1) ‘But, you don’t look anxious…’:
Despite what you might have been told, anxiety doesn’t have a particular look; a person could suffer with a crippling panic/anxiety disorder, and otherwise look quite calm.
2) ‘If you’re tired, then just sleep’:
Woah! So simple and yet, shockingly, I hadn’t even thought of that…
3) ‘Just eat’!
Thanks for the kind invitation, but I’m actually wrestling a constant feeling of nausea and think that if I ate any solids, I’d probably projectile vomit everywhere. (Conversely, some find great comfort in food when feeling stressed or worried, so telling them to stop eating would be about as beneficial as telling a crying newborn that it shouldn’t be hungry).
4) ‘Just don’t think/worry about it’:
Another state-the-obvious response, whichI’m sure many, if not all, anxiety sufferers wished they could do. Oftentimes anxiety will pass and those nagging thoughts are realised to have been irrational, but this can be a long process, and expecting/demanding immediate results can be very harmful to the sufferer.
5) ‘Are you ok? Because you don’t look it’:
It’s great to ask someone how they’re doing, but if they tell you they’re ok, don’t push them too much. If they want to talk about how they’re feeling, they will. All you have to do is demonstrate that they are safe to do so, without being judged, when they’re ready. Pressing them about why they “don’t look normal” will only worsen anxieties and ignite a firestorm of self-doubt.
“Oh god they’re angry… I’ve pissed them off. If I ask them how I’ve pissed them off, would that piss them off more? If I leave them alone, would they think I’m an awful person? Floor please swallow me now.” – every anxiety sufferer.
7) ‘It’s just a small party…’:
To dislike or even have a phobia of the very thing that most people most look forward to doing (e.g. partying/socialising), can feel incredibly alienating. Putting pressure on someone with social anxieties will just make them feel even worse for letting you down, they might even feel rude. Offer an invitation, but be understanding if they can’t attend.
8) ‘Fancy some public speaking?’:
“Sure, I already feel as though the whole world is looking at me and cope really well with that, lets see how I cope when a whole room really IS looking and listening to me” – said no anxious person, ever.
9) ‘Anxiety… that’s a bit weird’:
People with anxiety already feel as though they don’t fit into society. Don’t then further alienate them and make them feel crazy. I mean, really, who does that?!
10) ‘Just get over it. It’s just some current trend’:
If you know someone with anxiety and they pluck up the courage to open up to you and be honest about their feelings, don’t take that lightly and/or be a total dick about it.
If you’re personally struggling with anxiety, speak to someone about it. Someone that you feel comfortable with, like family or friends, or a health professional. Many mental health charities offer advice and support to those who are personally effected, and also their friends and family. There are many things that you can try yourself to ease some of the symptoms. I would recommend learning about mindfulness techniques, such as PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) to aid sleep and other muscular aches. I would also suggest reading self-help books on anxiety and other CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) treatments, as learning about the disorder and understanding it’s symptoms is invaluable.