Millions of Americans – men, women, and children – are affected by anxiety every year. If you know someone who experiences it, it’s normal to want to help. That said, it’s crucial to know what you’re dealing with, including symptoms and causes, and how simple spoken words can sometimes make the situation worse.
What is Anxiety?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says anxiety from speaking in public, for instance, is common, but it also can be a motivator and provide a brief, powerful energy boost. “Driving in heavy traffic is another common source of anxiety, but it helps keep us alert and cautious to avoid accidents. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.”
The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t definitive. Life experiences such as traumatic events seem to trigger anxiety disorders in someone who is already prone to anxiety. Family history also can be a factor.
One source said, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S. They affect about 40 million Americans. They happen to nearly 30% of adults at some point. Anxiety disorders most often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood.”
Signs and symptoms of mental illness manifest themselves differently for each person, but anxiety and more serious anxiety disorders have commonalities to be aware of. For instance, an anxious person may feel tense, fearful, or have a fast heartbeat in certain situations. If you’re anxious, you may sweat, tremble, have trouble sleeping, and experience changes in appetite and weight. Of course, one of the most recognizable symptoms of anxiety is you have trouble controlling worry.
- Children who experienced abuse, trauma, or witnessed painful events are at higher risk of getting an anxiety disorder as adults, but adults can have anxiety for the same reasons.
- A health condition or life-threatening illness can lead to worry about your treatment and long-term future.
- A death in the family, work stress, or other accumulated stress can lead to anxiety disorders.
Other risk factors: personality types, other mental health issues, genetics, and drugs or alcohol.
6 Statements That are Hurtful for Anxiety
According to UW Medicine and other sources, there are many things you should never say to someone experiencing anxiety. In fact, here are the top six statements that are hurtful for anxiety sufferers.
- “Don’t worry.” Whether an adult or child suffers from anxiety, you can’t alter moods by simply telling them not to worry. Worries are a key symptom of anxiety and that kind of statement sends a message that what they’re feeling is unacceptable or inappropriate.
- “Calm down.” Someone suffering from anxiety or a more serious mental illness can’t calm down with the push of a button or forced, happy thoughts. Few people can instantly relax on command, and this statement will probably have the opposite effect.
- “No worries, I’m anxious, too.” This is another that borders on hurtful, even when you have the best intentions. Yes, anxiety is a normal biological reaction, but it’s counter-productive to compare your fleeing symptoms or sadness with the fear and panic that grips someone who truly suffers from anxiety – and can’t break free.
- “You’ll just have to get over it.” When a loved one or acquaintance is having a rough day, we sometimes try the old “tough love” routine and drop a statement like this. That’s a bad idea. Many kinds of mental illness carry a terrible social stigma, and such a statement may only reinforce feelings of weakness and shame.
- “It’s all in your head.” Even the most anxious amongst us know that disorders like anxiety are brain-based, but this kind of statement creates shame and feelings of guilt.
The biggest takeaway when talking to an anxious person is that your words should be thought out and compassionate.
Ketamine for Anxiety
Medical and mental health professionals may advocate tried-and-true ways to relieve symptoms of anxiety, like medicine, one-on-one or group therapy, or a combination of those choices. One option growing in popularity is ketamine therapy. Ketamine is a medicine that gained prominence as a battlefield anesthetic in the 1960s, but its efficacy has been expanded to include soothing the symptoms of anxiety and other mental and chronic pain conditions not receptive to other forms of treatment.
According to some estimates, 40 million U.S. adults are affected by anxiety every year, with many of those at risk of developing a more severe anxiety disorder. If you’re one of those, don’t wait until the symptoms spiral out of control. Get help and explore the benefits of ketamine therapy.