Here’s my list of 12 things not to say to someone with social anxiety, so if you have a person with social anxiety in your life try not to say any of these things or you may get a banana hurled at your head.
There were tons on this list to begin with. I picked 12 to narrow it down a little bit, these are the ones that stand out most to me but you guys may have more you would like to address, so feel free to leave your lists in the comments.
1 – “You’re being very quiet”
Thanks for pointing that one out… in front of everyone.
When my nerves get the better of me I sometimes try and fade into the background noise, I would actually rather join the conversation than have you point out that I’m quiet in front of everyone therefore putting me completely on the spot and drawing all the attention to me. Thank you for that.
2 – “I understand, I used to be shy”
No. No you don’t understand. That is not the same at all. Shyness does not take over every basic daily task, shyness does not make you clam up and tremble when you have to put the washing on the line, it doesn’t make you sick all night knowing you have to answer the door to sign for a parcel the next day. It’s not the same.
Someone with social anxiety is affected by it even when they’re not around people, even when the situation is long gone.
3 – “It’s all in your head”
No shit, Sherlock, it’s a mental health disorder. That doesn’t make it any less valid than a physical illness, our brains are part of our body.
4 – “Just be positive”
Ohhh I hadn’t ever thought of that one. When I was throwing up my breakfast that I could only eat half of and crying so much that my whole face was smothered in mascara, all because I had to get on a bus, well I should have just been positive. Silly me. Life fixed.
Yes positive thinking is part of recovering from this horrible life crushing disorder, but it is not a quick fix and thinking positively alone will not transform a socially anxious person into a social queen/king.
It’s also incredibly hard to know how to think positively when you’ve developed a social anxiety disorder.
5 – “Just get drunk”
This is a crutch. Some people find themselves less anxious when they are drunk, some people find themselves more anxious when they are drunk.
Using alcohol every time you want to socialise or have less anxiety is a slippery slope, especially if it’s the only way you feel less anxious.
If you’re encouraging someone to use an unhealthy crutch like this rather than encouraging them to actually get to the route of the problem then you’re not helping them at all.
6 – “But I’ll be there with you the whole time”
Will you stick by me like glue? Will you not even leave to go to the bathroom? Will you escort ME to the bathroom? Will you not join in on a conversation I don’t understand? Will you not ask me questions or include me in the conversation? Will you instinctively know when I need to leave without asking me in front of other people? Will you hide in the corner with me so no one will see us?
Sorry but sometimes, just sometimes, we would rather not hold you back and spoil your fun because we can be pretty hard to be out with when we’re anxious.
Not just that, but this can often be a lie.
I don’t know how many times a friend has said this to me, dragged me to a party or one of their other friends houses and then ditched me, or left me standing in the kitchen being talked to by a stranger so they can go off and drink with their ‘fun’ friends.
It’s hard to understand from another persons perspective but I know that when my social anxiety was at it’s peak, I couldn’t be left alone with people I didn’t know for a second without feeling like I was having a meltdown.
7 – “How can you do ‘this‘ but not go ‘there‘, it doesn’t make any sense”
It doesn’t happen in the same way for every single situation and it doesn’t discriminate. It happens to different people in different respects.
I could be perfectly okay doing something any other people would fear but not okay doing something really basic and seemingly trivial.
It’s very complicated, so if we say we are afraid of doing something specific, you just have to trust us.
8 – “Just be yourself”
Okay, I know that when you’re over at my house and I’m baking you cakes and I’m all like playing loud music and being generally hilarious, you just want other people to see that.
That’s very sweet, but here’s the thing, I’m like that around you because you’re a special person in my life or because for some reason I just feel comfortable around you.
That feeling doesn’t happen with everyone, even sometimes people I have known for donkeys years.
Some people just make me feel more anxious, especially if there’s more than one of them and I’m meeting them for the first time = Holy intensified situation!!!
9 – “You’re just acting like a child”
This is the worst one for me personally. I’ve heard this so many times and it crushes me.
It’s never nice being told I’m childlike because I can’t function the way I want to. It completely trivialises my mental illness.
Guess what? I WISH I was a child. My childhood still had a lot of anxiety but I was a lot more free than I am now!
At least kids see the world with open eyes, at least they don’t have prejudice, at least they care a lot less about what people think.
People don’t mean it that way though, hence it’s soul crushing quality.
It’s always used spitefully, and when you’re telling a person who is suffering from a serious mental condition that they’re basically not an adult because of that and you belittle them that much it’s fucking heartbreaking.
It’s like you’re saying we’re inferior to you. Well listen up buddy, we’re not. It’s just that simple. How about show a person some respect for what they have to go through on a daily basis instead?
10 – “It’s an excuse”
Why the hell would I want an excuse not to experience all the things in life that look really fun and enriching? Why would I want to have an excuse not to make friends?
Why would I want to make an excuse so that basic tasks that involve me being outside of the house even for just 5 seconds take a whole fucking two hours instead, because I’m in the bathroom heaving or psyching myself up to do it?
No. No. No. No. Social anxiety is not an excuse.. and if there is someone out there pretending to have social anxiety for whatever reason they are just an arsehole.
11 – “It’s no big deal, just do it”
If it wasn’t really big deal, and I could actually just do it… I WOULD!
12 – “Get over it”
……… How? Please tell me how?
——- If you have said at least one of these things to your socially anxious friend/kid/partner, hopefully you are just trying to help, we get that you don’t always understand, we’re sometimes glad that you don’t so that you don’t have to go through what we have to, we just get a tad frustrated hearing these things over and over.
It’s hard for anyone to help/look after a socially anxious person because it’s such an intense and complicated illness but fret not, I’ve compiled another list, of things you can do to help the socially anxious person in your life!