It’s hard to explain anxiety to someone who doesn’t have it. I even struggle to find the words sometimes. It’s even harder because there’s no one description to sum it up.Telling someone to research anxiety is the easy answer (I’ve done it before) but it would be in such general terms and it may not describe what you personally go through. Everyone experiences it differently, and it might not stay the same for each person.
As you struggle to find the words to explain it to someone, keep the following things in mind.
1. Explain YOUR symptoms to them. Let them know what it’s like for you. It is different for everyone. Some people have visible, physicial symptoms but others don’t. There are different symptoms and different levels to those symptoms. So, once you get close to someone and feel comfortable telling them about your anxiety, it’s best to let them know what they are most likely to expect. When you explain it, use examples they might be familiar with.
2. Let them know YOUR triggers, if anything. Like everyone with anxiety experiences different symptoms, they experience different triggers. If someone knows your triggers, they will be aware of how their actions or words might affect you. They will also be able to understand why you avoid or leave certain situations.
3. Let them know that you know your fears aren’t rational. Our anxious minds overthink everything and causes fear. When I talk to my friends about something that is making me fearful, the fear is using coming from my anxiety. I usually know deep down I have nothing to be scared of. My anxiety and overthinking cause my fears. Telling someone this might help them understand more.
4. Let them know how they can help you. Everyone has different ways to cope. Some people like to be alone during an anxiety attack while others need comforting and reassuring. I need comfort and reassurance when I’m having an anxiety attack. I remember trying to comfort one of my friends who having an anxiety attack when she needed to be left alone. I didn’t know that at the time but now I know for next time. Tell them what you need during an anxiety attack so they can better help you…and not make any mistakes. Sometimes people truly want to help but they don’t know how to.
5. Tell them what’s not helpful. Someone without anxiety will often say things we already know. Things like “Don’t worry about it” “Just calm down” “there’s nothing to worry about/be afraid of” “You’ll be fine!” may sound helpful but it’s just really insensitive and only makes things worse. Someone without anxiety may say those things, trying to help, without realizing how much they don’t help.
6. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their patience and willingness to understand. It’s going to take time for them to understand. I have anxiety and it even takes time for me to understand someone else’s anxiety because everyone is different. Also, make sure they know not to take anything personally.