“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems,” wrote Epictetus.
As a person with anxiety, this quote hits close to home. Nothing on earth is as daunting as what lies in our own minds.
Loving a person with anxiety can be confusing, frustrating, and even frightening at times. It’s not an easy thing to do. However, like all love, it is tremendously rewarding.
Do you love someone with anxiety?
Here are 17 things they wish you knew:
1. It means a lot when you listen to us without judgement. We know our fears don’t always make sense. When you allow us to talk through them, you are helping us to process our illness.
2. If you see that something – a smell, an action, a place – seems to ease our anxiety, point it out. We might not have noticed, and we can use all the tools we can get.
3. We sometimes find comfort in odd places. Don’t judge the things that make us feel safe. Encourage us to be ourselves, free from self-consciousness.
4. We can give you ways to help us through an anxious moment. However, an anxious moment is not a good time to ask for these. Have this conversation with us when we are calm.
5. We know we can be inconvenient and unreliable. There’s no need to remind us. We beat ourselves up over it all the time.
6. We feel terrible after we get frustrated and snap at you. It isn’t about you. It’s about us.
7. It helps us when you remain outwardly calm. We need stability when we are freaking out. Your peaceful demeanor is reassuring.
8. Our hypervigilance can cause us to get tired quickly. We may need more downtime and rest than other people.
9. Our anxiety does not make us stupid or childish. Even during an anxious moment, talking down to us does not help. It’s irritating and condescending.
10. We love it when you show us breathing exercises, grounding techniques, or new ways of thinking that combat anxiety. Whether they work for us or not, this gesture shows us that you’re on our team.
11. Our tendency to overthink can be a blessing and a curse.
12. We are okay with the fact that you can’t understand our anxiety. We don’t understand it either.
13. We understand that anxiety isn’t logical. However, it’s a physical, medically based problem. It doesn’t respond to facts. We can’t think it away, as much as we wish we could.
14. We want you to take good care of yourself. We need you to be at your best.
15. We appreciate your patience. We know it’s not easy.
16. Logically, we know we won’t die from a panic attack. In the moment, however, it feels like we definitely will. Having a panic attack is a painful and terrifying experience. It feels like the end of the world.
17. With self-care, determination, and hard work, we are capable of anything.
“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic,” wrote Anaïs Nin. People who choose to be there for loved ones with anxiety are brave. Loving an anxious person requires strength, compassion, and the courage to choose love over comfort.