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Why Anxious People Hate Platitudes

Anxious people hate platitudes because they remind us that you don't have a clue about what we go through. Pretty phrases won't fix the chemicals in my brain.

You say, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Oh! So that’s totally how this anxiety thing works: I just won’t worry. Why didn’t I think of that before?! Next time my throat closes up and I can’t leave the house, it won’t be a problem… In my spare time I’ll skydive, shoe shop and rave.

Oh wait, I’m not Lindsay Lohan. And I’m afraid of heights, crowds and loud noises. Now I remember why I hate platitudes. They don’t work.

Anxious People Hate Platitudes Because You Don’t Know Anxiety

Recovering from anxiety and depression requires more than a self-help book or two. There aren’t 5 easy steps to being a happy, fulfilled, stable human being.

Of course I know people don’t mean these things. That’s kind of the thing: It’s the underlying lack of acknowledgment that irks me, and I’m irritable enough without that cherry on top (What Is Stigma?).

The Type of Anxiety Platitude Anxious People Hate Most


Above and beyond the ‘just get over it’ attitude is the platitude that says:

it’s just a case of nerves;

apply yourself and things will be fine;

there’s always a silver lining.

Anxious people hate platitudes because they remind us that you don't have a clue about what we go through. Pretty phrases won't fix the chemicals in my brain.Not really a problem except that the challenges faced by those with anxiety disorders are for real. They’re not attention seeking by any other name, and they’re certainly not hysteria re-branded for the pharmaceutical age.

We’ve come a long way in terms of our psychophysiological understanding of anxiety. Science, the application of reason, and good faith allow me to say that anxiety isn’t something any of us can afford to dismiss.

Anxious People Don’t Need Platitudes

We Need Support Because We FIGHT Every Day

Whether you’ve ever had a panic attack or a moment of sheer terror in your life doesn’t matter: The human brain is a thoroughly marvelous, complicated product of every interaction you’ve ever had with the universe. Much as I’d like to say otherwise nobody can magically think their way to happiness in 10 minutes a day (but you can reduce your anxiety in 10 minutes or less).

For me, not having a nervous breakdown every other month takes considerable work. I could easily stop all this CBT stuff, not bother fending off the melancholy mornings, frustrating fears, nightmares, insomnia and obsessive compulsive cognitive sinkholes. I could go ahead and ignore the side of me that’s determined I never weigh more than the average 9 year old. But I don’t, because I’m quite sure that none of that is where my potential lies.

If you are amongst those who sometimes thinks “stop whining, get on with things,” then I know you agree. Because you wouldn’t say that if you didn’t see more than just nerves. I’m grateful for that. But that doesn’t mean you’re right to deny and dismiss the experience of so many.

If it were hysteria, if it were of my own doing, I’d gleefully take Door Number 2, head for the Bahamas, drink cocktails with little umbrellas sticking out of them and await the rebirth of bliss. That won’t cut it.

What Will Cure Anxiety?

You make a choice, with every breath you take: A choice to hold onto whatever you have to to manage anxiety. You grab what focus, awareness, courage, presence, experience, heart, mind, body and soul connection you’ve ever heard of and you put it all together, in case the result looks better than the day or the minute before.

If I’m not having a panic attack then that’s great but it isn’t really the point: I’m a whole, living being, and you know what? There’s something to that. There’s something to that because knowing that, in your heart of hearts, is about the only way to treat anxiety.

23 thoughts on “Why Anxious People Hate Platitudes”

  1. I have GAD too. I’m a chronic worrier. Before my first hospitalization back in 1995 I lost 70 pounds in 6 months. I was a ball of nerves. Every time I’d got wound up my throat would start to constrict and I’d start to gag. One thing I found very helpful was listening to ‘Meditainment’ meditation tapes from Chapter Indigo, especially before bed. I was introduced to them by another patient at a outpatient hospital day program. Exercise was also helpful to burn off the pent up energy. Basically anything that could distract me from my excessive worrying was helpful, at least for a short while…

  2. I don’t mind being told to be hopeful or anything like that because I’m just normally a positive person and try to be hopeful… despite having depression, social anxiety disorder, and GAD. I guess I just like the encouragement or something.

    But NEVER tell me to “calm down” when I’m very nervous and already freaking out. Part of the problem is that I can’t calm down! That’s why I was diagnosed with GAD in the first place. Telling me to calm down only makes me feel bad about myself since it’s something I’m not able to do.
    (What does work: distracting me or letting me use up all my nervous energy. Sometimes relaxation if I can somehow relax.)

    I also dislike being told “don’t worry, be happy.” It reminds me that I have both GAD and depression in just one phrase, reminding me that I can’t stop being anxious and that I can’t be happy. Or at least that neither come as easily for me anymore at the moment.

  3. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for this article – I’m thinking about sending it to my family, who are fond of saying things like ‘Why don’t you try teaching?’ (I have social phobia, OCD and panic!).

    I also like the affirming things you’ve said, about choosing to hold onto what’s good. I need a daily reminder of that.

  4. Hi I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. I am currently battling anxiety and it is so hard to do alone but as a guy I don’t feel comfortable talking with friends/people about it and being at college I can’t consult parents or other figures when I feel I need to. The number one thing I can say to people experiencing the same thing is don’t give up in trying to solve the problem.

  5. Hey there, I am 28 years old and I too suffer from an anxiety disorder. I am seriously confused about it all. I lost a dramatic amount of weight about 8 years ago and my anxiety is built around my throat and food… I do it eat but the weight doesn’t come, I recently believed it had nothing to do with anxiety and more medical but GP says apparently not. When I have an anxiety attack it usually is in a sociable environment but the constant of feeling sick – Is this really anxiety? I am seriously frustrated about it, my family don’t understand and they are also annoyed by it. I have no idea what to do, I don’t ever think rationally about anything cause I don’t understand why it has happened. I do have CBT aswell and it does help but I do still feel as though the whole constant sickness feelings is more underlining but with the anxiety stigma what can I do… Note: If anxiety brings on fears then. My two main ones are The fear of being sick physically and taking tablets. I don’t know why there have been episodes in the past with both that I would rather forget but they were way before the day I had my first major panic attack since that day my life you could say was ruined, but I have no idea why!!!! If anyone can help, make me understand then please do… Thankyou Daz

  6. unfortunately, some of us have no money for doctors or happy pills or CBt?? not sure what that is. all i know is i live in my bedroom because im too anxious to be around the people around me. i cant write because when i try to write, nothing but stuff that is stupid comes out. my feelings wont come out, most of the time i dont even know WHAT im feeling unless im having a panic attack…then it mostly comes out as anger and tears….thanks for the positive comments though, they do help.

  7. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  8. I have Generalized anxiety too. I am 31 and have had it since i was 15, it’s no picnic. And I went through a time when one medicine stopped working for me, and as we all know, the try one, see if it works, try another, see it if works, etc, that takes months and really wreaks havok on the emotions and the mind. But, I’d have to say, the therapy was extremely helpful, I did cognitive behavior therapy and it helped out so much, but then I still had that derealization, you know, the detachment from reality, feeling like you are in a fishbowl feeling. Well, so, I read up on it, and am on an SSRI and that is really helping to control my anxiety. And for me, having an outlet is EXTREMELY important! I love music and love to sing( ask my wife if I’m any good, smile) and I exercise daily, and you wouldn’t believe how much this reduces my anxiety level. I mean, my anxiety was completely off the charts, and I feel like a somewhat normal person now. So, please don’t give up, even if you want to, there is so much you can do to reduce the anxiety!! I have a website that offers ideas, suggestions, and I truly hope it will be helpful for anyone dealing with this disorder. It is http://www.practical-anxiety-disorder-advice.com and trust me, you are not alone and it’s definitely not the end of the world, you can do it! But whatever you do, don’t give up!!!

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