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I have a friend who has depression and anxiety, they constantly think that when they do certain things such as state that they're feeling down or upset, or feel left out that I suddenly dislike them or have developed a sudden hate even though I understand what they're going through. I can't seem to be able to tell them that they aren't annoying me or getting on my nerves. They constantly apologise when they haven't done anything wrong.

My question is how can I make this person feel like I'm here for them without seeming like I'm insulting their mental issues and also what can I do to try and make them feel better?

  • You mean you don't dislike your friend's anxieties or the objects of those anxieties? – user3406 Mar 15 '18 at 12:14
  • Them as a person and the anxieties as they state "People don't like me" but this person is popular and has lots of friends but I know its a feeling the comes with the issue – Twyxz Mar 15 '18 at 12:16
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I have a few friends who suffer from anxiety as well and it took me a while to really understand this.

The short answer is, you can not convince them. The best you can do is to show them you like them, again and again. I mean in a normal, day-to-day friend way, not by saying you like them every few moments.

We all are a little anxious from time to time, but to them it is much more severe. They struggle with continuous doubt that what they are doing is bad in some way or that they might offend you and others by doing seemingly mundane things to the rest.

Because of that, it is very hard for them to hold on to this feeling/emotion of "This person actually likes me". They can succeed in that, but know that on a bad day, they will doubt it all again.

From personal experience, I found that the best way to handle it is to let them know you understand that they have this doubt every now and then. And that you will be there for them when they need you. Aside from that, just be a good friend.

I found that trying to help by suggesting things or urging them to change is a bad move. It is very hard for them to change this and it will feel as if they are not okay or good enough for you and only make things worse.

  • 2
    As someone who has a similar issue as OP's friend, this approach is perfect. Everyone needs reassurance every once in a while. With anxiety, you need it a bit more above normal levels. – Froopy - GoFundMonica Mar 16 '18 at 18:36
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    As an overanalyzing, anxious person, I'd note that the phrase "I don't dislike you" from the OP title does not imply "I like you", and is liable to be viewed by the anxious person (or by me, at least) as saying "I'm at best willing to commit to the statement that I'm kind of neutral about you. You're not bad enough to actively avoid, but not so great either." This can easily make things worse: now you're officially sitting on the fence, and any little thing might tip you over. – zibadawa timmy Mar 17 '18 at 1:35
23

As a person who is actually suffering from anxiety and depression, I can tell you what I would like to hear from my relatives when I having bad times and that I'm super worried of annoying them or that they don't like me anymore.

What you can do obviously depends on how close you are to your friend, both mentally and physically. But you could try something like this:

  • Tell your friend that even you haven't been there yourself, you sincerely try to imagine what he/she's going through and that you are affected that he/she feels bad because you like him/her

  • Reassure him/her about the fact that his/her issues don't change a thing about your feelings and your thoughts about the great person he/she is

  • Say that you're there for him/her and that you're open to discuss his/her issues if he/she's also willing to. If not, then you'd also be pleased to chat and spend time together.

Most of the time people suffering from this kind of illness can be reluctant to talk about it because they struggle themselves to have clear thoughts about what they're going through (from my experience and those of some friends, at least). However indicating that you have no problem about the idea of talking about it could reinforce your bonds.

Another idea to explore is to find out his/her love language. Basically, all people have a favorite way to express their affection (whether it's through gifts, acts of service, physical contact, kind words, ...). If his/her is words, for example, then you could write him/her small notes and letters with the memory of good times together, or a quality that you value about him/her. It'd give him/her a bit a confidence and definitely reassure him/her about your willingness to be with him/her through his/her recovery.

HTH, and wish you both all the best.

  • I suspect you could occasionally even re-send the same note(s), to reassure them that you continue to feel the same way or still remember the memories fondly. – user117529 Mar 16 '18 at 3:06
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I think an important point here is timing :

When this person talks to you about her/his problem and asks you if it bothers you maybe that person will assume your response is under the pressure of the situation. Kind of like if you had no choice but to tell it doesn't bother you at all.

A solution to this issue could be to go and talk to that person at a completly different moment, probably saying something like :

I don't want to bother you with this matter but you must know that I value the fact you share with me your problems. I'm always here for you if you need me.

Hopefully, the effect of coming out from the blue with this will make him feel like you are truely sincere about the matter.

  • I would be cautious with coming out of the blue. You'd be at risk of setting the person's anxiety off exactly because they can't see your train of thought. "This person is thinking about me, what are they thinking about me?! where are they coming from with this?" It might work, or it might not. – Ruadhan2300 Mar 16 '18 at 12:51
  • Actually, no. If you "keep away and bring up later" stuff repeatedly, that can be a major anxiety trigger for them. They will start to assume all the time that you are going to lie and only tell the truth later. As you said, timing is key in communicating with people with anxiety, but any delay is often making things worse for them (giving them time to speculate and iterate what has and hasn't been said(. – skymningen Mar 19 '18 at 9:10
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Well, I took too much time completing this answer so I'm sorry for that late posting this answer.

To clear that out: that is nothing you can clear out one time and after telling them they will never ever again feel like they're getting on your nerves.

I got depression myself and I also got that one friend who I can rely on. I constantly got that feeling I'll mess up no matter what I say. This is something that can come with a depression and is based on the feeling that everyone dislikes you and it can't be true that someone is just your friend.

Now to what my friend tells me when I'm in this "I think you hate me" situation. She tells me "not to worry" and that I "don't have to apologize", well this doesn't seem like much but it helps and I don't feel like fucking up anymore.

The biggest obstacle for you will be to accept that this is not something that goes away with one long talk. We (guys with depression) don't think like this. You have to constantly ensure them they are worth your time and that everything is okay.

5

Rather than thinking about how to tell them that you like them, show them that you like them.

  • Keep inviting them to do things, even if they usually refuse.
  • Call them periodically to talk about what's going on in your life and ask about theirs.
  • Recognize important dates and events in their life, such as graduations, birthdays, births, deaths, etc. This can be as simple as a birthday phone call or as deep as a suggestion for a mini-vacation on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.
  • Ask them about things that happen related to their interests. If they love superhero movies, for example, text and ask them what they think about the next installment of the Marvel franchise. If they are active in politics, talk to them about the latest court ruling or legislation passed.
  • Pick something they like to do or learn about and get involved with it also. In my experience, this is the number one way to improve a relationship with someone - meet them where they are. Make sure to ask first if they would like to have you participate. Doing the same thing as another person without asking if they mind if you participate is tantamount to stalking. Also make sure you teach yourself all about it if the friend doesn't have patience with explaining things, or ask them for help if they love to help and teach.
  • Similar to the above, if they have few or no activities they like, they may have some depression or social anxiety. Brainstorm ideas for activities that they might like if they had someone to do it with and gently mention those ideas. Like, "I thought I might get a simple costume and go to the Renaissance Festival this year. Do you want to go also?"

Regarding their unnecessary apologies, they are probably apologizing for their own benefit, not for yours. I've found the best response in those cases is to say something like, "It's really ok" once and then let it go. The more you fight them on the apology, the more they will dig deep and be more inclined to apologize the next time. Not making a big deal about it shows that it's really not a big deal.

Regarding relating to their feelings, it doesn't seem to work to say things like, "I was depressed before in my life also". Instead, if you feel like your friend is open to hearing honest openness from you, talk about how it really felt. Like, "I remember waking up every morning and feeling like there was a cold black rock sitting inside me - between my heart and my stomach". That kind of intimate communication is a hallmark of friendship. Look deep inside your heart, mind, and memory for these specific feelings and events. Be cautious about talking about how you don't feel depressed any more. That can create distance because you no longer are in their position and they may feel like there are reasons you are happy and they are not. Let them conclude for themselves that if you got better, then they can also. You might casually mention seeing someone for help if you had that experience, but don't make it sound like a cure-all. Something like, "There were days when talking with Dr. Smith was the only thing that kept me going."

1

Personal experience here

I have somewhat similar anxiety. I'm not asking for confirmation of the fact that people I like is ok with my presence. I'm don't want to bother them with such questions, but my fillings are similar.

What will help me:

  • call, text or other way get in touch with me. I unable to do it myself because I'm not sure that my call is welcomed, but I will more than happy to hear something from you. No matter what you up to. Just say hello or invite me to monocycle trip over the country. For me is very important that you remember me.

  • Ask me to help you. It will confirm that I'm useful. Doesn't matter what you ask me to do. I'll try as hard as I can to be helpful, but be careful with this, cause you don't want me to popup with my own kidney in hand next to you door after you told me that you have some medical problem:)

  • help me with my problem, nothing to explain here. Good friends help each other, but for me it is very important to feel support.

Sorry that I bother you with my not helpful answer :)

0

I too am dealing with PTSD myself. I freak out over any little noise, the wind blowing the wrong way, the sun, random friends stopping by to say hello, dogs barking, kids playing, fireworks, loud TV's, large crowds, small crowds, crowds of happy people and crowds of angry people. I have to sit with my back to the wall where ever I go out to eat in public, and have both eyes on all the entrances and exists from where we are seated. Just getting me out of the house I've been told can be an all day task. For the record, I was brutally gang raped, pumped with enough drugs to kill an elephant and left for dead in a destroyed home due to hurricane Katrina. I had a lot of traumatic events happen all within a short period of time so I can relate to your friend.

Because of our past with others we have a hard time in finding trust in other humans, and consideration of what I had endured, you can't blame me for my lack of trust, however I do find ways to trust others, but doesn't come easy. The best way I find for myself is talk a lot, and be allowed to talk openly and candidly about whatever it is I'm saying.

Try not to reply with conflicting statements, instead try to empathize with whatever is being discussed and offer possible positive solutions, we need help with boosting our confidence in ourselves - so try and do what you can to make that friend feel like they rule the world, even if it's just for a minute.

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    I know this is in reply to my other question, thank you for this input I can reopen it if you would like to answer in there instead? This is a touching story – Twyxz Mar 15 '18 at 13:43
  • I'm very sorry to hear about all that's happened to you, but I don't see how this answers the question. – F1Krazy Mar 15 '18 at 14:14
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    It looks to me like the last 2 sentences provide an answer in response to the question. – baldPrussian Mar 15 '18 at 18:01
  • Sorry, at times i tend to run off in a tangent. I aim to make a point, and almost always end up telling a tale of my experiences before i finally get to the point i was trying to make. And often i get so far off topic into another topic of similar nature, that the original point gets forgotten. Thankfully, i seem to have made it to making those suggestions... sometimes i feel like i have an inferiority complex. Even with my level of intelligence. Despite the appearances via my writing (gram, punct. and spelling) I'm just lazy, or multitasking too much to care) hope my suggestions helped! – Syntaxxx Err0r Mar 24 '18 at 12:53
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As an individual who suffers from moderate/severe anxiety, along with a couple other disorders. I for one can say that I am always worried that my illnesses will cause even the closest people around me to finally say "ENOUGH!".

What sets me apart from everyone else though, is that i've been in both of you and your friend's shoes. No matter how many time your friend apologizes and no matter how many time you say "It's ok", "Don't Worry, or "I get it". Your friend will never stop apologizing, not because he didn't believe you the first 20,000 times but for the reason that it's his coping mechanism for dealing with the anxiety. While also being a part of the anxiety itself.

He needs to be reassured that you "Forgive Him" to help him feel a sense of calmness, even though he knows you couldn't care less about judging him.

The best way that I've found to deal with type of anxiety is to slowly turn these types of 'serious' moments into 'jokingly laughable' moments. Start by kidding around when you answer him. Throw a "I can't forgive you", "No Way, its not alright", "You better be sorry!" once in a while. Start slow and continue to slowly increase the rate at which you foolishly answer. ALWAYS make sure that your friend knows that you are kidding, by means of laughter to even saying "I'm only kidding". The most important part is that they know you are only joking.

Soon enough both you and your friend will become way more comfortable and hopefully closer with one another. Although, i wouldn't count on any "reassuring habit" to disappear completely.

Good luck to both of you, and your friend is very lucky to have somebody like you that they are able to call a friend.

Sincerely, Matthew Bondar

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