What not to say to someone with anxiety: The key

by | Jul 11, 2023

Living with anxiety can be a challenging experience, and the support and understanding of others can make a significant difference. However, it’s important to be mindful of what we say to someone with anxiety, as certain phrases or comments can unintentionally worsen their condition or cause distress. In this article, we will explore what not to say to someone with anxiety, providing insights and guidance to promote empathy and effective communication.

Table of Contents

Why Words Matter in Supporting Anxiety

Anxiety can manifest in various ways, and its effects differ from person to person. However, one common thread is that individuals with anxiety are often hypersensitive to the words and attitudes of those around them. The language we choose can either foster a supportive environment or exacerbate their anxiety. By understanding the impact of our words, we can promote understanding and offer genuine support.

Avoiding Trivialization and Minimization

When someone confides in you about their anxiety, it’s crucial to avoid trivializing or minimizing their experiences. Phrases such as “Just relax,” “Don’t worry about it,” or “It’s not a big deal” can unintentionally invalidate their feelings, making them feel misunderstood or unheard. Instead, acknowledge their emotions and let them know you’re there to listen.

Steer Clear of Unhelpful Advice

While your intention may be to offer assistance, providing unsolicited advice can be counterproductive for someone with anxiety. Statements like “Have you tried meditation?” or “You should just think positive thoughts” may come across as dismissive or oversimplified. Instead, ask if they would like advice or simply offer your support without jumping to solutions.

The Pitfalls of Invalidating Statements

Invalidating someone’s anxiety can be incredibly detrimental to their well-being. Phrases like “You’re overreacting” or “It’s all in your head” undermine their experiences and emotions, potentially making them feel ashamed or embarrassed about their anxiety. Instead, validate their feelings by expressing empathy and understanding.

The Impact of Dismissing Concerns

When someone with anxiety shares their concerns or worries, dismissing them can be harmful. Saying things like “You’re being paranoid” or “That’s not something to worry about” implies that their anxiety is irrational or unwarranted. Instead, show compassion by acknowledging their concerns and offering reassurance.

Negating Anxiety with Comparison

Drawing comparisons between their anxiety and your own experiences or someone else’s can inadvertently invalidate their struggles. Saying things like “I get anxious too, but I just push through it” or “Others have it worse” minimizes their unique challenges. Instead, focus on their feelings and validate their experiences without comparison.

Refrain from Encouraging Avoidance

Encouraging someone with anxiety to avoid situations that trigger their anxiety may seem like a solution, but it can reinforce avoidance behaviors. Statements like “You don’t have to go if it makes you uncomfortable” or “Just avoid those situations” may inadvertently hinder their progress. Instead, support their efforts to confront their fears gradually.

Sensitivity in Offering Solutions

While it’s natural to want to help, be mindful of the language you use when offering solutions to someone with anxiety. Phrases like “You should get over it” or “Just face your fears” oversimplify the complexity of anxiety disorders. Instead, suggest resources, therapy options, or self-help techniques in a supportive and non-judgmental manner.

Providing Empathy and Active Listening

Listening attentively and responding empathetically can make a significant difference for someone with anxiety. Show genuine interest, maintain eye contact, and provide verbal cues to indicate that you are actively engaged in the conversation. Reflect their feelings back to them to ensure they feel heard and understood.

What to Say Instead: Supportive Phrases

Now that we have explored what not to say to someone with anxiety, let’s focus on supportive phrases that can help foster a nurturing environment. Use statements like “I’m here for you,” “You’re not alone in this,” or “Is there anything I can do to support you?” to convey your empathy and willingness to help.


In conclusion, understanding the impact of our words and being mindful of what not to say to someone with anxiety is crucial in creating a supportive environment. By avoiding trivialization, invalidation, unhelpful advice, and dismissing concerns, we can foster empathy and provide the understanding that individuals with anxiety need. Sensitivity in offering solutions, providing empathy, and active listening are essential for effective communication. Remember, it’s not just about what we say, but how we say it.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I best support someone with anxiety?

Supporting someone with anxiety involves listening, validating their feelings, and offering understanding. Avoid minimizing their experiences and provide reassurance and empathy. Educate yourself about anxiety and its challenges to enhance your ability to offer support.

What should I avoid saying to someone with anxiety?

It’s important to avoid dismissing their concerns, trivializing their experiences, or offering unsolicited advice. Refrain from negating their anxiety with comparison or encouraging avoidance behaviors. Instead, focus on empathy, validation, and active listening.

Are there specific phrases that can help someone with anxiety?

Yes, supportive phrases can make a significant impact. Express your willingness to listen, validate their feelings, and offer assistance. Phrases like “I understand it’s challenging for you,” “You’re doing your

best,” or “You’re stronger than you realize” can provide comfort and encouragement.

What’s Next?

Now that you have a better understanding of what not to say to someone with anxiety, it’s essential to continue learning and exploring ways to provide support. Check out the following Mindphony blogs for further insights and guidance:

Remember, empathy, understanding, and open communication are key when supporting someone with anxiety. Together, we can create a supportive environment that helps individuals manage their anxiety and live fulfilling lives.

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