If the title of this post has caught your attention because you are an anxiety sufferer then you will probably end up nodding along to what am I about to say. However, if the title sprung out at you because you know someone who suffers with anxiety then keep reading because this might be really useful for you!
Just like people using the term OCD incorrectly the word anxiety can be used in so many different scenarios. This, unfortunately is often where the problem lies for people like me who have been dianosed with anxiety.
If you have never suffered from anxiety yourself it can be very hard to understand how an anxious person is feeling. It can often be seen as worrying that can be switched on and off or being nervous with a few butterflies in your tummy. Anxiety itself is very very different to those things and for some people can be life changing, debilitating and downright miserable to live with.
If you are in the group of people reading this that knows someone who suffers with anxiety but you don’t always know how to deal with those conversations then first off well done! The fact that that person is confiding in you and talking to you is great but there are certain phrases which could make them shut down and are best to leave out of the conversation.
‘Worrying is pointless‘
I often have people telling me that there isn’t any point worrying about something because it might never happen. True. But anxiety is so much more than worrying. It is extreme worrying or fear. It instils a fight or flight reaction into us and that is a pretty hard thing to turn off. At the point of an anxiety attack the anxious thoughts are all consuming.
It may sound surprising but I am quite a naturally positive person. I like to see the good in situations and people. I don’t spend my days thinking negatively about life, however if I am in the midst of an anxiety attack I just can’t. It is something I have had to learn to do in certain situations and that comes with time, practice and bloody hard work. Someone you are speaking to might not be there yet and positive thinking in that moment is just impossible.
‘Everyone gets nervous’
Yes, everyone does get nervous. Everyone gets butterflies in their tummy or sweaty palms, their breathing might even get a bit quicker. But anxiety is extreme. Normal nerves very rarely stop us from doing things. For example at a job interview it is normal to be nervous before hand. However an anxious person might not be able to go to that job interview, they may talk themselves out of it completely because it is just too much.
‘It’s all in your head’
Actually, no it’s not. It’s tingling in the legs, it’s dizziness, it’s rapid breathing, it’s teeth grinding, it’s aching shoulders, it’s nausea, the list goes on and on. Telling someone it’s all in their head can make them feel pretty silly and I’m sure that would never be the intention of that phrase but it can make the anxious person feel like they are just imagining it and what they are feeling isn’t valid.
Over the last 6 years of having anxiety relaxing is something I have had to learn to do. Self care is something I have had to learn to do. Falling asleep at night is something I have had to learn to do. They all sound like such simple things but the reality of it is that we have to learn to shut our thoughts off, we have to learn to re-route the way we think. That is why things like Cognitive Brain Therapy exist, to help change the way we think.
So. I’ve told you things that you shouldn’t say to someone suffering with anxiety but what about the stuff you should be saying? Pop back here at the same time next week and I’ll tell you those too!!
And remember if you have said some of these to someone, don’t worry they will know you were just trying to help. And if you have had these things said to you try to explain what you need because it isn’t always easy for the people trying to be there for you.