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How to Talk About Your Anxiety

September 30, 2018 George Abitante

How do you talk about anxiety with the people you know and trust? Get some pointers on how to talk about your anxiety and why it's important to do so.

It's important to talk about your anxiety because anxiety can be a very isolating experience. It makes you aware that you are thinking about certain situations or thoughts in a way that others don't, which can lead to feelings of uncertainty and a desire to keep those experiences to yourself ("Mental Illness is an Isolating and Lonely Disease"). I had this experience with my anxiety for a long time because I didn't want my friends and family to know I was struggling. I was also afraid that if I did share my experiences, they would be scared or wouldn't want to spend time with me anymore. Eventually, I realized that by doing this I was hiding my genuine self from others and that I was preventing my relationships from being as intimate, trusting, and mutually supportive as they could be.

As I started opening up and talking about my anxiety to my friends and family, I realized that my fears were not only unsupported but that disclosing my anxiety actually strengthened my relationships. By allowing myself to talk about my anxiety, I created space for my friends to open up to me about their challenges, and so this small act of honesty began producing a sense of safety and openness throughout my relationships. I also began to relate to my anxiety differently -- I stopped thinking of it as something shameful to hide from others and began to see it as an opportunity to be more sensitive to and supportive of my friends and family. Although I'm glad that I eventually shared my experiences, it was really difficult taking the first steps toward self-disclosure, so I wanted to share a few strategies I used to talk about my anxiety with others. 

How to Talk About Anxiety 

  1. Talk to friends you trust. This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but starting by talking about my anxiety to close friends helped me feel comfortable discussing my experiences. Anxiety can produce a lot of uncertainty on its own, so it is really important to discuss your experiences with people you know you can trust. This will help you feel confident and safe when discussing your anxiety and is a great way to make it feel less isolating. At the same time, remember that friends can be compassionate and supportive even if they haven't felt the same things you have. 
  2. Start small. Talking to others about your anxiety can be a significant step, so it's important that you begin by sharing the experiences you already feel reasonably comfortable with. It can be really stressful to discuss your anxiety, and opening up about all of your experiences (or even your most difficult experiences) can make it harder to discuss and potentially increase your anxiety. The goal here is to express your genuine experiences but to do so in a way that allows you (and your friends and family) to feel comfortable talking to one another. 
  3. Cultivate openness without dependence. When you first start talking about your anxiety, it is easy to feel dependent on the people you share with, especially if you only share your experiences with one friend or family member. It is really important to remember that the goal of disclosing your anxiety is for you to be your genuine self with others and that this is very different from depending on others to get through anxious experiences. Although being with friends and family can sometimes help you feel less anxious, it is important that you work through your anxiety independently. Talking about anxiety should be an experience that strengthens the openness and trust you have in your relationships without making others responsible for your anxiety. 

These steps have helped me talk about my anxiety with friends and family in a healthy way and, in the process, has allowed me to cultivate open, trusting relationships that are mutually supportive. How have you tried talking about anxiety with others? Share with me below.

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2018, September 30). How to Talk About Your Anxiety , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/mental-health-recovery-treating-anxiety/2018/9/how-to-talk-about-your-anxiety



Author: George Abitante

George is a Master's Student in Clinical Psychology at Northwestern University and is focused on improving the efficacy and accessibility of treatments for depression and anxiety. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
says:
October, 1 2018 at 9:12 pm
This is such a wonderful read. Anxiety can be incredibly isolating because of the way anxiety works, feeding on itself. Starting small is key but I also love that you discuss openness without dependence - this is critical. Talking about anxiety can be such a huge sigh of relief, incredibly freeing and empowering. The more we try not to acknowledge our anxiety, the more it grows.
October, 4 2018 at 11:17 am
Hi Lizanne,

Thanks so much for your comment! I absolutely agree - trying to hide our anxiety often exacerbates the problem, and discussing it with others can help in many ways! Not only does discussing anxiety provide benefits to ourselves I think it also makes it easier for others to open up about their anxiety, creating a healthier environment for working through anxiety.

George

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