When people suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues, it always helps to have a good friend that can help you through. While a good friendship can’t solve all of your mental health issues, it’s important to have support when you feel down.
How we talk to our friends who are suffering from anxiety is important. The wrong words or phrases can be harmful, so how do you speak to a friend or family member who has anxiety issues?
Key Phrases to Speak
As Self explains, if a friend’s anxiety is going through the roof, a good question to ask is, “What can I do to help right now?” Yes, it’s a very simple question to ask, but a key question for someone suffering from anxiety. As one psychiatrist explains, “Without knowing what the person wants, it’s hard to know what to do. Some people may want support, some people may want advice, some people may want people to just leave them alone.”
As Carolyn L. Todd writes, “In general, asking is a better way to support someone than diving in under the assumption that you know how to help…Even better: If your friend mentions their anxiety on a day when it’s not skyrocketing, take the opportunity to [ask] how best to support them when it does feel unmanageable.”
And When Not to Speak
Sometimes not saying anything can help with anxiety. You can ask, “Would it help if I just sat here with you?” Many times with anxiety and other mental health disorders, people have a hard time articulating what they’re experiencing.
It can be very difficult for people to understand what they’re going through when they suffer from anxiety, and sometimes just being there can be very helpful. As one psychologist explains, “Offering a consistent, calm and reassuring presence speaks volumes. [It] communicates that they are loved and supported.”
Body language is important too. You want to make sure that your facial expressions are empathetic and sympathetic, that you don’t look irritated or annoyed by a friend’s anxiety.
Other Key Phrases That Help
As Self continues, other key phrases that can help include, “I love you and I am always here for you, no matter what’s going on,” as well as, “Do you want me to come over?” Texting a phrase like this to a friend can be very reassuring.
Carolyn L. Todd writes, “The specifics of what you say will vary based on your friendship and what exactly the person in question is dealing with. The point is to let them know they have your unwavering support, even when you’re not together in real life.”
What Not to Say
There are also key phrases you should refrain from when your friends suffer from anxiety. Don’t say, “There’s no reason to panic,” or “Just stop worrying and you’ll feel so much better.” This is obviously easier said than done, and sometimes trying to make a panic attack go away can make things worse.
Anxiety is a tough beast to get a handle on, and if you suffer from it you should seek professional help. At the same time, being a good and sympathetic friend is at least one step towards helping and healing someone who is suffering.