Fortunately, anxiety disorders are slowly being destigmatised. While it is often advised that opening up to people about our struggles is the most effective way to heal, it can be easy to say the wrong thing.
If you have a loved one suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to show your support and acceptance. Being there for them is the best way for them to start healing and this can make a big difference in their recovery.
That being said, if you do not know how to deal with the situation, it can be easy to upset or alienate a friend.
Here are common statements that you may think are helping your loved one, but may actually be hurting them and what you could say instead.
Don’t say, “Everything will be OK”. Instead try, “I am here for you. I will support you”.
Anxiety disorders can be incredibly isolating. Reaching out to a friend just to say that you are there for them can really help to make them feel they have someone to speak to.
Don’t say, “It’s all in your head”. Instead try, “Let’s go have some fun”.
The statement suggests that they can control what is happening to them, putting pressure on their emotions and often making it worse. Take them for a walk, or join a yoga class. Engaging in activities with them will push the anxiety out of mind, even if just for that moment.
Don’t say, “What do you have to be anxious about?” Instead try, “How can I help you feel less stressed?”
While commonly heard, it suggests your friend doesn’t deserve to feel anxious. It is important to assume you don’t know everything that is going on in their life. Rather than comment on what you know or think is happening, simply offer a helping hand. Show you are there for them.
Don’t say, “There are people with worse problems”. Instead try, “I’m sorry, do you need to talk?”
Generally, people experiencing anxiety will know other people have problems too, but they do not need to feel guilty about what they are going through. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to be encouraging, supportive and non-judgemental.