What comes to mind when you hear the word “anxiety?” Do you flash back to your highschool years, testing in a room filled with twenty other students? How about that important meeting that you are required to speak at? Bills? Marriage? Death? We all have some piece of ourselves that is shook with anxiety upon the presentation of that topic or event that causes uncontrollable quivering and violent heart palpitations. For some, it comes in waves and moments, though, usually with an expiration date. For others- comparable to me- it is consistently burdensome and, typically, a large part of their everyday life. In fact, 18% of U.S adults and 25.1% of youths – ages thirteen to eighteen – are affected by an anxiety disorder. This makes anxiety disorders the most prevalent, amidst other mental disorders, in the United states. As a piece of these statistics, I have to admit, living with anxiety is not a simple task, nor a force to consider lightly. Unfortunately, many do just that. Those who are not forced to endure the world of an individual with anxiety, often times, are not exposed frequently enough to comprehend the severity of the situation. This is where I will act as your trusty aide in identifying a few of the top things you should never convey to a person with anxiety- more specifically pertaining to athe social kind.
1: “Just do it yourself.”
Although, this may seem quite obvious to fellow anxious souls and the persons focusing upon this topic with me, to multitudes it is not, in the slightest, I have found. Typically – in my experience – this phrase has been used, most frequently, during bustling social gatherings and lively entertainment settings, by the person you are attending with. Allow me to show you a detailed picture of how such a thing would be said and how it would affect one. Undesirous of parting with their own comfort at thefestivities, they receive an unconcerned brush off followed by a “You can do it, yourself.” Your heart drops and you suddenly are even more conscious of the eyes you feel peering into you. Shaken by your partner’s lack of empathy, you must now make the decision to talk yourself into going the track alone or ruling the event as altogether unnecessary. You plead with your friend, one last time, praying they will realize the feat they are suggesting. “I don’t want to right now.” They reply, crushing all hope you held within you. Your adrenaline spikes and your body begins to feel distressed, as if your muscles are all simultaneously clenching. Attempting breath control, you take a deep breath in your nostrils and slowly push it out the mouth. The ‘you can do it’ speil runs through your mind for the thousandth time and you compel your legs to move in the direction of where you are wanting to go. Your eyes focus, intently, on the ground and you speed walk your way to the location – trying your hardest to avoid any collisions or unplanned conversations. When you finally arrive, you are relieved you made the journey but are already dreading the trek back. You enact the intentions that prompted you to leave familiarity, and fear all the curiosities the surrounding persons may be thinking regarding what you are doing in the place of your destination. Finally, you finish what you began and your restless passage there, repeats itself backwards.
That was merely the abbreviated version of what usually occurs. Not only have you just been forced through social hell, but now you also feel neglected by the person claiming to be your friend, as well. It may seem excessive to those who do not feel immoderate anxiety, but the ache is all too real. It is highly likely that a person with social anxiety has attempted at conveying this to their companion, for it is difficult for people – like I – to meaningfully trust, to begin with, but once we have, we try as earnestly as possible, to be sincere in the relationship. This makes it all the more painful when someone betrays that trust, after one has genuinely put in an effort to convey their struggle. It is not difficult to simply make the small trip – to a, most likely, highly necessary or desired – place, for the ones you love. Please step outside your own mind long enough to consider the very real complications of the people you may be surrounded by. Do not allow them yet another reason they might struggle to have confidence in their relationships.
2: “You should talk more.”
This comment is completely obnoxious and filled with so many levels of different ignorance, I hardly know where to begin. I have gotten this one a number of times, each as annoying as the last. Having social anxiety makes every event, that includes people, a struggle. Especially talking during these events. It is difficult enough pry yourself out of bed and coax yourself out the door and to the occasion, let alone. Sometimes, some days, generating small talk and good humored jokes just is not possible. One cannot just will themselves to engage in purposeful conversations, when every fiber is fighting against you. If a person does not feel the desire to speak, I feel people should respect boundaries and when they are willing and ready, it will done. Not only this, but some would much rather observe and make a noteworthy remark, rather than spew endless lines of meaningless jabber.
There is a large sum of individuals who simply prefer to examine and listen, in a conversation, in place of constantly speaking. Even when one is ready to delve into a subject or add something of value, it seems to be a common mannerism to speak over and completely neglect what the person actually has to say. Why would anyone want to talk if nobody is going to listen to the answer?
3: “Don’t Worry About it.”
This could, very possibly, be the most hurtful of the bunch. It is completely disregarding any concern for the person that you are speaking to and totally looking over any previous conversations dealing with their anxiety. When you tell someone with social anxiety something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about it.”, “Move on.”, or “Forget about it.”, it is the equivalent to you telling an arachnophobe to just stop being afraid of spiders. It is like telling a person of extremely low pain tolerance to simply stop feeling pain. It is ridiculous the amount of conversations I have had with people where they seem to be under the impression that anxiety is just a feeling that you can control with ease or end. Haha, no my dear. That is not how it works. While there are ways to seek the betterment of the situation – such as therapy, breathing exercises, medication, and more – you cannot just decide to quit anxiety and it listens. Over the years – with treatment – yes, it may be able to improve, but those who struggle with such restlessness of the mind do not get to easily opt out of the tyranny anxiety often holds on us. Instead of “Don’t worry about it,_” I guarantee the person you are speaking to would much rather her an explanation of why they should not be as concerned as they are and an assertion that you will still be there, ready to help them through the situation, despite the crushing feeling placed upon their heart. If you truly care about someone, you will not expect them to be any less perfect than you are – less perfect than any of us.