Talking to your family about your anxiety

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

As common as it is, living with anxiety is not something that everybody understands. Plus, you live in a generation where anxiety is much more predominant than that of your parents. It can be both difficult and scary to explain and express what you are going through, but you know that it will help you to have the support and sympathy of your family. You might be feeling ready to talk to your family about your anxiety, but you are not quite sure how to go about it and want to do it in a way so that you will not feel dismissed or have your feelings invalidated.

Here are a few techniques and suggestions for having this conversation, which will hopefully leave you feeling a little less apprehensive or anxious, so you can clearly express what is on your mind and open up to the people you love.

Plan ahead

There may be a lot on your mind and plate that you wish to express to your family, and many ways you could approach or explain your thoughts. If you were to jump right into the conversation, you might find that you skipped important parts you wish you had said.

When talking to your family about your anxiety, plan everything you want to say ahead of time - it might help to rehearse it and even write down some bullet points to keep with you.

Be clear about what you are going through

What you are going through might not be a physical condition that your family can readily see and understand, but it is a serious mental illness. You might not yet know precisely what your disorder is. Still, you understand your situation better than anyone else, so you can start by giving them the name of what you think your anxiety disorder is, what it means, and how it applies to you. Then, provide them with specific examples of previous times and prevailing circumstances when anxiety comes up for you.

Describe your symptoms in terms of the impact your anxiety has on your mood, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. This does not mean you have to share every last detail, but you want them to understand how much it means for you to get better and feel normal again.

Ask for help and be persistent

Let your family know that your condition can be improved with the help of a professional. Ask if they will help you find the right therapist who can talk to you through it and teach you ways to manage it. There is a chance that a family member may dismiss your request by saying that you are just going through a normal phase or that it’s all in your head. If they do this, it doesn’t mean they think your feelings are invalid; your family just might struggle to accept seeing someone they love so down. Remind them that the way you feel is not normal and that you have not felt normal for a while.

Remember that it may take more than one conversation with your family for them to understand. If need be, bring up the subject again and readdress your need for support. Explain to your family that your anxiety is interfering with your daily life.

If you find it is taking a little more time for your parents to come around, and you are ready to get help, consider talking to another adult that you trust. Ask another family member, school counselor, or teacher who you feel you can trust to respect your privacy and offer you support and guidance.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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