How Can I Talk to Someone About My Anxiety?
By Linda Rodgers
Sometimes you can work through anxiety, but often it’s tough to deal with on your own. Especially if you have—or think you may have—an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can take over your life. It can trick you into avoiding your friends and the activities you love. It can isolate you so you’re afraid to meet new people or join new clubs or activities. It can make you moody or withdrawn. Or angry. Or so anxious you get sad.
It’s important to know that anxiety is treatable, even though it may feel overwhelming. You will feel better with the right support, so reach out to someone you trust even if it feels scary. You deserve good support, and you deserve to feel better.
Here are some tips for who to reach out to and what to say.
Your Friends and Classmates
There’s a good chance you aren’t the only one in your circle who experiences anxiety. Nearly one in three teenagers ages 13 to 17 has an anxiety disorder, and about 15 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds do as well. Sharing what you’re going through with friends means you no longer have to manage it alone, they can be a support for you, and you can be a support for them if they are going through something similar.
What you can say: “These are the things that are helpful to me when I’m feeling anxious.”
Remember, though, that even your best friend may not provide the right help or insight. They may be at loss for what to say or do. In that case, it’s time to talk to a trusted adult.
A Trusted Adult
Ideally, you have a school or campus counselor available to you. If you don’t—or you don’t know them—you can reach out to a teacher, professor, or coach. Think about who in your classes or activities has been supportive, and start with them.
What you can say: “I’m struggling with a lot right now. I feel like I have too much on my plate, and I really need help handling it.” Or you can name your anxieties: “I have anxieties about failing and being with people. I feel like everything is overwhelming, or I get panicky sometimes.”
If you’re speaking to a professor, teacher, or coach, ask that person to introduce you to the school or campus counselor.
If you and your person don’t know where to start, learn ways to get help.
A Trusted Family Member
It could be your mom, dad, or another relative you trust to have your best interest at heart. Even if you’ve never had these kinds of conversations with them, if you know they care and will want to help, that’s what matters. They may be able to help you figure out if you can find a therapist or mental health professional on your family’s insurance plan or help you find a low-cost clinic.
What you can say: Let them know what specifically is hard for you and that you need their support: “I find myself worrying so much that it’s making things like school hard for me. Can you help me find some good support?”
If you come from a family that doesn’t usually talk about emotions, you can focus on your body and what’s physically going on: “My stomach hurts every day” or “Sometimes I can’t breathe and my chest hurts.”
You could also focus on your behavior: “I can’t go to this family event because it makes me really uncomfortable to be around people. Can we think about what could help me feel better?”
In the end, the person is not as important as how they make you feel when you talk to them. As you think about who to open up to about your struggles, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I be myself with them, or do I have to keep parts of my life from them?
- Can I be messy around this person? Can they handle the idea that right now I don’t have it all together? Can I be in a bad mood around them?
- Do they listen?
- Do I think they will have some good ideas for how to help or be willing to figure out solutions with me?
If the person you talk to seems dismissive or judgmental, you can give them another chance if you are close to them. They may be frightened too. Try again to explain that you feel your thoughts are getting out of control, and then reach out to someone else if they react the same way. The last thing you want to hear is, “Stop worrying!” It’s not helpful, and it’s belittling—especially if you’re already feeling bad.
You’ll be surprised at just how much people are willing to be there for you when you reach out to the right friend or adult. As scary as it is to talk about your worries and anxieties, it can be empowering. It means you’re advocating for yourself and getting the help you need.
Learn more about anxiety and how you can get help or help someone else