Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Karen in New Jersey. How do I tell my family that I have anxiety problems?
The difficulty with sharing a mental health concern such as anxiety as opposed to a physiological problem is that the symptoms are intangible and unquantifiable and, therefore, they’re difficult to communicate effectively.
The key to effectively communicating your feelings or concerns to your loved ones is to first be certain in your own mind what it is that you’re concerned about. First ask yourself, how do I know I have anxiety problems? Over the next few days, try to document every incident when you have experienced the type of anxiety problems that you’re concerned about. Document the date, time, and place and also describe the situation in terms of what happened before the onset of anxiety. What anxiety symptoms, physiological and emotional that you experienced and for how long. In addition, you should read up on anxiety disorder to try to understand the condition to better pinpoint any of the symptoms that you may be able to relate to.
When you approach your family, you need to do so at a time when you have their undivided attention and make sure that they know that you have something important to discuss. First raise the subject of anxiety asking them if any of them have ever felt anxious. Inevitably, everybody has felt anxious in their lifetime, but it is important to distinguish normal feelings of anxiousness with clinical anxiety.
Once your family can initially relate to your normal feelings of anxiety, you can explain to them that this is something you experience on a regular basis and that you’re concerned that it’s impacting your day-to-day functioning. You can then introduce them to any information that you may have found describing what anxiety disorder is and then start to explain to them what your concerns are by producing your documented experiences of anxiety.
Be careful to keep the focus on your symptoms and not to be perceived as laying blame on any of the family for any of your concerns. The focus should be on you and how you are reaching out to them to support you through this problem. It is also useful to already have some suggestions on how you can address the problem; for example, names and contacts of counselors or support centers.
Remember, your family needs to know that you are telling them about your problem because you are reaching out for their support.