Every year, close to one in five Australians experience a mental illness of some variety. The most common form of mental illness is anxiety, with 14 per cent of Australians being affected across a year-long period.
If you haven't had a personal experience with anxiety, it's very likely you know someone who has (whether you are aware of it or not). And while it can be difficult to understand the condition if you are not dealing with it yourself, your reactions and comments can have a big impact on someone managing anxiety.
With that said, here at five examples of things you simply should avoid saying:
1. “But why do you feel anxious?”
This one happens a lot more than you might think. And no one with anxiety likes to hear it. Most of the time, it’s because of two reasons:
A. They don’t know. They may just be feeling anxious and unable to explain it. Being asked why is likely to just make them feel very self-conscious.
B. They do know the answer and are unsure you’ll understand. Maybe it's something as little as hearing people whispering in the office or the sound of an ambulance siren that's triggered them. Talking about it may just make it all a little harder.
2. “You’re overreacting”
Continuing on from point B in the above, telling someone that what they're anxious about isn’t a big deal and that they're being ridiculous really doesn’t help. Most of the time, people with anxiety are probably aware that their minds are running away with them. Hearing that you’re feeling the same way makes them feel worse.
They know what they're feeling may not seem logical. That doesn’t make them feel any less anxious.
3. “You’re putting me/the team/the family/[insert person’s name here] out”
This is probably the worst one. If someone with anxiety needs to take some time to work on their mental health, take a breather, meditate, whatever, please do not tell them it is an inconvenience. That is probably the worst thing you could say and will most likely push them into a spiral of self-doubt.
4. “Stop it”
This is another big one.
People with anxiety can not just press a button and turn off their minds. Please do not ask them to “stop it”, “calm down” or “get over it”.
5. “Are you upset with me?”
Now, while you probably have the best intentions when you ask this, the result is most likely not going to be great. Asking someone with anxiety if they are upset with you when they are experiencing an episode can cause them to feel guilty for affecting you.
Try and remember, the condition is bigger than your relationship and it is not personal.
If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s always a good time to seek some support. beyondblue can offer you personalised support.
Images: Getty, Giphy