What to Say to Someone with Anxiety

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


For those who have never experienced an anxiety disorder, it can be difficult to know what to say and how to connect with a loved one who lives with anxiety. Fears of saying the wrong thing may keep you from saying anything at all. If you’re at a loss for how to approach the topic of anxiety with someone who struggles with mental illness, here are a few pointers on what to say when they need your support.

“Are you okay?”

For individuals who feel uncomfortable sharing their feelings or are unable to admit their anxiety to others, the conversation may need to begin with you. Try to show your concern by asking how they’re doing. This direct approach allows them to open up about their experience with mental illness. Even if they’re at a stable point with their anxiety, asking them about their wellbeing conveys that you are a person whom they can rely on for comfort during hard times.

“What can I do to help you?”

When a loved one feels safe enough to open up to you, you must pay attention to what they need from you. Rather than launching into advice or remedies, ask them what you can do to help. This may mean sitting in silence or being a person that they can talk to without judgment. Listening to their needs allows you to appreciate the daily ups and downs of anxiety and have a better understanding of how to provide them with comfort. If they do want to talk, have an open and honest conversation about what they’re feeling and how you can best support them.

“Your anxiety is valid.”

Anxiety can be embarrassing for those who feel that their fears and triggers are somehow unjustified. If your loved one is hesitant to approach you with their anxiety, they may need your help to recognize that their feelings matter. Simply telling them that their emotions are valid will allow them to create a safe space with you and bring a sense of reassurance to their experience.

“Do you want to do something to take your mind off things?”

While it can be difficult to know what to say to someone with anxiety, it can be even more difficult for your loved one to talk about their struggle. Sometimes the best thing to do is to offer them a mental recess. Rather than focusing the conversation on their anxiety, ask them if they’d like to take their mind off things by doing an activity that you both enjoy, such as going for a walk, watching a movie, or cooking a homemade meal. Positive distractions and a loved one who cares may help to alleviate anxiety symptoms. However, keep in mind that forcing them to do activities they feel uncomfortable with could worsen their anxiety.

“I’m here for you.”

Though it can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone with anxiety, you don’t have to fully understand their struggle to show that you care about them. What they’re going through is an experience only they can carry, but you can help to shoulder some of the burdens with your emotional support.? Be there for them in whatever way is most comfortable for them.

What Not to Say

Insensitive comments can do more harm than good for people who experience anxiety. Avoid phrases such as the following:

“Get over it.”

“Calm down.”

“Don’t worry.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“Everything will turn out fine.”

“I get anxious about things too.”

Ultimately, the most important thing to communicate to your loved one is your support. Let them know that they are loved, that their emotions are valid, and that they are not alone. For more information on how to receive treatment for anxiety, contact us at Serenity Health Centers to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed psychiatrists in your area.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.