On a regular basis me and my friends joke about things people have said to us in an attempt to ‘cure’ us. What people who don’t suffer with anxiety often don’t realise is what they are saying comes across as patronising.
1. Don’t worry/stop worrying
Well thank you I am in fact, cured now. If only I had thought of this before! Right? WRONG. When you have anxiety, it may feel like your brain is running at 100mph with thoughts that you cannot control.
If I could just switch this off, I wouldn’t have a disorder.
And yes, I am aware that I am worrying for ‘no reason’, so please stop telling me that too. Lol.
2. Medication doesn’t work/is addictive/don’t take them
Benzos (Benzodiazepines), such as diazepam (commonly know as Valium), or Xanax (which is banned in the UK) may be used for anxiety, normally on an ‘as and when’ basis. Benzos are addictive, therefore they are considered to be a class C drug if obtained without a prescription.
There are plenty of other medications that are widely used to treat anxiety disorder. I won’t list them here as I am not a medical professional, but if you would like more information visit your doctor.
You should never tell someone to stop taking a prescribed medication. You don’t know what effects suddenly stopping a medication could have on someone’s body or state of mind. There are even certain types of medications that could cause a person to have a heart attack if stopped suddenly. Does that sound serious enough?
Unless you are that persons doctor, do not give them medical advice. There is no need for it whatsoever. Please remember, to get medication, a person has to have an extensive assessment carried out to determine what medication is suitable, and whether or not they should be taking it for their symptoms.
3. Have you tried ‘insert patronising suggestion here’ here’? It cured my friend!
That’s nice Susan, I’m glad that going for a walk once a day and planting a garden actually cured someone you know. In fact I’m amazed actually! Every psychiatrist in the country is currently rushing to see your friend right now as clearly they have found the one and only cure to anxiety.
Does that sound right to you? No? I wonder why.
Giving advice when somebody specifically asks you for advice, is not a problem. Many people will use different types of techniques to help them get through the day, but there are things you need to understand which are wrong with this.
Anxiety is different from having an anxiety disorder.
Every single person will experience some form of anxiety in their lifetime. Pre-wedding jitters, new job nerves, first date freak outs, these are all anxiety. This does not mean you have a disorder. In fact, you should feel some degree of anxiety at times, it means you’re human.
When dealing with an anxiety disorder, anxiety may come on for, what seems like, no reason. There may be specific triggers that will cause your anxiety to worsen. In a situation where you would be expected to have anxiety, your anxiety may be worse than it should be. For example if someone has anxiety about a new job, and then has a panic attack and feels like they cannot go to their new job at all, this would be considered to be a stronger response than someone without an anxiety disorder.
Why am I telling you this? Because, it is unreasonable to expect someone with a disorder to be cured by doing a light spot of gardening.
It is also unreasonable to expect someone without a disorder, but who is having a ‘normal’ episode of anxiety, to just get over it immediately by baking a cake.
4. You don’t look like you have anxiety
Well first of all, thank you, because it takes a lot of energy to mask this.
But guess what? Anxiety isn’t visible. There is no rash, and we don’t get physically branded with a tattoo on our forehead when we go to our first therapy session.
So why do people say this?
Well, I’m assuming that due to the stigma of anxiety, you’re expecting us to drop to the ground shaking, crying and pop a couple of Xanax’s until we are in a drug induced coma.
Here’s the thing: all of that is happening, but inside. Sometimes it may come out. You may even be there to witness it, but for the most part it stays inside and you won’t be able to tell. We are still humans. We still have to function. Some of us might manage to do certain things, some of us might not. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with anxiety, so please stop trying to fit us into a neat little box.
5. Stop overreacting
I think this fits in with number one on this post, but it is important. We are not purposely overreacting.
Do you think I want to be crying in public because someone looked at me the wrong way?
Do you think I enjoy hiding in public toilets when I get overwhelmed by the amount of people?
No. We did not choose this. We didn’t ask for this and we certainly didn’t mean to inconvenience you. By saying these things, you’re talking to us as if we are a burden to you. Which will make it worse. Shall I repeat that for the people in the back?
YOU’RE MAKING IT WORSE.
By saying things like this, you are just reinforcing everything we are already feeling. We know we’re overreacting. We want to stop. If you actually want to help somebody in this situation, ask them what they need. Sometimes, all it takes is five minutes away from the situation to calm down, but they may feel like they are being rude if they walk away. Suggest it for them. Even offer to go with them! Don’t draw attention to them by saying something ridiculous like: “Oh Gary you’re obviously having a meltdown lets go outside mate”. Just a simple “I need some air, wanna come?” will suffice.
Visit the mind website for more information on anxiety disorders.