Warning – long post ahead!

Some people suffer from anxiety to the point that it affects their whole life.

We all suffer anxiety from time to time, but most of us have filters that kick in that, with facing the cause of the anxiety, or thinking or talking about it, reduce it to manageable background levels.

Some people don’t have those filters.

Anxiety is different in each person that feels it. There are no universal panaceas, no magic wands, no silver bullets: it’s different for each person and needs to be understood that way.

But one thing is common to anxiety in all people: Anxiety isn’t born of logic it’s born of emotion and feeds off irrationality.

It is very hard to understand anxiety if you are like the majority of people and can see your way through it.

The fact that logic isn’t a factor puzzles us.

Anxiety has its own logic, hidden from view and based on the experience that has triggered the anxiety. That experience can be so deeply buried as to seem non-existent.

To be supportive of someone with anxiety is to stop trying to reduce their anxiety with logic.

Acceptance is tough. For everyone with everything. It’s essential when talking to someone with anxiety.

It’s not about logic – it’s about emotion and irrationality. Believe that and you’re off to a flying start.

Two conversations with someone with anxiety to show what I mean…

A: Suppose it never stops raining?

B: Well that’s not going to happen, it will stop eventually?

A: Supposing it doesn’t?

B: But it will, it always does…

A: But suppose it doesn’t, what will happen.

B: But it will, it can’t rain all the time…

A: But supposing it does?

B: It will stop. It always does. You know this.

A: But supposing this time it doesn’t?

And on we go.

If B mentions that for it to never stop raining, something must be terribly wrong and the world will probably end – bingo! You’ve confirmed the result of the fear, it’s something that is now doubly real. Except it’s not because you know logically that it hasn’t happened, but logically, if it was to never stop raining, we’d all be royally screwed because it would be a symptom of something very wrong.

A: Suppose it never stops raining?

B: What makes you think it will never stop raining?

A: I don’t know, but supposing it doesn’t stop?

B: Why wouldn’t it stop?

A: I don’t know… but supposing it didn’t?

B: Then we’d have a lot of rain…

A: But I mean supposing it never stopped?

B: I wonder what could make that happen?

A: I don’t know, but supposing it happened?

B: Would it be raining everywhere?

A: I guess…

And on we go.

You can’t stop the irrationality and the fear, you can’t stop the anxiety being based on something you can’t get to grips with. But you can take the conversation in directions that gets the person thinking more about what is driving the feelings.

Now obviously this is a quick observation and suggestion with a silly little example: it’s not supposed to be anything other than an awareness raiser.

If you know someone who suffers from anxiety, well done you for supporting them!

Just being there for people, lending an ear, listening more than you talk, and not trying to push a narrative is very helpful.

And if you feel the creeping grip of anxiety getting hold: try talking to someone.

There are people who will always listen, many are friends, some are professional – talking helps.

Keep on keeping on and remember: everyone is unique, no one can completely understand another person’s anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that no one can help.