Let’s say your friend has anxiety and you don’t. Sure, you stress about little things from time to time, but we’re talking full-fledged, diagnosable anxiety disorders. If you don’t have anxiety, it can be tough to know how to respond when you see your friend struggling. It’s tempting to dismiss the situation and say something like, “It’s OK, there’s no need to be stressed,” but, as clinical psychologist Dr. Georgia Witkin, Head of Patient Services Development at Progyny, tells us, that’s not all that helpful.
“At the end of the day, I have found with my patients (and even myself!) that we only listen to advice we give ourselves—not the advice of our friends, peers, family, etc.,” Dr. Witkin tells us. “So if we’re anxious, chances are that we’ve already told ourselves to relax and did not, or could not, listen.” Having someone repeat what we’ve already told ourselves, she notes, just adds additional, unwanted pressure.
That’s not to say there’s nothing that you as an outsider can do to help. Below, find six actually helpful ways to react to a friend who has anxiety without trivializing their feelings.