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What You Should Try to Understand About a Loved One's Depression and Anxiety

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One of the things anxiety and depression have in common is the way one cannot think their way out of a feeling or emotion. If I’m feeling like the world is caving in on me, something horrible is happening or even going to happen, then telling me nothing is wrong won’t silence what I’m experiencing.

It’s not easy to reason with the way one feels.

Telling me I shouldn’t be sad because everything is fine or the odds of something horrible happening are incredibly slim will not make me stress less. I may already know the odds are against whatever fears are haunting me, but it doesn’t mean I can make the effects vanish. It just doesn’t work that way.

It’s hard to explain to those who want to help all they can do to assist is to empathize and understand. Spouting out statistics and explaining there is so much to be happy about isn’t necessarily going to do the trick. Reason and logic don’t often get through. In fact, at times it can be more frustrating to have someone tell me how not to feel, rather than tell me they understand and sympathize.

Many times I’ve said the words, “I can’t explain why I feel the way I feel, but I do,” and “Don’t tell me how I should feel.” The fact is, I usually know I shouldn’t feel the way I feel when I’m having an anxiety attack or I’m crying for the smallest of reasons. I don’t need someone to tell me I shouldn’t feel the way I feel. I already know.

Would it make sense to tell someone they shouldn’t have a headache? Of course it wouldn’t. It’s the same with someone experiencing sudden anxiety or depression. Much like a headache, anxiety and depression will pass with time, diversion or the help of medication, and a person would much rather be sympathized with rather than told why they shouldn’t feel ill in any of these situations.

While it’s OK to attempt to tell someone they have so much to rejoice in or nothing to be fearful of, when all else fails, it’s best to just show some empathy and a degree of understanding that the person in question is in pain. Constantly re-examining how certain feelings don’t make sense is not going to do anything but frustrate the already suffering individual.

I’m not saying it’s necessary to understand the exact reasons why people feel the way they feel in order to provide comfort. That would be impossible. I’m saying that at the very least, it’s important to try to understand no matter what the reason may be anxiety and depression cause a significant degree of discomfort, stress and even pain. This basic understanding can make a big difference.

Originally published: July 21, 2016
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