In this clinical psychology episode of The Psychology World Podcast, you’ll hear about Why Not to Say to Someone with Anxiety. This is a great and very useful podcast episode. Please enjoy!
This psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Formulation in Psychotherapy. Available on all major eBook retailers and direct from me. And you can get the paperback and hardback copy from Amazon or your local bookstore and libraries!
3 Things Not to Say to Someone with Anxiety (Or Any Mental Condition for that Matter!)
Don’t Say Just ‘Calm Down’ or ‘Relax’:
It’s perfectly natural for us to say this to someone when we see them stressed out. Because we want them to relax and calm down. We don’t want to see our friends and family in distress.
And in people without anxiety saying these things can be okay. But this doesn’t help as we probably know from personal experience.
For example, the other night, I was in distress over my exams and I was told just to calm down. This wasn’t helpful and this wasn’t going to solve my problem.
Therefore, whilst I don’t have anxiety. Saying this to me just wasn’t helpful.
And telling a person who suffers with anxiety to calm down is even worse for two reasons.
Firstly, you are basically implying you don’t care about this person. Or you don’t care enough about the person to sit down with them and talk about their concerns.
Secondly, this is a pointless phrase. Since when people are anxious find it very hard to relax because their sympathetic nervous system is activated, and they are experiencing the fight or flight response. And this is designed to override reasoning. Meaning, trying to reason with them is pointless.
Instead, you should ask open-ended questions about how they’re feeling. As this shows you care about the person and you’ll start to understand why they’re feeling the way they do.
Don’t Enable an Unhelpful Coping Behaviour
There are a lot of different angles we can come from at this point. For example, don’t encourage an anxious person to drink alcohol just because it takes the edge off. Since this could develop alcohol dependency with the anxious person believing they need alcohol to be
Skip these next two paragraphs if we’re sensitive to certain topics.
Another example, very quick, is self-harming behaviour. Instead of allowing or avoiding the person who’s doing it. Try and be helpful and help them find another way to cope with it.
Then another example is it’s normal to want to protect your loved ones from the thing that scares them. For instance, if your brother is scared of people. But your mother makes sure he avoids other people. Then this seems logical and protective. Yet over time, this is harming him.
Since anxiety feeds off avoidance. And for lack of a better term, the longer this brother avoids people, the worse his anxiety will get.
In addition, this happens because as a child if your parent keeps protecting you from a particular thing. Then you start to form an association between the thing and danger.
Instead, it’s important to gently and firmly hold them to account. You do this by supporting them and slowly introducing them to the stimuli or thing that makes them anxious.
For instance, you could say to them:
“How about I introduce you to one or two people? I’ll be there the whole time to support you,”
And things similar to that.
Don’t Say I’ve Got Problems Too
This point is just comical, and I have spoken about this months ago on the psychology podcast.
So, I know this is perfectly logical because we do all have our own problems and issues. And you might want to remind them of that fact to comfort them.
However, when you say this to an anxious person or anyone. You are clearly dismissing them and you are implying saying that you don’t care about them. And you don’t even care enough about them to sit down and talk about their difficulties.
Instead, you sit down and listen to their difficulties and see what they have to say.
I really hoped you enjoyed this clinical psychology episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Have a great day!
Clinical Psychology Reference
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