I have had anxiety for over 10 years, so I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of unrealistic things about the disorder. Not only have they said unrealistic things about it, but they say these ridiculous things to me. I am pretty certain every sufferer has heard these things before. But, if you’re anything like I used to be, you have no idea how to respond to these people. So, along with this list of Things to Never Say to Someone With an Anxiety Disorder, I’ve added some possible responses for you to use if somebody does. ( I’ve also listed some of my favorite sarcastic responses, if you’re interested).
1. “Don’t be anxious!”
This one is a classic. The user of this phrase usually means no harm, and even might be trying to help. But, as you probably already know, it does not. Here is the main reason it bothers me when someone says this: they are implying that we can control our anxiety and panic. ( Which I would absolutely love to do). But, alas, it is an uncontrollable disorder that we have to live with. (Maintainable with the right treatment, though!)
Response: “I understand you’re trying to help, but I cannot control my disorder at will.”
Sarcastic Response: “Thank you so much! you just cured my anxiety!”
2.” What is there to be anxious about?”
Ah, the age-old mystery. You’ve probably been asked this before, wondered why exactly you were anxious, and failed to find an answer your interrogator would understand. The most important thing to remember here is that even if you can’t find a legitimate reason for your anxiety, you are still anxious. And that’s okay. It’s most likely that darn chemical imbalance in your brain.
Response: ” I can’t find a specific trigger that caused this anxiety, but I feel anxious, nonetheless.”
Sarcastic Response: “Good question! I’ll let you know if I figure it out.”
3. “Other people have it worse.”
Yeah, I know other people have it worse. You didn’t just reveal to me something I didn’t already know. And, of course, I feel very sorry for those people, but you telling me that doesn’t help; in fact, it just makes me anxious and annoyed. The person who views life this way will never give anyone sympathy, including themselves.
Response: “I know that other people have it a lot worse, but some have it better, too. Your saying this doesn’t affect my disorder in any way.”
Sarcastic Response: “Woah! Really? I thought that I was the only suffering soul on this planet!”
4. “You’re too young to be anxious. Wait until you’re older.”
The person who tells you this is most likely a middle-aged adult who is stressed about work and thinks that every day stress is an adequate comparison to mental illness. But, we can’t tell these people off, because that would be considered “disrespectful.” (Even though they were disrespectful to us first).
Response: “I am not just stressed. I have an actual anxiety disorder, which is a lot different from every day stress.”
Sarcastic Response: “Wait a second. So, what you’re saying is that once every person becomes an adult, they automatically develop an anxiety disorder? How did I not know this?”
5. “Just don’t think about it/Calm down.”
That would be really nice, wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, that is not possible. This is yet another instance of someone believing that mental illness is easily controllable. The person who tells you this is probably the same one who told you, “Don’t be anxious!”
Response: “I really cannot control my thoughts during a panic attack, but thank you for trying to help.”
Sarcastic Response: “If I could control my thoughts right now, don’t you think I wouldn’t be panicking?”
7. “Have you tried meditation/essential oils?”
Now, there are some wonderful benefits of both meditation and essential oils. I personally use peppermint oil and thieves oil every day. Oils such as lavender and Stress Away have great calming effects. But, essential oils and meditation is not some sort of magical remedy for mental illness, and the belief that it is is absurd.
Response: “I have given both of those things a try before, but I’m afraid they don’t help as much as medication and/or therapy.”
Sarcastic Response: “Yeah, closing my eyes and rubbing plant extracts onto my wrists hasn’t really done much for me.”
8. “Have you prayed about it?”
The person who tells you to “just pray about it” is probably the same church lady who told you to use essential oils. This question is especially offensive for Christians like myself. Not only does it imply that I haven’t thought to pray about what I’m going through, but it also implies that God does whatever you ask whenever you want. I believe that God is letting me go through this to become stronger; I don’t think it’s a consequence of me not praying enough. This makes anxious religious people feel guilty and as if they aren’t getting the healing others are getting.
Response: “I have prayed, but God is allowing me to suffer to become stronger.”
Sarcastic Response: “Of course I’ve prayed about it, but God hasn’t chosen to heal me yet, and he may never. God is God; God is not a wishing well.”
Well, That’s It!
8 Things Never to Say to a Person With an Anxiety Disorder. I’m sure there are many other annoying phrases and questions we anxious people are sick of hearing that I haven’t thought of. These are the top 8 that I hear on a day-to-day basis, and I thought you might relate to it. And, if you’re a non-anxious person reading this and noticed that you say some of these phrases, I hope this is your reason for being a little more considerate with your wording when speaking about mental illness.