How to Talk to Someone About Anxiety or Depression

How to Talk to Someone About Anxiety or Depression

Anxiety and depression are two common mental health disorder among Americans. Chances are, you or someone you know has experienced anxiety or depression before. It's important to be able to understand anxiety and depression so you can talk about it and get the help that you or a loved one needs.

Why It's Important to Talk About Anxiety and Depression

Mental health has a stigma around it, and that can prevent someone from getting professional help. Like any health issue, it's critical to seek treatment for anxiety and depression so you can feel better and keep it in check. The first step to recover from anxiety or depression is to talk about it.

Someone with anxiety or depression likely will need support and understanding from someone they can confide in, like a friend or family member. But you may not know what to say to them or how to offer help. Or, if you are experiencing anxiety and depression, you might not know whom to turn to or how to start a conversation about it.

By first understanding what anxiety and depression are, and how to talk to someone experiencing symptoms, you can make a difference in someone else's life — or even your own.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders among Americans. Each year, anxiety disorders affect almost a fourth of adults.

Symptoms of anxiety can vary from person to person, but here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Feeling tense or jumpy.
  • Headaches.
  • Ongoing and excessive fear, worry, or dread.
  • Pounding or racing heart.
  • Restlessness or irritability.
  • Sweating, tremors, or twitches.

Anxiety can come from a lot of different sources like stress, trauma, physical illness, social situations, and more. This is why it is so common.

What is Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a common and severe mental health disorder. Each year more than 8 percent of U.S. adults have a major depressive episode, a major bout of depression, or form of mental health crisis if not immediately addressed.

Depression is often medically diagnosed. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, unhappy, or "empty."
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Irritability, frustration, anxiety, or restlessness.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed.
  • Problems sleeping, oversleeping, or waking up earlier than usual.
  • Severe lack of energy and motivation.

Depression can develop from the loss of a loved one, job loss or stress, a traumatic experience, and many other adverse experiences.

How to Talk to Someone with Anxiety or Depression

You may not know how to talk about anxiety or depression.

It's critical to avoid language that blames or shames someone experiencing anxiety or depression. To change how you talk about anxiety and depression, use the following phrases instead of stigmatizing ones:

  • Use "died by suicide" or "death by suicide" instead of "committed suicide" or "took their own life."
  • Use "living with anxiety or depression" instead of "suffering from anxiety or depression."
  • Use "has anxiety or depression" instead of "she's an anxious person" or "he's a depressed person."

To have a supportive conservation about anxiety and depression, follow these tips:

  • Ask open-ended questions (How are you feeling today? How are you doing? How are you coping?)
  • Avoid comparing their experiences to your own.
  • Do suggest that they get professional help.
  • Don't pressure the person with anxiety or depression to share information.
  • Don't tell them to "just think positively." Mental health disorders require treatment.
  • Don't try to fix how they're feeling.

Know the warning signs of suicide and seek help right away if someone is conveying suicidal thoughts or actions.

Take the time to listen.

When talking about depression, don't assume that discussing it will make things worse.

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression, it's also important to talk about it with family and friends. They can't help or support you if they don't know what's happening.

Talking About Your Anxiety or Depression

When talking about your anxiety or depression, there's no right or wrong way to share information. But these tips from the National Alliance on Mental Illness may help:

  • Decide what information you want to share, with whom, and why. You may want to share to get help or support managing your condition or to explain your behavior or actions. Or, maybe you know someone living with the same disorder, and sharing helps you offer them support.
  • Educate your peers and support system on mental health so they can create a supportive and caring environment.
  • Explain that anxiety and depression are health disorders. They're not a phase or something you can "just get over."
  • Give examples of how living with anxiety or depression affects your daily life.
  • If you need help or are experiencing suicidal thoughts or actions, call 988. You are not alone.
  • Speak out against stigma. You may find incorrect information on anxiety or depression in TV shows, movies, or social media. Advocate for yourself and others by correcting misinformation and pointing out stigmatizing language.
  • Talk about your treatment if you're getting help. You don't have to share all the details, but talking about medication and psychotherapy can help to remove the stigma.

Other Ways to Help Someone with Anxiety or Depression

It's important to encourage someone with anxiety or depression to seek professional treatment.

Treatment for anxiety and depression often includes medication and talk therapy with a mental health professional or a combination of the two. Keep in mind that medications differ, and you may need to try several until you find one that relieves your symptoms without side effects. Some side effects can make other conditions worse. Lifestyle changes and self-care also play a crucial role in managing anxiety and depression. These include:

  • Avoiding alcohol, nicotine, or drugs, which can worsen symptoms or interfere with medications you take.
  • Eating healthy, regular meals.
  • Exercising regularly. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can help boost your mood.
  • Practicing good sleep habits. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Adults should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

Resources on Anxiety and Depression

To learn more about how you can help yourself or someone else with anxiety and depression, visit these sources:

When to Get Emergency Help

Call 988 if you or a loved one are in distress and thinking about suicide. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (previously the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) is a national network of more than 200 crisis centers.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline offers trained crisis counselors 24/7. They can help people experiencing mental health-related distress, including thoughts of suicide or any other kind of emotional distress.

Suicide prevention hotlines include:

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly National Suicide Prevention Lifeline): Call 988 or chat online at Services are also available in Spanish at 1-888-628-9454 and for those who are deaf or hard of hearing through online chat and text telephone (TTY).

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 or chat online.

Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

The Trevor Project Lifeline: A special service for LGBTQIA+ youth. Call 1-866-488-7386, text START to 678-678, or chat online.

Call 911 if it's an emergency and you need immediate help.