4 Things You Should (and Should Not) Say to Someone With Anxiety

By Tatenda


Last Updated: February 1, 2023

Most of us know at least one person who is battling anxiety (if we aren’t that one person already).

Whenever we meet up with them we try to do our best to give them the support they need and remind them how much they mean to us. 

However, despite the good intention, some of us have found ourselves in situations where our actions or words might backfire and make things even worse. We become so confused and wish we had not said anything at all. 

We get mad at the other person because it feels like they have misunderstood us or they are focusing on the wrong thing. We wish they could keep our intention in mind and understand that we are not here to fight but rather, to support them. 

Sadly, because the anxious person is most likely thinking in a manner different from ours, they will possibly easily feel irritated and alienated by the things we say.

Therefore, learning how to interact with those fighting anxiety is also an important skill we need to master. This way, our loved ones know that we support them without dismissing how they are feeling.



4 Things Not to Say to Someone With Anxiety

“Don’t think about it.”

This is most people’s go to. It invalidates the feelings of the affected person and suggests that being anxious is a choice, and the individual affected can simply stop thinking about it.

Sadly, that is not how things work in the world of anxiety. You have little to no power over your thoughts and hearing this won’t help you magically clear them. 


“I have experienced something similar.”

Each person’s feelings and experiences are valid and should be recognized as such.

When you mention your previous similar experience, you in a way suggest that there is an emotional competition and you have gone through something worse than what the anxious person is going through. 

Sharing your experiences can be helpful, but this needs to be done at the appropriate time.

So, when someone is sharing their feelings, listen and resist the urge to budge in and talk about your similar experience. 


“You worry too much.”

Based on what is happening in their minds, trust me, these people know that they worry too much.

In most cases, they are also working towards worrying less. Saying this won't really help them worry less. Rather, it can frustrate them knowing that you think it is easy for them to do so. 


“Other people have it worse.”

This might come from a place of trying to help them understand that they are in a better position than others. But it usually doesn’t do a good job in making them feel better.

It undermines their situation and experience and also makes them feel guilty for being anxious when things could have been worse. They might also feel like you do not properly understand their struggle. 



4 Things to Say to Someone With Anxiety

“What can I do to help you?”

Your idea of how you can help might not be the same as theirs.

They might be in need of something else that you could not offer on your own. The best way to know what they want is to ask them. 

In some cases, they might need you to offer advice and in some, they simply need you to listen and nod your head. They might also want to hear how you or someone else navigated an almost similar experience.

Each person’s needs differ, so don’t be shy to ask exactly what you can do to help them. 


“I am here for you.” 

Anxiety might make one feel like they are a burden.

As a result, they may become hesitant to share their feelings and thoughts. Bottling them might seem like a good idea in that state. 

Saying this to them will serve as a reminder that should they need someone to talk to, you will be there. And you will create an environment that allows them to share without being judged or anything like that. It reminds them that by sharing, they aren’t bothering or burdening you. 


“Take your time.”

Toxic positivity seems to be prevalent lately. Lots of people want to always be positive and never want to acknowledge the existence of negative emotions.

The truth is that life is not always rosy. Sometimes we go through hard times and we need not ignore these. 

People with anxiety might feel pressured to get out of that pit quickly. If they take time to recover from anxiety they might also feel like they are getting behind in terms of everything else.

So, reminding them that they should take time and there is no rush for them to recover will calm them and allow them to recover at their pace. 


“I know you can’t control it.”

Most of us think we can always control our thoughts.

When one has anxiety, this does not seem to be the case. You simply lose control. Sadly some people around them might also subtly hint that the anxious person should control their thoughts. 

Reminding them that you know that they aren’t capable of controlling their thoughts is a great form of validation. It reminds them that you are understanding what they are going through especially in an age where mental illnesses like anxiety are dismissed because they are not visible. 



There are Treatments for Anxiety

Anxiety is a dreadful thing to experience and those who have it deserve kindness and compassion.

We need to be mindful of how we interact with those around us and create a suitable environment that helps them to get better. 

We all feel anxious under certain circumstances. That does not necessarily mean that you have an anxiety disorder. However, when the anxiety results in extreme distress that gets in your ability to lead a normal life, there might be a need for assistance from professionals. 

There are various treatment options such as pharmaceutical medication, support groups and therapy that can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. When needed, these avenues should be considered without any feelings of guilt and shame.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


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