Understanding an anxiety sufferer is not easy, and when you, the outsider are trying to console a person suffering from anxiety, it can be hard to know what is the right thing to do.
This is obviously no fault of anyone, but lack of awareness and knowledge about anxiety disorders and such bad stigma attached to the condition, it can cause a lot of friction between the anxiety sufferer and the non anxiety sufferer.
Here are 13 things that anxiety sufferers desperately need non anxiety sufferers to know...and more importantly, understand
1. Normal everyday things and tasks are harder for us.
Our minds are constantly tormenting us, telling us we can't do something, and sometimes even getting out of bed is the most difficult thing ever. Going out, meeting new people, it's all a lot harder when you have such an anxious mind.
Please be patient with us.
2. This is not attention seeking
We do not live with anxiety because it makes us feel great and we like to show off. It is not an attention seeking strategy that we think up either. Anxiety disorders are very real, and is responsible for thousands of suicides.
We cannot snap out of it, and we cannot make the anxious thoughts stop!
3. We are not crazy
With all the stigma attached to anxiety disorders, we desperately need you to know that having an anxiety disorder does not make us any less of a human being. We are not sick, we are not crazy and we don't belong in an isolated room of a mental hospital. Think of anxiety as like having a sprained ankle. You wouldn't judge someone with a sprained ankle would you?
4. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there
Physical illnesses are easy to sympathise with because they can be seen with the eyes. Mental illnesses cannot be seen and hence all the stigma and judgement.
Please don't judge us or make us feel any less important.
5. Keep up with the positivity
I remember on my worst of days, I would read recovered anxiety sufferers testimonials and my mother would read me passages from a book to try and keep me positive. She would also say over and over again that I would get better. This is what got me through those really bad days. You see, no matter how many times we have heard it, hearing something inspirational, nurturing, positive and full of love can really make a big difference to us.
Just giving us a hug, reading us a positive quote, or even telling us 20 times a day that we will get through it means more to us than you will ever know.
6. Some situations or places we avoid
As someone who struggles with social phobia, I can really relate to this one! There are certain situations, people or places that can trigger off anxious thoughts, even just going out in public can cause anxiety, so we would rather avoid them.
On these days, please try to understand that this does not mean that we don't want to hang out with you, it just means we are terrified of that situation sparking off an anxiety attack
7. We cannot leave the house sometimes
Social situations can sometimes terrify us, and being away from our homes or away from the person that makes us feel safe is enough to cause a full blown anxiety attack. We can't even explain why social situations cause us so much panic, it's just the way it is. On our social phobic days, please understand that we would rather just stay at home because we are genuinely petrified of going out our front door.
8. Just be there for us
Sometimes all we want is for you to be there for us. We don't need you to talk to us, counsel us or even do anything. All we need is for you to hold us and simply be there.
9. Please don't tell us not to worry
This is a pet hate of anxiety sufferers. If we could magically turn off the worry button we would, but we can't. It's not something we can control. If we display anxiety or panic over something, please just rather encourage us and talk it through with us. Telling us not to worry or that we are being silly is grounds for us to get extremely angry and upset and will only make the situation worse.
10. We make mountains out of molehills
Anxiety sufferers have wild imaginations and we are experts when it comes to over dramatizing things.
If something is of a small problem to you, chances are it will be a train wreck to us.
Again instead of telling us to stop being silly and worrying so much, rather help us to see our dramatization in a softer and more caring way.
11. Routines are important to us
By having a routine or ritual, we feel more in control of our lives, and we can get irritable if we don't stick to our rituals. Once again, it may seem strange or silly to you, but to us, it is invaluable for helping stay stable.
12. Our moods can be like a rollercoaster
It is nothing personal, but when we don't feel like talking or socializing, please understand that it's just that and nothing more.
We get our days when we want to just sleep and don't want to face the world, and we get our days when we are fine.
Please try to accept this and just go with the flow of our moods.
It is nothing to do with you!
13. We cannot help our irrational thoughts
The baseline of anxiety is irrationality, and it can be a killer for an anxiety sufferer. We know we being irrational, but we just can't help it. Imagining worst case scenario is just how our anxious minds play it out.
Our irrational fears are very real to us and they terrify us, so much so that it causes us acute anxiety.
These are the times when we really need you to be there for us.
I find that the best help for irrationality is to ask us questions, ask us why we so afraid. Act interested. Often when I was asked by my parents or my husband as to why I was so afraid, the more I spoke about it, the more I could see just how irrational I was being.
If you know someone struggling with an anxiety disorder, please be that person who helps them and makes their life a little bit easier by just being there for them.
For more information on anxiety disorders, please visit www.myanxietycompanion.com
Please also view the short video below: