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| By Wellvyl Media Editorial


I am one of 40 million Americans who live with an anxiety disorder. I have experienced negative judgments and unfair assessments that come with this package. In our experience, our issues of anxiety have been used against us, by our employers, teachers, peers, and even our friends. We have been labeled as unstable, incompetent, and flawed in character because we could not just “get over it”. This is horribly offensive due to most anxiety disorders are a biological condition caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

We as individuals who have this affliction, know that our fears should not bother us. However, despite our best efforts of responsible mental health management, the anxiety can still surface. Expecting us to use logic to control our anxiety is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

My struggle with anxiety and depression is a gift. It has allowed me to see what people are truly made of in the times I have had a sudden onset of paralyzing anxiety. Parental advice has always cautioned me “acting this way makes people feel uncomfortable” and that I should ensure to “not let this happen” in front of others. But it has. That is just life. In a way, my anxiety has been a filter that weeds out those who only capable of shallow relationships and the friends whose compassion is an example to live by.  

It is from such remarkable (and brave) friends that I myself have learned to be a better, more empathetic friend. The simple yet profound kindness they genuinely displayed during a time of crushing mental angst for me is something we can all take note of. Consider the following approaches that will help you to be a better, more empathetic friend to the other 40 million of us out there:


Convey to a friend that whatever they say to you is kept only between you two. Sincerely let them know that you will not pass any judgment on them nor change the way you think or feel about them based on anything they confided to you. Regardless of what they express, it is important that your friend knows you will be accepting of them without any degree of awkwardness.

Validate Their Feelings

To validate someone’s present feelings is to completely acknowledge them. Let them know that their feeling is not just valid, but they are important. When we diminish someone’s feelings or immediately try to give advice on what they should do only compounds feelings of shame and guilt, that whatever they are feeling is inappropriate. Acknowledge that their feelings are not unfounded.

Hold the Space

Don't you know what to say when your friend pour tears? There is a difference between an awkward silence and the absence of words that say exactly what is needed what is necessary. Sometimes not talking can be most comforting. Simply being with them helps to weather their emotional storm. This is called “holding space”. Your compassion and willingness to just be with them in their pain communicate to your friend that they are not alone, that they are safe, that it is ok to have a bad day. Through Your complete presence, you share the journey together no matter the outcome.    

The depth of a friendship goes beyond liking the same things and having synchronized schedules. Meaningful friendship is a whole-hearted, vested interest in the other person’s well-being, regardless of circumstance or mental health disposition.