I’ve lived with social anxiety all my life. And last week was the first time I came out publically about it. This list of 6 things you should never say to someone with social anxiety is real. Because all of them have been said to me. I don’t take it personally because I know the person(s) stating these things didn’t know about my disorder.
1. Just get over it
This is #1 for a reason. It irks my soul when someone tells me to, “Just get over my anxiety”. This phrase is in no way helpful. People who are anxious want to get over their worries, but it’s not that easy. Anxiety doesn’t just go away when you ask it to. Telling someone to “just get over it”, belittles our issues and implies that our fears and anxieties are easy to resolve.
2. Calm down
Telling someone to calm down is the fastest way to piss someone off. I’ve never seen a situation where someone is told to “Calm down” and it actually works. Telling someone who suffers from social anxiety to calm down is apathetic. We don’t choose to have anxiety. If we could control our anxiety and simply calm those fears, trust me, WE WOULD. Telling us to calm down only causes more frustration and anxiety.
3. It’s not a big deal.
To who? Just because it may not seem like a big deal to you, in our head it feels like a big deal.
A very big deal. Telling someone with anxiety that it’s not a big deal is basically telling them that they are overreacting. As irrational as our thoughts may be, we can’t turn that fear off like a switch. Instead, try, “I know it’s hard. And scary. But you’re not alone. I’m here to help you get through this.” It’s super helpful and comforting when someone reinforces that it’s okay to be scared—it’s human, even—but we don’t have to face it alone.
4. It’s all in your head.
Saying this to someone is like saying, “you’re making this up” or “your thoughts aren’t valid”. It’s very dismissive and demeaning. And yes, while our thoughts and fears start in our head, they are very real. This anxiety could spread to other parts of our body in the form of sweaty palms, nauseous feelings in our stomach or even a reddened face. Part of social anxiety is also the fear that someone will notice how our body is being affected and point it out. So to prevent that from happening, we just avoid situations were anxiety could arise altogether.
5. You worry too much.
People who are anxious already know that they worry too much. They walk around every day trying their best not to worry about the small things. When anxious people hear someone say ‘you’re such a worrier’ it makes you them feel like they aren’t making any progress, or that their anxiety is getting even worse. So please don’t remind us of our issues.
6. It’s not that bad.
It’s hard to fully understand social anxiety unless you suffer from it personally. Social anxiety can be paralyzing. As much as a person might want to be active and let loose, social anxiety and fear limit their ability to do so. Social anxiety can cause us to panic or just avoid any social interaction.
Now that you do, take note. “If you know better, Do better!” And if you know someone who suffers from social anxiety, be patient and try to be understanding. We didn’t choose to have this disorder and we can’t just turn off anxiety and quiet our fears. Show that you care and that the person doesn’t have to go it alone.