ARC Blog

Looking After Someone With Anxiety While Still Looking After Yourself

When someone you love is suffering from anxiety or any other kind of mental health problem, your first instinct is to do everything you possibly can to help and support them. Anxiety disorder is a long-term condition, and the causes of the condition are not fully understood by medical professionals, meaning that treatment is generally carried out for an extended period of time in order to be effective. The battle against anxiety disorder is a marathon, not a sprint, and finding the treatment plan that is right can be difficult, and is often a matter of trial and error. Accepting that you have anxiety disorder then and that you need professional help is a brave decision to make, and will certainly not be easy.

The problem is that, although their illness is not their fault, the time-consuming nature of controlling and reducing the symptoms of the condition means that caring for someone who has anxiety can be both physically and emotional draining. Relationships involving anxiety disorders face many challenges: you will probably find that you bear the brunt of completing family activities, such as paying the bills, doing the grocery shop and even taking the children to and from their after-school activities. But it is important to provide as much support as possible.

Don’t Loose Yourself

Looking after a loved one with anxiety is important, and the more support anxiety sufferers have throughout their treatment, the more likely they are to come out the other side. However, it is also important to look after yourself, to ensure that you don’t suffer burn out of begin to suffer from compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a condition that occurs when individuals are exhausted and weighed down by the weight of caring for someone with a long-term illness, and in turn, they begin to feel unwell themselves, suffering from symptoms such as anger, depression, headaches and sleep disturbances. Self-care is essential when you are primarily responsible for caring for someone else, and there are many ways that you can care for yourself while simultaneously caring for the person that you love. It’s important to take time out for yourself: taking a walk and getting some fresh air, joining a gym, or meeting with friends for dinner or a cup of coffee are all great ways to reconnect with yourself and remind yourself that you exist outside of the illness of the individual you are caring for.

Learn About the Condition

When you are caring for an individual who is suffering from an anxiety disorder, it can be massively helpful to learn as much as you possibly can about their condition. This can help you to understand why the person you are caring for will act in a certain way, which is turn will alleviate any anger, guilt, and fear that it is inevitable you will feel at some point during the process. Acquiring this knowledge will help you to separate the illness from the person that you love and realize that their anxiety and the way that it sometimes causes them to behave is not directed at you and certainly can’t be helped or avoided: it is simply a symptom of their condition. Part of learning about the condition is learning about the treatment, and encouraging the anxious individual to continue with that treatment, even when it becomes difficult, overwhelming or inconvenient.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Finally, don’t make assumptions about what your loved one needs or second guess what they are thinking and feeling. It is important that you take a step back and listen to what they are thinking and what they need, rather than bulldozing your way through the situation. Remember that you don’t understand what suffering from an anxiety attack feels like, and therefore that while you can empathize with them you can’t truly know what they need. Ask. Question what you can do to help, listen carefully to the response and then follow through and deliver. There is no doubt that caring for and living with an individual who is suffering from anxiety can be challenging for both parties involved, but by working together it is possible to create a situation that is life enhancing and really helps.

Helen Fields is a freelance writer and mother. She juggles her work around her home life. In the past she has suffered anxiety problems and now seeks to help others through writing about these issues and what life is like managing these kinds of problems.
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