22 Things People With Anxiety Want Others to Know During the Holidays

The holidays can be anxiety provoking for everyone — and for the 40 million American adults who live with anxiety disorders, this means putting anxiety on top of anxiety. Holiday pressure often adds to the challenges someone is already dealing with on a day-to-day basis.

We asked our community what they wish other people understood about living with anxiety around the holidays. When you see your friend or family member who lives with anxiety step outside at a holiday party, this might give you a better understanding of what they’re going through.

Here’s what they want you to know:

1. “Just because you’re supposed to be happy around the holidays doesnt mean everyone is, and that’s OK. Not everyone can handle the stress of it all. We miss loved ones who are no longer here, we wish we could do more, we want to see and feel all of the joy and happiness you feel, but we just can’t. It doesnt mean we don’t love you or don’t care.” — Shelly Conner

A quote from Shelly Conner that says, "Just because you're supposed to be happy around the holidays doesn't mean everyone is, and that's OK."

2. “I may disappear for an hour from time to time. It’s just to take a breather. Don’t be offended. Don’t think I’m upset, and don’t take it personally. I need to catch my breath.” — Misty Hyndman

3. “Holidays make my anxiety worse. Just know that I do care — but sometimes I need a quiet place to try to reign in my anxiety.” — Shannon Trevino

4.When I go outside, it’s not because I’m trying to avoid the situation. It’s because I need a minute to calm the panic, reset my breathing and slow the thoughts. Parties can be sensory overload for me, so I just need a minute to refocus.” — Tricia Rathgeber

5. “I’m not a snob. I just get overwhelmed and shut down. Please understand it has nothing to do with you, and please be extra kind if you see me sitting alone or being quiet.” — Kristen Batdorf-Overbey

Quote from Kristen Batdorf-Overbey that says, "I'm not a snob. I just get overwhelmed and shut down. Please understand it has nothing to do with you."

6. “The worst part of Christmas is the expectation that everyone needs to be happy. For some, Christmas is a wonderful chance to be thankful for what you have. For some of us, the expectation from other people that we need to be happy is quite daunting.” — Autistic Not Weird

7. “If I freeze during small talk, let me off the hook. Nothing personal.” — Erin Nicole

8. “The obligation I feel to reciprocate gifts I don’t feel I deserve is absolutely crushing. And at the same time provokes humility and thankfulness. The push-pull of these extremes leaves me breathless and broken. For this reason I don’t celebrate the season and push people away lest they see my frozen reaction as heartlessness. Really I just don’t know what to do. I’m so torn between the good and bad stress of it all.” — Chriss Tate

Quote from Chriss Tate that says, "The obligation I feel to reciprocate gifts I don't feel I deserve is absolutely crushing."

9. “Do. no. enter. my. bubble. uninvited.” — Jenna Hennis

10. “If I’m there, I really want to see you. But please understand I may want to separate myself or leave early.” — Barbara Audacity Johnson

11. “As someone with anxiety and schizoaffective disorder, I feel a deep uncertainty as far as the holidays are concerned. Where others look forward to a celebration of the new year, I fear living another year in the company of a life-limiting mental illness.” — Syrena Clark

12. “The idea of Christmas makes me happy. I love lights and presents and food. It’s the execution that sends me spiraling. The shopping, preparation and parties overwhelm me.” — Jennifer Grant Warren

Quote from Jennifer Grant Warren that says, "The idea of Christmas makes me happy. I love lights and presents and food. It's the execution that sends me spiraling. The shopping, preparation and parties overwhelm me."

13. “As the number of people and noise increases, so does my anxiety. I may need to take regular ‘time outs’ to get away to somewhere quiet and calm to settle my anxiety a bit.” — Collette A. Smith

14. “I’m totally excited for the holidays, but when they arrive I’m mentally exhausted from being anxious. I seem unhappy. Even though I enjoy the holidays, I need to prepare myself mentally for them and make a plan to hide after them to calm down.” — Punki Munro

15. “If I leave your Christmas event early it’s not because I’m being rude. I have lots of events over Christmas and sometimes my anxiety beats me and I need to leave. Please don’t hold it against me.” — Vikki Rose Donaghy

Quote from Vikki Rose Donaghy that says, "Sometimes my anxiety beats me and I need to leave. Please don't hold it against me."

16. “Sometimes I really want to help with whatever it is everyone’s doing, but there are times where I can’t. There is too much pressure to do things ‘right.’ Don’t judge me if I need to step away and find a quiet spot. Let me be for a little and I’ll come back.” — Kendell Sierra Karissa Blunden

17. “Everything, including anxiety, gets ramped up during the holidays. Whatever your vulnerability is will become super-sized.” — Karen Capucilli

18. “It’s utterly and completely exhausting playing all possible scenarios and conversations out in your mind for weeks ahead of time.” — Mia Sweet-Thurman

19. “Please understand I can’t do everything.” — Kallie Kieffer

Quote from Kallie Kieffer that says, "Please understand I can't do everything."

20. “Anxiety is a 24/7/365 ordeal, but it’s amplified during the holiday season. I cannot and will not step foot into a shopping mall.” — Eric B. Pollock

21. “I can’t just magically get rid of it forever by thinking positive.” — Sally M Senft 

22. “The greatest gift of all would be patience and understanding in such a chaotic and stressful time for us.” — Savanna Smith

Quote from Savanna Smith that says, "The greatest gift of all would be patience and understanding in such a chaotic and stressful time for us."

*Some answers have been edited and shortened.

Related: 6 Things You Don’t Have to Do During the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’

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