girl with hair in her face against white wall

As someone with a social anxiety disorder, I worry over everything. My mind is a hurricane that never dies, stirring up worries and fears, both old and new, major and trivial.

Will I pass this test? What if I don’t? Does my hair look weird? Is my posture bad? My posture’s bad, I better fix it, people are watching me. Why did I tell that person that thing three years ago? I shouldn’t smile, my teeth are yellow and gross. And on and on.

When I confess my frustrations or concerns to someone, that person usually says something like “Don’t worry!” or “You’re fine, stop worrying so much.” Little do they know this does more harm than good.

In high school, when my social anxiety was more debilitating than ever, I scoffed at anyone who told me not to worry. Anger and sarcasm were my prime defenses. I would snap out or yell whenever I heard any “don’t worry” phrases. I was so blinded by my inner pain I failed to see my behavior was destroying my relationships with people. I thought my dislike for “don’t worry” phrases was obvious to others — why else would I get angry whenever I heard those words? Only later did I realize how misguided I was. How could people understand if I didn’t communicate my feelings to them?

Our society has trained us to rely on set phrases as a cure-all for any situation. I think “don’t worry” phrases are a cop-out, a way for the person to escape participating in remedying my anxieties. It hurts me. I want true words of advice or perspective. I want people to want to help me, not shun me.

As I entered my twenties, I became more aware of how my anxieties influenced my reactions to certain stimuli. I now do my best to behave in a mature manner instead of lashing out when someone says a “don’t worry” phrase. I say things like, “Telling me not to worry doesn’t really help me” or some other variation. I try not to sound sarcastic or angry when responding like this. My intention now is to help people understand how “don’t worry” fails to address my severe anxiety and to encourage them to be more mindful of their words. So far, it’s been working.