I wanted to take a minute and write about Anxiety disorders today. If you know someone with an anxiety disorder, you should know that there are a few things that you should never say to them!
First of all, there are three different types of anxiety disorders. All three types have different symptoms, but all three center around irrational thoughts and feelings of dread or doom, panic/anxiety and it can’t be controlled.
Let me point out that we DO know that our thoughts, fears and panics are most likely irrational. We DO NOT need you to tell us, belittle us or our thoughts or try explaining to us how irrational we are really being.
Do NOT tell us that you know exactly how we feel! Do not say things like, “I get nervous too sometimes.”, your moment of nervousness before a big moment does not come close to what we are feeling. Unless you actually have an anxiety disorder, you have no idea what goes on in our mind. There’s no way for you to understand the feeling that is ripping through our body.
Another writer explained it like this and I couldn’t have said it better, so I wanted to share.
Imagine using multiple apps on an old computer. You can hear the gears turning and the computer trying to keep up, but it can’t. So, instead your screen freezes and you have to shut the computer down and start over. This is what an anxiety attack is like. Our minds have too many thoughts going on at one time, until it just can’t take anymore, so it shuts down.
Don’t tell us that everything will be fine. You don’t know that. Yes, our fear and worry may be over something small or something that you think is stupid to worry about, but to us it’s a big deal! We may be worrying about things that could actually go wrong and just because you think we shouldn’t worry about it, doesn’t mean we will stop.
I have had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a worrier. I know that I shouldn’t stress myself out over things that I can’t change or control, but my mind works in a different way than yours. Everyone has always told me to stop thinking about it, don’t worry, everything will be fine, but the last year of my life has proved that bad things do happen.
I worried myself crazy through my pregnancy with my daughter about all of the things that could go wrong and they did go wrong. She had an awful disease that took her life right after she was born. During that time, NOTHING was fine! I have always been afraid of being hurt in a car accident or that someone I love would be hurt in a car accident and I was hurt very bad in one just months ago! Nothing was fine during that time either! Yes, I have overcome both major hard times, but my worries and fears did happen! So nobody can tell me not to worry anymore. You don’t know what the future holds and if we are worried and panicked about something that may happen, just try to understand. We can not help it.
Do not make us the center of attention. If we are out with other people and we look pale, look nervous, are keeping to ourselves, don’t point it out for everyone to focus on by saying something like, “You look pale.” Or, “Why aren’t you joining in with us?” That is only going to make us feel worse! Let us join in at our own pace. If we choose not to, let it be. If we look pale or nervous, we already know about it! We don’t want any extra attention!
Finally, don’t tell us to “chill out” or “calm down”, if we could do either it wouldn’t be such an issue in our lives. We are already trying our best to calm down. You saying something like this is only going to make us feel worse because you will sound annoyed and we will feel like a disappointment of some sort. We already feel like outsiders, we don’t want to annoy you or make you angry with our constant irrational panic. We are doing the best we can to manage it on a daily basis.
Please have patience. Please be kind. Please choose your words carefully. Please try to understand.