26 Things People With Anxiety Would Say to Their Friends If They Were Being Honest
I have a track record of not showing up to things I get invited to, and am infamously bad at texting people back. (A real text from a friend I got the other day: “OK so as your friend I deserve to know — is there a more efficient want to contact you? Snail mail? Carrier turtles?”)
But habits like this can be hard to explain — I get embarrassed that answering a simple text can be so hard for me, and I only like showing up to things when I feel “OK” enough, afraid my friends wouldn’t like the anxious version of me.
I know I’m not alone in this, and I also know I’m not the only one with friends who wouldn’t mind if I was a little more honest. With that in mind, we asked our mental health community to tell us one thing they would stay to their friends if they were honest about their anxiety. I hope their answers give you the courage to have a tough conversation with a close friend.
Remember — having anxiety isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and talking about our anxiety can help our friendships grow. It’s OK if you’re not ready to be 100 percent honest, but we hope these answers remind you that at the very least, you’re not alone.
Here’s what people with anxiety in our community wish they could tell their friends:
1. “Telling me to do or try X, Y and Z or the simple ‘get help’ is not only not helpful, but it is hurtful. I have sought help. I have tried over a dozen solutions. I don’t need you to fix me, and I don’t expect you to when I or my medical professionals can’t. What I want is a listening ear, support, encouragement and genuine companionship. Sometimes having a friend listen to me is enough to give me temporary relief.” — Cassie R.
2. “Nine times out of 10 when I say I don’t feel good enough to go out with you, it’s because my social anxiety is terrible. I don’t go not because I don’t want to, but because my brain won’t allow me to. I come up with all these ‘what if’ situations and I then feel like I cannot physically go out of the house.” — Jonna B.
3. “When you don’t text back within a small window of time, I usually assume you’re mad at me or don’t care to talk to me as much as you did… even though somewhere in my logical mind I know that’s not true.” — Christine T.
4. “Often times when we hang out, I just want to sit and do nothing but be in the presence of someone I can trust. It is exhausting pretending to be social and overanalyzing every detail of every conversation, so I know I’m boring, but I truly care for you and enjoy you just letting me be me.” — Andrea H.
5. “I’m constantly afraid you’ll decide one day that I’m not worth your time. Please remind me you care about me.” — Stacey M.
6. “My perfectionism is a mask for anxiety (twinned with depression) that constantly nags away — telling me that nothing will ever be good enough.” — Annette M.
7. “Please invite me, even though you know I may decline. And if something ‘suddenly’ comes up before the event, don’t take offense. It just became too much for me, but know I wanted to be there. So please, keep inviting me.” — Rebecca J.
8. “With anxiety comes paranoia. When you whisper to someone else, I immediately think it’s about me and I go into flee mode. It triggers a whole chain of events that leads me on a downward spiral.” — Lori L.
9. “My anxiety keeps me in a constant state of panic about what tomorrow is going to bring. Especially when I have to go to work and interact with people. My anxiety makes me feel like I should be productive all the time, but my depression makes me not want to do anything at all. It’s a constant war in my head, and it’s exhausting!” — Heather M.
10. “If I tell you to stop doing something, it’s not because I’m being too sensitive or rude, it’s because whatever you’re doing is triggering my anxiety. I wish you understood how awful it feels to be the ‘burden’ of the friendship.” — Shayna K.
11. “I would tell them that when I don’t turn up to your party or night out, or I never seem to be ‘accepting guests,’ it isn’t because I don’t love you or don’t want to spend time with you. It is because I don’t want you to see me in this way. I want to spend quality time with you when we both come away feeling happier, but my anxiety sometimes makes this impossible. I cannot be ‘me’ at those times.” — Russ F.
12. “I’ve been wearing the same shirt for a week and a half, have showered twice in that time… My self-care is at an all-time low, so I could really use some friend time — but it has to be at my house in my room.” — Devin P.
13. “I’m not nervous! Nervous is about a specific situation. My anxiety has no rhyme or reason. It just happens and it hits me like a ton of bricks. Please just be there for me and let me talk, or let me sit and think. I just need your support.” — Keaton B.
14. “Anxiety runs my life. I’m never not thinking about it. Every choice I make is made around anxiety. I wish it wasn’t more than any of you could imagine, but this is my life. Thanks for trying to empathize.” — Riley H.
15. “My anxiety plays a major role in my social skills, especially identifying social cues and acting appropriate. It’s not that I don’t want to get together, it’s that I’m embarrassed that my anxiety comes along as well.” — Emily F.
16. “If I don’t talk much around your other friends, it’s not because I dislike them. I’m just not comfortable talking to them yet. I don’t feel good enough to talk to them yet. I want so desperately to be their friend too, but it may take a month or two for me to be able to open up and let them in.” — Mikelle M.
17. “I have to build myself up to go out. Asking me an hour or less before an event is physically painful. I will stress and worry the entire time I’m getting ready, and while I’m out I will be jumpy and paranoid the entire time. I need time to ready myself for dealing with other people, so if you’re considering inviting me out, please do it timely.” — Bethany A.
18. “When I say I’m ‘freaking out,’ it’s the only way I know how to describe a panic attack. I don’t intend to negatively impact others. I am not usually aware if I’m dissociating, or if my heart rate picks up. Just know I’m aware it happens, and I’m working on it.” — Melanie L.
19. “So often, I worry that when my friend’s tell me, ‘I love you,’ part of that is coming from a place of tolerance, rather than genuine affection. What I mean is, my friends truly believe I’m ‘not normal’ or ‘weird’ and then decided to just tolerate what they don’t like about me in the name of ‘love’ rather than be honest and avoid me and not associate with me. I’ve heard people says things about other people like, ‘So-and-so is someone I need to ‘love’ because they’re so immature/broken/different. I don’t want to love them but I force myself to.’ This attitude makes someone’s affections disingenuous, forced and fake. I worry that they’re doing this too me also.” — Jeremy N.
20. “Sometimes, I obsessively check to see when you have been on social media to try and figure out when you’ll respond to my text. Other times, I ‘forget’ to check my messages because I’m too scared to apologize or say something silly. And other times, my anxiety gets so bad I drift off into some unknown world. Then I’ll snap back like nothing happened. If you notice, that’s probably because you know me and I’ve let my walls down. Most people don’t notice.” — YJ A.
21. “My anxiety is always there. Especially when it doesn’t look like it, it’s there. Just waiting for the door to open so it can escape again. Most of the time it’s just sitting behind that door, nice and quiet, and other times it’s pounding at the door, hoping it’ll bust the door down. Do you have any idea how hard it is to ignore anxiety when it’s trying to bust down a door?… It’s not easy dealing with anxiety, but somehow I do. Just don’t give up on me.” — Chris W.
22. “I may have every intention to hang out with you, but if something throws off my day, I may cancel last minute. Don’t take this personally, I am just attune to most things in my environment and one little thing in my day leading up to hanging out with you may have used my entire energy store to the point where I just need to take some time for me. I still care about you and our friendship, so please just be patient.” — Andrea M.
23. “Sometimes I just need need time away to recharge, I’m not deliberately shutting myself away from the group, I just need to recharge or I begin to panic.” — Kimberley S.
24. “If I wait a long time to make a phone call, it isn’t because I’m just lazy and procrastinating. Talking on the phone makes me very anxious.” — Reming M.
25. “I don’t feel like myself and would like you to hold my hand and tell me it’s OK.” —Tia J.
26. “I’m trying so hard, and it hurts when you think I’m purposely not changing my toxic-learned-behaviors. It takes a lot to unlearn what has become my safe zone. The anxiety tells me it’s the only way, and I’m still working on overcoming that. Please, please be patient as I grow.” — Libby B.
If you’re having a hard time being honest with your friends, we wanted to leave you with this reminder from our community member, Rachel P.:
Honesty heals. Tell your friends how your anxiety makes you feel. A good friend will understand and may help you overcome it. This is what I’ve learned and how to take control. I haven’t beaten it but I’m slowly stopping it beating me up. Guilt plays a big part, but our anxiety is what triggers it when we really shouldn’t feel like that. It takes time.
What’s something you wish your friends knew about your anxiety? Tell us in the comments below.