8 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Loved Ones To Know

Anxiety. You hear it in conversations all the time: in passing while walking through campus, at another table while you’re studying in the library, while you’re procrastinating and scrolling through Facebook. You hear it casually thrown out in the smallest of situations. It seems to be everywhere.


The word “anxiety” in American culture is highly overused, and often used incorrectly. People are often misinformed about the definition of anxiety, its prevalence, and the truth and difficulty behind having an anxiety disorder.


Anxiety is a normal, and often protective and beneficial, emotion that is completely normal. This is most often the type of “anxiety” you hear people talking about, like in the examples above. Anxiety Disorder, however is completely different. Dr. Charles Goodstein, a professor of psychology at NYU, puts it this way:

“What makes a disorder is when people have anxiety that mounts to such an intensity that they're no longer able to cope with it.”


These Anxiety Disorders can take many different forms, include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Specific Phobias. All of these, though different, are defined as having excessive fear and anxiety, and have a negative impact on daily life.


According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the number one most common mental illness in America, with 40 million adults affected every year. In college students alone, a recent survey reported that 41.6 percent of students are affected. 



Because of the widespread nature of these disorders, the probability you personally know someone with an Anxiety Disorder is good. And if you aren’t personally affected yourself, or didn’t grow up in proximity with someone who has one of these disorders, you might not fully understand the thought process and intensity of emotions people with Anxiety Disorders may feel.


After a survey of some willing college students, here are 7 things people with anxiety want their loved ones to know.


1. It isn’t your fault.

Our anxiety is not your fault. You are not causing it, and we don’t want you to blame yourself.

It’s not your fault when I get so much anxiety that I can’t handle the way I feel and then I shut down. I never mean to shut you out- it’s just too much for me sometimes and so I try to run away- literally.”

-Lily Mannon, NYU, Age 20


2. Anxiety can be crippling. We are trying our best.

According to Psychguides.com, anxiety can range in severity from mild to dehibilitating. Every person handles it differently, and each day is different.

“We aren’t being lazy. We’re actually putting in a lot of effort when it comes to anxiety.”

Clemson University Student, Age 19


3. It may not be rational, but it feels just as real.

“When I’m anxious, sometimes the cause of the anxiety is unrealistic. What are the chances I am actually going to die today, or the chances that if I eat a certain food something terrible will happen? Not very good. But to me, it feels so real- almost life threatening real. So when people say “you’re crazy” or “that’s stupid,” it’s hurts more than they realize and can be really damaging.”

-Kaylin Woods, Clemson University, Age 20


4. This isn’t something we are doing for attention.

One major misconception is that people with Anxiety Disorders are just looking for attention, or wanting someone to notice them. The reality remains that this is almost never the case. In fact, many people with anxiety often feel guilty for their own anxiety. Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC puts it this way:

“Guilt is a distressing effect of anxiety. Guilt is the uncomfortable experience of self-flagellation for thinking, feeling, doing, and generally just existing,wrong (These Awful Effects of Anxiety Must Stop). Anxiety is the loud, critical voice in our head that provides a running commentary on the things we do wrong (wrong from anxiety’s perspective, that is). As if it weren’t bad enough to worry, fret, and fear that we’ve done something wrong, anxiety takes our discomfort to a new level. A very distressing effect of anxiety is guilt.” 


In this guilt, we want you to know that anxiety isn’t something people with Anxiety Disorders are doing for attention, or for sympathy.

“I want them to know that I don’t mean to cause any stress in their lives.”

Taylor Hazan, Kenyon College, Age 21

5. It’s not that we don’t trust you

It’s often helpful for people with anxiety to be reminded of their worth due to the guilt we often have about that anxiety. And it’s helpful to be reassured in general.

“It’s not that we don’t trust them, it’s that our anxiety brain tells us to think about every possible situation that could go wrong. We might need some extra reassurance.”

Jennifer Wilkins, Clemson University, Age 20


6. My Anxiety Disorder is NOT my defining factor

“My anxiety doesn’t define me; it’s a part of me, but so is my personality, habits, quirks, passions, and relationships!”

Clemson University Student, Age 20


7. When anxiety hits, we need support

Every person’s support system is different, but one thing people with Anxiety Disorders have in common? When anxiety is really bad, it helps to have someone there.


“If someone is there just for me to talk to, it makes it so much easier.”

Clemson University Student, Age 20


8. It is helpful when you ask us what we need

Each person is going to thrive off of different types of support. Some people may want another person to sit with them, others may want advice, or some may just need physical touch to feel calm. Ask your loved one with anxiety what works best for them, then plan accordingly.


“I would say that the biggest thing when you’re talking to a loved one is sometimes we don’t want advice or even words of encouragement like “it’ll get better soon” or “everything will be okay.” I know that intellectually but sometimes all I want is for someone to just HEAR what I’m saying, and not really say anything back.”

Olivia Bear, Appalachian State University, Age 21


If you or a loved one is struggling with high anxiety, take this test, and never be afraid to reach out for help.