Do you have a loved one around you who suffers from anxiety disorders and you want to support them so that they get better quickly? This is commendable. But be careful, your support could be poorly received if it includes certain inappropriate phrases. An American psychologist has listed them and offers alternatives.
It’s difficult to see a friend sink into anxiety. Our first reaction is often to want to motivate this person, to show them that everything is not bad, or even to push them. Unfortunately, when faced with a person who is experiencing real pain (anxiety is said to be the psychological expression of pain) our little words can fall completely flat. Worse, they can sometimes prove problematic. Jennifer Gerlach, an American psychologist, has listed the 5 phrases that are best avoided, and the most appropriate alternatives to actually hear an anxious person.
“You’ll see when the time comes.”
With this sentence, you are trying to temporize and put into perspective the emerging fear of a future situation. Except that for the anxious person, this fear is already there in their mind. Perhaps it is useless to apprehend things, but there is nothing she can do about it. And experiences it as a present fear.
To be replaced by: “Let’s make a plan together.” In this way, you take their concerns into account and offer to find solutions for possible obstacles. While you won’t be able to silence your friend’s anxiety, it is possible to share their fears and soothe them.
“Fear will not help you move forward”
There is also a variation with “fear does not avoid danger”. If this statement is true, remember that your friend is currently in a panic. Telling him this to get him to get his act together isn’t nice or really helpful. (Of course he would prefer not to be afraid of a situation!).
To be replaced by: “I am with you”. Words that show someone they are not alone. It means a lot.
“Are you doing well”
By saying this, you want to impose on your loved one the idea that, in reality, they are not so bad. But this sentence, which assures a fact, is only relevant in certain clear situations, when a medical examination for example demonstrates that there is no threat. In the case of mental health, we cannot say that he is fine. Besides, he is not doing well since he is anxious.
To be replaced by: “You must be overwhelmed.” Sometimes an anxious person doesn’t need to hear that they are okay, but to know that you can see that they are in a difficult situation.
“If you hadn’t done this, you wouldn’t be in this situation.”
It’s the famous “I warned you” which is more annoying than anything else. Unless you can give someone a time machine, it’s not productive. Especially since, ultimately, we do not know what would have happened in a reality where we would have made different choices.
To be replaced by: “No wonder you’re stressed.” An expression of empathy toward someone’s current situation can mean a lot. And remains more comforting than reprimands.
“I have confidence, you will get through this”
Here again, this is a phrase that is intended to be kind, and intends to show your confidence in the person. Unfortunately, it often does not have the desired effect: such a comment can give the impression of brushing aside the subject and sending the person back to their problems.
To be replaced by: “Is there anything I can do to help?” A question that offers emotional support. And ultimately, the idea of a helping hand is always more encouraging than a compliment.