We can’t expect everyone to have a full understanding of every illness or mental health challenges, that is insanely unrealistic. In the same bracket, I don’t expect everyone to understand what anxiety is and what it means, especially people who haven’t experienced it.
That being said, understanding of mental health problems is so new that empathy for them is still kinda spotty. By spotty I mean that we sometimes experience people who take our experiences at face value and believe what we tell them. Other times, we encounter people who can’t envision what we are telling them, and therefore don’t believe it’s possible.
The difference between the two is often the presence of empathy. While we should all try to be as empathetic as possible as much of the time as possible, I understand that it can be draining, and at times like this, quite difficult to tap into. But if someone’s lack of empathy damages us, it’s our right to take a break from them.
There are a few red flags that indicate if someone doesn’t understand anxiety to the point that it might damage our relationship with them, or our state of mind. Here are a few things that people who doesn’t understand anxiety say that can damage us or our relationship with them:
“Everyone Has Anxiety”
No. No they don’t. I will die on this hill.
Not everyone falls asleep thinking of a thousand different ways the world might end while we’re sleeping. Not everyone has panic attacks regularly. Not everyone has anxious thoughts that spiral into an inability to go somewhere, do something, or see someone for fear of the worst happening.
Everyone will experience the emotion of anxiety in their lifetime, that is a given. Not everyone has anxiety, though, and if someone says this to us, they have proven to have zero understanding of what it means to live with anxiety. It’s not a problem to have zero understanding of anxiety, but it’s a huge problem to act like you do and invalidate someone’s experience in the process.
“You’re Not Trying Hard Enough To Get Better”
When I was younger, I heard this phrase a lot, directed at someone who experienced depression and anxiety chronically. At the time, I didn’t realise how damaging it was. Now, I look back and am horrified that this was acceptable to say to someone who was suffering.
Funnily enough, encouragement and support goes much further than criticism when helping someone through a mental health issue. At least, that’s my experience. Anxiety doesn’t have a quick fix, in fact, it’s something that has its good days and bad days and never really goes away. Telling someone to try harder to “get better” is damaging and unsupportive, and I hope with time, this phrase disappears from society’s idea of how to “help” people with mental illness.
“Have you Tried [Insert Holistic Fad Here]?”
Holistic fads come and go, but the people who use them as a go-to cure for everything, are forever.
Doing a new programme to boost your health is a great idea so long as the products are legit, but anyone claiming it will cure [insert any health or mental health issue here] is dreaming. Instant cures for our problems would be fantastic, but that isn’t the real world.
If someone who is inexperienced truly believes someone when they say something with cure their anxiety, the hope that is created there will not only be short lived, but it might even destroy any faith they had in things that would help, e.g. therapy. Don’t wave things in people’s faces as cures when such claims are unsubstantiated or straight-up untrue.
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