"Calm down." I can't count the number of times someone has said those two words to me. As a human being dealing with chronic anxiety, those words impact me deeply, but not in a positive way. When someone says "calm down" to me as I am panicking I think:
- I'm being dismissed
- I can't calm down because I'm anxious
- I feel silenced
- My feelings are strong and I need to express them
When a person tells me to calm down, I've noticed it's because my emotions are overwhelming to them. Perhaps I am speaking quickly and they are having trouble hearing me. Maybe they want to help but don't know how, so their reflex response is to shout out:
Perhaps this person feels out of control and, ironically, they are the one that needs to calm down.
The point is, telling someone who lives with chronic anxiety to calm down doesn't work.
Here are some things you could do to help your friend who is experiencing panic instead: