10 Women on What Not to Say to Someone With Anxiety

For me, it was the fear of vomit. Specifically, of my kids getting sick. I was in the midst of grad school while still working full-time when the thought of my young kids catching a stomach bug started to make me feel anxious to a level that seemed unreasonable. I went to my doctor, who promptly diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. 

My anxiety was, thankfully, situational and fairly short-lived. Once I finished grad school and no longer lived in fear of missing a paper deadline or falling behind at work, my anxiety largely subsided.

I still vividly remember, however, the feeling of my stomach churning and the racing thoughts that would keep me up at night when my anxiety was at its peak. Even though I knew I was being irrational and that, really, sick kids aren't the end of the world, I felt almost paralyzed by my fears. My husband and friends were totally supportive but it was still a source of embarrassment for me.

Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, so chances are that if you don't suffer from it, you probably know someone who does. If you've ever wondered how to better support someone with anxiety, this article is for you!

Read on for suggestions from 10 women who've lived through anxiety for what NOT to say if you want to be a good friend to those with anxiety.

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  • Don't Give Medical Advice...

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    "Please don't say 'just choose to be happy' or tell me that I should use any vitamin essential f*cking oil, or homeopathic medication. I've also been asked 'Have you tried going OFF your medication?'

    And, recently, just after an anxiety attack, a family member said 'glad to see you are back. You were batsh*t loony-bin nuts yesterday'. Not helpful at all." -- M.H.

  • ...Or Breathing Advice

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    "Please don't tell me that the thing I am super anxious about is not a big deal. Also, do tell me that I just need to do some rational thing or take some deep breaths and calm down." -- KP

  • Don't Tell Me What to Do

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    "Don't say, 'Let me how to tell you how to fix your problem. Do x, y, z. Do you exercise? Exercise can really help with anxiety. Or maybe you need more sleep? Or cut down on caffeine?'

    Also don't say that there's nothing to worry about! Everything is fine! or that 'I'm not worried, so you shouldn't be worried!'" -- R.W. 

  • Don't Tell Me It's My Job

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    "Ohhhh boy. Let's start with 'just stop worrying so much' and my personal favorite, 'do you have your period or something?'

    Oh and 'maybe this (job/class/extracurricular activity) is just too much for you'. F**k those people; my main motivation for success has been proving them wrong many a time." -- B.P.

    More from CafeMom: Life With Anxiety & Depression Captured Perfectly in Sweet, Funny Illustrations

  • Don't Add to My Anxiety

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    "Sometimes the worst is when my husband is just being a supportive kind human being compassionately asking what he can do for me, but because I am out of my tree, it adds to my anxiety." -- A.P. 

    More from CafeMom: Living With Health Anxiety Has Made Me Sick

  • Don't Tell Me to Calm Down

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    "When someone tells me to 'calm down,' it puts me through the roof! And it ramps up my anxiety a thousand times over." -- D.P.

  • Don't Tell Me to Be Happy

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    I hate when people tell me to just 'choose to be happier,' or to 'choose to relax/calm down/be present' like it's a fricking switch I can turn on.

    Most people who live with anxiety would love to switch their anxiety OFF but it's not so simple. My husband, who just doesn't get it usually, loves to ask me 'what's wrong?' when I am in a very anxious state. Although he feels he is helping, it makes me want to strangle him. When my anxiety is at a high, nothing is really wrong or EVERYTHING is wrong.

    It's not something I can always explain so to ask me what's wrong really sets me off. A hug or asking what he can do to help (without judgment or sympathy in his tone) would be a better approach." -- K.S. 

  • Don't Tell Me I Just Need to Work Out

    Image via iStock.com/RyanJLane

    "I hate when people tell me I need to exercise more or get endorphins. I run 20 miles a week and I still have anxiety. I love to run but it isn't magic!" -- M.A. 

    More from CafeMom: 15 Eye-Opening Scientific Facts About Women & Anxiety

  • Don't Write Me Off

    Image via iStock.com/Mixmike

    "My mom loves to tell me that I'm just a worry wart, which feels so dismissive and crappy. Anxiety isn't just worrying too much. It is more complex than that." -- S.F. 

  • Don't Shame Me

    Image via iStock.com/L-house

    "For me, I have a lot of physical symptoms with anxiety, including stomach trouble. The worst is when my partner teases me about having to stop to go poop or the days when I spend all day in the bathroom.

    There is already so much shame around having a mental illness, and adding poop issues on top of it just makes it worse. Please don't tease me!" -- L.N. 

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