Of course, there are. But, how is their anxiety related to other people’s small or big problems? They have their own burden they have to carry every single day. No matter what the reasons behind their worries are, they should never feel like their issues don’t matter because others are having more serious problems. Everyone has the right to feel how they feel.
So, instead of minimizing their issues, tell them: “I know this is hard for you, but know that you’re not alone. I’m here to help you, and you can talk to me about anything you want.” It’s really nice when you tell them that it’s okay to be scared and that they’ll always have someone who is willing to help them get through it.
7.“You have a lot to be grateful for!”
What you want to say is “See the glass as half full” or “Look on the bright side.” Yet, telling this to someone who already thinks they’re not good enough will only make them feel like they don’t bother to appreciate the good things in their lives. It’ll make them feel shame and guilt over not being grateful for being surrounded by people who honestly love and respect them.
Instead, you can say “I appreciate you.” It’ll really mean to them to know that they’re appreciated for being brave and strong, but also for being good and worthy people.
Riley Cooper is a professional writer who writes informative and creative articles on topics related to various fields of study. Written with love and enthusiasm, her articles inspire readers to broaden their knowledge of the world, think and get ready to act.