How Do I Tell My Family I Have Anxiety and Need Help? 5 Tips for Seeking Support
“How do I tell my family I have anxiety? How do I convince them I need help?” Questions like these, and the anxiety disorders that lead to them, are more common than you might think. The following tips can help you facilitate an open conversation and take your first steps towards finding the help you need at a residential treatment center.
Misty’s anxiety was ruining her life, and worst of all, she suffered alone. Driving made her anxious, so she often found herself running late—or not showing up at all. Being in social settings was equally nightmarish for her. She dreaded small talk, feared she would always say the wrong thing, and felt like she had to pretend she was having a good time when all she wanted to do was go home.
Misty’s sister Emma and the rest of her family were upset with her when she started missing more and more Sunday night get-togethers. The more upset they got, the worse Misty felt. How could she tell them she was afraid to do something as simple as drive to her parents’ house and spend time with her family and their friends? She was a grown woman with a career. What if they thought she was being childish? She knew she needed help, but the idea of telling her family she needed treatment for anxiety felt embarrassing.
But one day Misty got up the courage to tell Emma what was going on. To her relief, her sister was kind and didn’t make her feel ashamed. In fact, her sister was glad Misty had finally let her in. Together, the sisters found a residential treatment facility where Misty could take time to heal and recover. With a family member by her side, calling the treatment facility, packing a bag and driving to the facility for the intake appointment was far less scary than Misty knew it would have been alone.
I Have Anxiety and Need Help—But How Do I Tell My Family?
Talking about your anxiety with a family member is hard, but it can be done. Your family may already know you suffer from anxiety, but they may not know how hard it is for you, or they may not know you’re ready to get help. In fact, your family may not be surprised at all—anxiety is more normal than you might think. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 40 million American adults every year and is the most common type of mental illness. Despite being treatable, only 36.9% of people suffering from anxiety get help. But you have the power to be one of the people who does get help and does get better.
As Misty found out, sometimes all it takes to find that support you need is taking a deep breath and opening up to someone you love. You might be surprised at how understanding, or how willing to listen, your family might be, and how much their help could mean for you during the recovery process.
Of course, it’s possible too that your family won’t understand. Despite how widespread anxiety disorders have become, those who do not suffer from anxiety themselves often struggle to put themselves in the shoes of one who does. Because it is not a visible, physical ailment, it may be difficult for your family to recognize that it is a serious health problem, and that you can (and should) seek treatment. It may also be difficult for close family or friends to accept your anxiety as a serious problem simply because they do care so much—it can be painful to hear that someone you love is suffering, especially in a way you may not fully comprehend. Cultural and social misunderstandings, too, may obscure their ability to fully support you on your healing journey.
But even if this is the case, it is important to try and open up to someone—if not a direct relative, then perhaps a close friend or mentor, someone who is part of the family you’ve chosen for yourself, someone who you can trust to help you move forward. The following tips can help facilitate that conversation so that you can finally talk to your family about how you have anxiety, and why you need help managing it.
Tip #1: Choose a Family Member You Can Trust.
This sounds obvious, but think about who you will talk to first. Are you closest to a sibling, to a parent, or to a grandparent? You know which family members you have conflicts with, and which ones are more accepting and open-minded. Talk to the person who you have seen respond to vulnerable people with compassion and acceptance before in the past. If they already have these nurturing skills, they are most likely to respond with kindness.
Tip #2: Choose a Setting Where You Feel Comfortable.
When you have severe anxiety, your environment always makes a big impact on how you feel. For a conversation like this, one which can be particularly nerve-wracking, be sure to choose a setting that makes you feel safe. It doesn’t have to be a public place like a cafe. You can talk while walking along a favorite trail, while taking a car ride, or in the comfort of your own home. Try inviting your family member over for a cup of coffee or tea and having a chat with them in your living room. Consider keeping a fuzzy blanket or a beloved pet close by to help you feel even more secure and grounded.
Tip #3: Try to Broach the Topic Gently.
If you’re scared of putting too much of an emotional burden on a family member all at once, try talking to them in stages. You can start by telling them about your anxiety, or about the challenges you’re facing in life that make you nervous. Then, on a later occasion, you can come back to that conversation and ask your family member if they will help you seek treatment. This helps your family member adjust to the idea that you are facing problems, and can relieve some of your tension as well.
Tip #4: Think About What to Say.
A great way to deal with any anxiety related to performance or confrontation is to plan what you will say ahead of time. This gives you time to think about what it is you really want to say and to practice expressing yourself. The more performers rehearse for a performance, the less stage fright they experience—and the same is true for having difficult conversations. If you still find it difficult to express yourself, you can always jot down notes or send your family member an email.
Tip #5: Choose a Time That’s Convenient for Them, Too.
If someone approaches us for help when our own needs are not fully met, we may not have the emotional strength to give them what they are asking for. Remember that your family member has their own responsibilities and needs to attend to as well. It is best, if you can, to approach them when they are calm and collected, not stressed out after work or coping with a crisis of their own. However, keep in mind, too, that no time is going to be the “perfect” time—your needs are as important as anyone else’s. It’s important to recognize the difference between being considerate and simply procrastinating to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation. Give them space and time for now if they need it, but make sure not to put off your conversation indefinitely.
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Finding Help for Your Anxiety: Healing Through Residential Treatment
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your anxiety and don’t know how to break free, seeking treatment at a residential facility could be the answer. It’s a secure environment where you will feel safe knowing there is psychiatric and medical care available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Are you having frequent panic attacks? Even the most supportive families can have trouble being there for you around the clock, and they may not know what to do to help. In residential treatment, you’ll have access to professional support that can help you cope in the moment, even if your panic attack strikes in the middle of the night. And every day, you will participate in one-on-one therapy with a therapist who can help you work on finding and healing the sources of your anxiety, and learn coping strategies to better manage your panic attacks and anxiety.
In group therapy, meanwhile, you’ll meet other people who suffer from anxiety and other mental health disorders, people who may understand what you’re going through even better than your family. You can also have your family members come in for family therapy sessions, which helps repair relationships and gives your family members clearer insight into what it’s like to live with anxiety.
A specialized team of psychiatric doctors will work with you to create the optimal long-term treatment plan for your recovery. This comprehensive care program may include medications, such as antianxiety or antidepressant drugs, and as well as treatments for any co-occurring conditions, such as PTSD or major depression. Following your stay, you’ll have the benefit of long-term outpatient planning to help you continue to make progress even after you’ve left the facility.
Anxiety can be debilitating. And if, like Misty, you’re embarrassed or don’t know how to talk to your family about it, it can leave you feeling totally alone. But you don’t have to be afraid to ask for help. Try opening up to the family member or loved one you trust most about your condition. Perhaps, like Misty, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find you’ve got a new ally in your corner by the end of the conversation—someone who can help you stay the course when the road to recovery gets rough, and who will be there to cheer you on once you return from residential treatment to begin your life anew. As the old saying goes, you’ll never know unless you try.
Know, too, that even if your family is unable to give you the support you were hoping for, help is still available—you can always contact a treatment center on your own for guidance on where, and how, to get help.
Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.