What to text (and not to text) to a loved one with anxiety
Shona Hendley explains the good, the bad and the ugly of texting a loved one who is suffering from anxiety – according to Dr Grant Blashk from Beyond Blue.
Anxiety sufferers will know how it feels to receive messages along the lines of “it’ll all be okay” or “just think positive” when they are in the crux of anxiety.
Although they usually come from a well-meaning and good intentioned place, these super unhelpful and – let’s be honest – absolutely frustrating messages can make an anxious person want to scream.
As an anxious person myself, I know first-hand how powerful messages can be in those tough times. Hearing, or in 2020 when we often couldn’t be with a loved one, reading the right message can make the world of difference.
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So, what can you text an anxious partner, family member or friend that won’t send them into a ball of rage? I asked Dr Grant Blashk, the lead clinical advisor at Beyond Blue, to explain the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to text messaging a loved one with anxiety.
Dr Blashki suggests remembering the below before pressing send…
1.Offering to listen, rather than providing a solution to the anxiety is important (yes, even in a text message).
2. Try not to trivialise the anxiety in the person you are messaging – because it feels very real and difficult for them.
3. Use open ended questions to encourage a dialogue and to offer your support. “Even if they don’t reply straight away, they know you are there, that you’ve opened the door and may come back to you at a later stage,” he says.
4. Take into account the personality of the person you are messaging and how this may impact the message. Not everyone wants to openly discuss how they are feeling (even with their partner), so receiving certain text messages may be even more upsetting for them.
5. Consider the time you are sending the message – will they be at work? Will they be busy with something, or will they have the time to respond?
Once you have taken those considerations into account, it is texting time. Here are some examples messages of what you can confidently text:
“What can I do to support you at the moment?”
“I love you. I am here to listen.”
“I’m not exactly sure what to do at the moment but we will figure it out together.”
“I know it doesn’t feel like it now, but things can get better.”
Dr Blashki says messages like these “help keep up the hope budget” by offering hope to the anxiety sufferer.
By offering a sense of hope, acknowledging the anxiety within the person and how they are feeling without trivialising it and by offering support without providing unsolicited advice can be some of the greatest considerations to take into account before you message an anxiety sufferer. It can also really help them.
Not only does it show them that you are there for them – if and when they are ready – but it also encourages them to speak about how they are feeling – which can be extremely helpful for the person in dealing with anxiety, or at least be powerful first step in treating it.
“Why don’t we go to the GP and sort out a GP Mental Health Plan? We can do this together.”
Another, if not the most important message you can send, is suggesting professional help, Dr Blashki says. “As a GP… we are pretty good at treating anxiety conditions, once someone seeks help.”
This is also critical in determining what type of anxiety condition it is, which is necessary to treat it properly. Seeing your GP can also rule out any other medical conditions that may be playing a part in increasing anxiety – such as thyroid issues.
Sending a link
Sending a link to a helpful article or website such as Beyond Blue can also be a powerful way to assist someone via text message. In doing this, they are directed to a location that has helpful information they can access. Sharing is caring, after all.
The Bad (and the ugly)
And finally, here is a list of what not to text a person with anxiety:
“Just snap out of it”
“It’s all in your head”
“You’re being overdramatic”
“Anxiety is not a real thing”
Shona Hendley is a freelance writer and ex-secondary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram here.