Here are 20 things that people with anxiety want you to know
Anxiety is something that unless you have suffered from it, then it is extremely hard for many people to understand just how debilitating it can be.
I have worked with many clients who suffer from anxiety and they wish that their friends, family and loved ones could understand it better. This article will cover quite a few of the common assumptions and misconceptions people with anxiety have laid at their feet.
With the aim being to help encourage more empathy and understanding for those who suffer from anxiety.
1. Anxiety doesn’t have a ‘look’: There is a misconception that if you suffer from anxiety then you should be shaking or trembling. The truth is that a person does not have to be displaying those traits to be anxious, anxiety can be much more subtle at times but that doesn’t mean it’s less intense than somebody who is shaking or trembling.
2. They can’t just turn it off: People with anxiety are not choosing to be anxious…. Why would they? So, to tell an anxiety sufferer to ‘just stop worrying’ is not going to help them because if it was that easy, do you not think they would have already tried to not be anxious?
3. I don’t always know why I am anxious: Anxiety very rarely is about just one thing, and this can be so hard to explain to somebody that has never suffered from anxiety. So, when people comment on how you can’t know what you are worrying about, they are looking at this from a rational viewpoint and the reality is that anxiety is not rational.
4. Anxiety can come in waves: There will be some days they are feeling fine and might not always be worrying. On the fine days they are still worrying about what if it comes back or how long will the fine days last. Then out of the blue anxiety can come out of nowhere and hit them like a ton of bricks.
5. I can’t turn my brain off: Anxiety causes the person to over analyse EVERYTHING… I’ll say it again EVERYTHING. The text message you sent them that they have read between the lines, the conversation they had with someone where they fear they have offended them, when you post a photo of a night out and they weren’t invited, am I being a good enough partner or parent, the list is endless.
This is all day for many people with anxiety and in each one of these scenarios they are going down a rabbit hole with and fearing the worst.
6. I know I can be ridiculous: People suffering from anxiety know that what they are thinking about and how they are behaving can be ridiculous, what they need is not judgment or frustration. They just need to know that you are there with them as they go through it.
7. It’s not your job to fix me: What they need is that reassurance that you love them for who they are.
8. We don’t like worrying: So often people can get labelled as worriers as if that’s what they like to do, the truth is they don’t like worrying but they just don’t know yet how to switch it off.
9. It is ok to not know what to do: I don’t expect you to know what to do all the time as I don’t know what to do myself. If I know that you are sitting beside me while I try to calm myself down and get through the anxiety attack, that is more than enough for me.
10. Don’t give up on me when I isolate myself: So often anxiety will make people suffering from it cancel plans at the last minute or decline invitations out as they feel so worried and being alone at home feels safe. This isn’t anything personal, it is just how anxiety can be so crippling.
11. Making decisions is hard for me: Choosing where to go, what to eat, what to buy is hard as anxiety makes them feel that if they pick the wrong option then it will cause problems which they don’t want to do as they have enough to worry about.
12. I feel like a failure: Anxiety makes it seem that they are unable to do the ‘simple’ things which eats away at their confidence and can make them feel that they need to avoid situations which can make them feel like failures.
13. I am not anti-social: So many anxiety sufferers won’t go out with friends due to their anxiety and can get the label of not being fun any smore or they will cancel at the last-minute which friends can take personally and eventually stop inviting them out. If they cancel, please know that it is nothing personal, but the anxiety has such a grip on them, and they are already riddled with guilt for not going out or cancelling - so the last thing they need is more guilt being laid at their feet.
14. I am not weak: Anxiety is not weakness, most mornings getting out of bed and getting washed and dressed can take every bit of energy a person with anxiety has. Doing everyday tasks that many of us take for granted can be so difficult when suffering with anxiety.
15. I am more than anxiety: Anxiety sufferers do not want pity or sympathy and anxiety is not their personality or how they want to be defined. They are still the same person you have always known so please don’t treat them any differently.
16. I may want to leave early: If they want to leave early it is not because they don’t care about you or love you. Even though you are with them and supporting them. They feel like something awful will happen and there is nothing at all they can do to stop those feelings.
17. It’s not all in my head: So often this is laid at the feet of people with anxiety. However, anxiety is very real, and it is a mental health condition, so please try not to judge people, because they are not able to cope with things you may be able to do.
18. I can’t just pull myself together: If it were as easy as this, don’t you think they would have tried?
19. I am not looking for attention or being a drama queen: Somebody suffering with anxiety is just as annoyed and frustrated by their anxiety as you are.
Just remember they are trying everything they can to work through it.
20. Tell me things straight: Anxiety will make them over think and over-analyse everything. They would really appreciate texts etc that are not cryptic as they will read between the lines and take the worst case meaning and worry about it constantly. So, if you can tell them where they stand, then it means that with their long list of worries at least they can tick one thing off that list.
If you would like more daily advice and inspiration, follow the E-Therapy NI Facebook and Instagram pages or get in touch via private message and I would be delighted to help. If you need to talk, we are here to listen.