Mindful Journeys: Things not to say to anxious/depressed people

Even though I have been dealing with my mental health struggles for almost a year now, I have heard almost everything that can be said about mental health. Words do have an impact on everyone, especially those who are struggling with a disorder. 

I’ve compiled a list of phrases you shouldn’t say to someone who’s having a tough time with their mental health:

“It’s all in your head”: It’s not always in our head. Sure, that’s where the mental health resides, but it’s more than that. Anxiety can contribute to several physical symptoms that affect our health and how we go about functioning in our everyday lives. It impacts us in every way, shape and form. 

“It’s not such a big deal”: Downplaying a person’s mental health can aggravate it and make them feel ashamed for worrying in the first place. It can invalidate their feelings and make them less likely to share how they’re feeling with you in the future. Don’t talk down to them as though their issues aren’t a big deal. To them, it feels very real in the moment.

“Stop worrying and calm down”: If relaxing on command was possible or realistic, anxiety would cease to exist in the world. In a way, it’s telling the person their symptoms are a choice. If we could calm down, we wouldn’t be feeling this way. It may seem like a positive thing to say, but can actually make the person feel worse.

“Why are you acting this way?”: To anyone who doesn’t have anxiety, it can seem unrealistic to worry so much. One of the scariest parts of anxiety is sometimes we don’t know why we’re worried and it could be buried in our subconscious. Even if we do know why we’re worried, we might have a hard time putting it into words. We don’t want to be feeling this way either, so please don’t make it feel like we’re doing it only for attention. 

Here are some alternative phrases you can say instead to offer your support: 

“How can I help?”: One of the best things you can do is offer your support to someone having a hard time dealing with their mental health. Ask them how you can best support them, whether it’s checking up on them, offering to help with any tasks that might be contributing to their anxieties or just letting them vent to you and giving them your full attention. Extending a hand to them is the greatest thing you can do. 

“This will eventually pass”: Reassure them their anxiety is only temporary and will eventually pass. Validate their feelings and let them know while it seems scary right now, anxiety can’t hurt them. Soothe them with the thoughts of a calmer future just around the corner. Nothing lasts forever, and if it’s a particularly rough time for them, let them know they will get back to feeling better soon. 

“I’m here for you”: It can be very comforting for someone to hear they aren’t alone and they don’t have to struggle by themselves. Even just being in the same room can calm them down. If they know they have some people in their corner who can lift them up when they’re feeling low and can provide them with some sense of safety, it can make them feel calm and get them through tough times. 

“You got this”: Letting anxious and depressed people know you believe in them and are rooting for them to get better can make all the difference. Giving them optimism, love and acceptance can keep them going when it seems like it would be easier to give up. Three simple words can change not only their day but also their life.

Header photo: Courtesy  @stayclosetoyourself on Instagram

Write to Emma Johnson at

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