Dear Christian friend who has never lived with anxiety,

I’m so happy for you that you have never experienced this. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy. However, I feel like those of us who are Christians and live with anxiety are often misunderstood and even shamed in some situations. This is my attempt to help you understand what we experience on a consistent, sometimes even daily, basis. My goal is not to point fingers, but to give you food for thought and hopefully some useful tips for interacting with Christians you know who have anxiety like me. Here’s what I want you to know.

Anxiety isn’t “being worried”,“afraid of something”, or just a “feeling”
Anxiety is often labeled as fear because it’s hard to really put into words. It’s not always a conscious concern about performing a task or being in a certain situation. Sometimes it strikes out of nowhere for no apparent reason and will not let go. I’ve been asked, “what’s your trigger?” I wish I had the answer. It’s also more than just a feeling. Mine portrays itself in very physical ways. When it is extreme, I will shake uncontrollably and eventually throw up before it ends. It can also make me feel like I can’t breathe or that my heart is beating out of my chest.

I’m not less of a Christian because I have anxiety
I know the Bible tells me not to fear, not to worry about the future, etc. However, quoting those verses to me in the moment isn’t helpful. It’s trite. (You’re probably thinking that’s extreme, but honest truth here.) I know those verses and my brain is already accusing me of being a failure and although you may be trying to help, hearing it from you just fuels the fire. Silent support would be much more helpful.

Trying to “fix me” adds stress
If you happen to be with me in the middle of an anxiety attack, please don’t pepper me with questions or suggestions that you think may help. It’s just another source of overwhelm. Again, I know it’s rooted in good intentions, it makes me feel like I should try to hide what’s really happening. Imagine your brain screaming at you that you are in extreme danger but you can’t move plus having someone seemingly tell you to get it together.

I can’t turn it off
Even well meaning comments like “I wish you could stop worrying” are frustrating. I wish I could stop it more than you do! Like it said before, attacks can strike out of the blue with no warning and no explanation. I can’t control that.

It makes it hard for me to do tasks
A common response to anxiety is to freeze. I often leave tasks undone because they seem too overwhelming. All while I can’t do them, my brain is accusing me of being lazy and is frustrated that the task is not complete. Commitments can also be daunting because of attacks. I try my best not to say “no” to things, but sometimes just the thought of following through makes me physically ill. Please don’t interpret this as me not caring or thinking I don’t need to live up to my word. Anxiety attacks are just as real as being physically and visibly sick.

How you can help
If you are ever with me during an attack these are the best ways to support me.
  1. Reassure me that you are there with me
  2. Ask if I want a hug, but don’t touch me without permission
  3. If I ask for something I need, bring it to me
  4. Let me process however I need to; it may be different each time
  5. Know that I appreciate you because I know this can be taxing on you too
A Christian with anxiety


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