Things Not To Say
Of course someone to talk to and be aware of what you're going through is helpful. However, there are also things you really shouldn't say to someone with anxiety and/or depression because it hurts even more. These are things people have said to me or someone in my group therapy was told that we did not appreciate.
To someone with anxiety, please try not to say...
1. 'Why don't you come out with us ever? You're always so boring"
I heard this multiple times during college. I obviously didn't want to sit in my room all by myself all night, but sometimes seeing other people is the hardest part of my life. I wish I was mentally capable to go out with my friends every weekend, but I'm not. Instead you can say, "Let me know a day you feel up to going out."
2. "Calm down! Stop freaking out!"
One of the main strategies to use when someone has anxiety is for them to actually accept the anxiety and ride the wave of it. Anxiety comes in waves and it's just a matter of holding on and riding it instead of trying to minimize it. Trying to push away the anxiety causes more anxiety. Something that I love to hear is, "Just ride the wave. It won't last forever." This helps to hear because when someone is having an anxiety or panic attack they may be having more anxiety because they think it won't end, but it will.
3. "Just go exercise and you will feel all better."
Yes, exercise does help reduce anxiety, but is not the cure for anxiety. It helps to produce more positive chemicals in the brain. At least in my experience, when I am having an anxiety attack I cannot physically go workout in that moment. There are a lot of relaxation techniques and it would be helpful to know their favorite. My favorite is 5 4 3 2 1. It's where you use your five senses to help make you feel grounded. If you see someone having a lot of anxiety and they know that exercise you can start off by saying, "What are five things you can see?" Let them respond. "What are four things you can feel?" And so on until all five senses are used.
To someone with depression, please try not to say...
1. "Why are you sad? Your life is perfect!"
I don't get to choose when I have depression. It's always there. It's a chemical imbalance in the brain and most of the time I am trying so hard to hide it. Instead you can say, "I am here for you with whatever you need" or "You have a support system to lean on during these tough times."
2. "Yeah I went through a similar time, but I just didn't let it get to me."
I'm not sure you did go through something similar because someone with a mental illness can't just let it go. That's what depression/anxiety is. The negative thoughts control your every breath. We have no choice to let it go; that's the main problem with depression/anxiety. There wouldn't be such a thing as depression or anxiety if people could just let it go. Instead you can say, "How can I help?"
3. "Think happy thoughts!"
Why didn't I think of that in the first place?? Silly me!..... How about you ask them, "What would you like to do right now?" It's okay if they just want to be curled up in bed for awhile. That might make them feel a little bit of happiness. It's actually exhausting having negative thoughts all day. However, don't allow them to spend all day in bed because that's so easy to do, but not always the healthiest.