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11 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Anxiety Disorder

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Someone with anxiety disorder will experience worry or guilt even in situations that would not normally cause such intense feelings. For the person who lives with anxiety disorder, anxiety attacks can happen at any time.

Unfortunately anxiety disorder is often misunderstood. Most of us deal with some nervousness or anxiousness in our lives. But this is not remotely similar to the tidal wave that hits someone who has anxiety disorder.

Anxiety affects approximately 40 million Americans age 18 and older, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Here are 11 things you should never say to someone with anxiety disorder.

1) Stop stressing.

Anxiety and stress are not interchangeable. Stress manifests in frustration and nerves, whereas anxiety can be a sense of panic to the nth degree, according to Cosmopolitan.com.

2) Calm down.

PsychologyToday.com gives this analogy: “telling someone with an anxiety disorder to ‘calm down,’ is like to telling someone with allergies to ‘stop sneezing.’” Anxiety disorder is not a choice. If a person could control their crushing levels of anxiety, they would.

3) Just do it.

While this can be a great motivator coming from a coach, it often doesn’t work when encouraging someone with anxiety disorder to face their fears. The problem: an anxiety attack can come out of nowhere.

4) It's all in your head.

The brains of those with anxiety disorder are wired differently. Anxiety over even the smallest thing is beyond their control, Cosmopolitan.com says.

5) It’s really not a big deal.

Guess what? To them, it is a big deal. They may know rationally that their fears are unjustified, but anxiety disorder can render them unable to control their worrying or nervous thoughts.

6) Everything will be fine.

Those with anxiety won’t often react to those comforting words like others might. Telling someone with anxiety that ‘everything will be fine,’ can fall on deaf ears since their tendency to believe it is nil.

7) I know how you feel.

Don’t say this unless you personally struggle with anxiety disorder. Only then can you relate to the daily struggle of being overwhelmed and out of control.

8) Have a drink and forget about it.

Doctors, counselors and medication are the recommended treatment for anxiety disorder. A few drinks may erase anxiety in the short term. Over time, however, self-medicating with alcohol can be a gateway for addiction, warns HuffPost.

9) What do you have to be anxious about?

Everyone has insecurities and problems. It’s just more intense for those with anxiety disorder. You can’t always tell from the outside, but things may not be as rosy as they seem on the inside.

10) Other people are suffering from much worse conditions.

Yes, there are many worse medical conditions. But just because anxiety disorder is invisible doesn’t mean it’s not wreaking havoc on someone’s life.

11) Did I do something wrong?

At times, it can feel like your actions have caused someone to suffer anxiety. However, if you ask that of someone with anxiety disorder, you may be adding more guilt to the panic and worry that they are already experiencing.


Gladwell, Hattie. "6 Things Not to Say to Someone with Anxiety." Metro 6 Things Not to Say to Somebody With Anxiety Comments. 24 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Holmes, Lindsay. "7 Things You Shouldn't Say To Someone With Anxiety." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Koman, Tess. "10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone With Anxiety." Cosmopolitan. 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Rollin MSW, LGSW, Jennifer. "4 Things Not to Say to Someone with an Anxiety Disorder." Psychology Today. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Reviewed November 26, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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EmpowHER Guest

I suffer from panic attacks. The best one I've heard was from my dad who says "You're fucked!! You need to get yourself in to see someone or you'll die!"

July 25, 2016 - 2:08pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.