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How NOT to Talk to Someone With Anxiety

Katie Beals

Mother comforting crying daughterIt has been my experience that usually when we respond to those who are struggling, we are all trying our best to be as empathetic and kind as possible to our friends and loved ones. While our intentions are good, sometimes we don’t come off in a way that makes the other party feel validated and cared about. So, the following are some things NOT to say to someone with anxiety, followed by some helpful things we can replace these phrases with.

  • “I think you’re just overreacting.”
  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “Everything’s fine.”
  • “You’re overanalyzing the situation.”
  • “Just calm down.”
  • “Don’t worry.”
  • “At least you don’t have it as bad as…”
  • “If you just trust God more…”
  • “If you just pray more…”
  • “Just take a couple deep breaths! It’ll go away!”

On the other hand, the following are some other options of phrases to use that are helpful and validating:

  • “I’m here with you.”
  • “I’m sorry you have to experience this.”
  • “I understand why you’re upset.”
  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “Tell me about it.”
  • “You can trust God and still have anxiety. Those things aren’t related.”
  • “That’s not silly.”
  • “I love you no matter what.”
  • “Let’s go to Chick-fil-A and talk through it.” (Okay, I’m biased but insert your favorite restaurant!)

In addition, while these phrases can be very helpful and healing responses to someone with anxiety, sometimes silence is the best thing we can do. Let your loved one or friend share their experience on their terms and show your support in as many alternative ways as possible. Some examples of this are inviting them to spend time together doing something fun, grabbing a coffee, cooking them a meal, trying to take something off their plate, etc.

Thank you for reading and taking that important first step to be a better support for your friend or loved one. I promise they will appreciate your new approach to helping them.

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