Dealing with Unsupportive Friends and Family

Panic Disorder Support

Having understanding friends and family members can help make living with panic disorder more bearable. Considerate loved ones can provide you with the support, empathy, and encouragement you need to make it through the recovery process.  Just the opposite is true if you find that others in your life are unsupportive, which can leave you feeling hurt, confused, and discouraged.

Not every panic disorder sufferer is fortunate enough to have loving and supportive relationships.  Friends and family may believe in the many myths about panic disorder, looking to blame yourself or others for your condition. Perhaps some tell you that your anxiety is “all in your head.” Some may even refuse to acknowledge your condition. Even well meaning loved ones may say the wrong thing to you or feel ashamed due to the stigma of having panic disorder. 

Whether its embarrassment, ignorance, or a lack of understanding, your friends and family may struggle to show you the necessary love and support you need to better manage life with panic disorder. However, that does not mean that they cannot come around to having a clearer and more compassionate understanding to what you are going through.  And even if they don’t ever understand, you can still move past this issue to feel supported in other ways.

The following offers 4 tips that may help you when dealing with unsupportive friends and family members.

Look for Additional Support

While your friends and family have trouble understanding, seek out the support you need elsewhere. Your area may offer support groups for those with mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders. Such groups can get you in touch with others who share similar experiences, relate to your setbacks, and encourage your progress. Support groups may be located through organizations, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), both of which have online directories that list support groups by location.

Aside from face-to-face meetings, you may also be able to find online support groups. These groups are typically organized as forums. Internet-based support groups can connect you to others around the world that can share in the ups and downs of living with panic disorder. Such support groups also have the added benefit of providing some anonymity while being available any time of day.  

Continue to Learn and Educate Others

Loved ones may have many false assumptions about what it means to live with a mental health disorder. They may believe that mental illness only appears through certain stereotypical symptoms. Perhaps they have the misconception that anxiety is just stress, assuming that you should be able to control your symptoms.

Regardless of any misunderstandings loved ones may have, it is important that you continue to learn the facts about panic disorder. Knowledge is power and the more you know, the easier it may be to correct other’s misunderstandings about your condition. You can begin to learn more by gathering information from your doctor’s or therapist’s office. He or she will most likely have pamphlets and brochures that go into more details about the signs, symptoms, risks, and treatment options. Additional salient information may be obtained through reliable books and websites. 

Let Go and Move On

Your loved ones may or may not ever come around to understanding your condition, but you should not allow it to continue to affect your progress.  If some of your friends and family refuse to be understanding, consider that it may just have to do with their own personal issues. Perhaps they are too worried about what others think or are afraid that your condition will hold you back in life.

No matter what their issue may be, you deserve to be treated with respect. If a relationship has become strained to the point where you feel the person has become unreasonable, it may be time to take a closer look at that relationship. If a friend or family member continuously makes hurtful or demeaning comments about your condition, it may be best to take a step back and limit the amount of time spent with him or her. At times, you may even need to end the relationship entirely in order to let go of self-doubt and move forward through treatment

Become Your Own Advocate

If loved ones can’t be supportive, try to become your own advocate. Practice self-care by engaging in any physical, creative, or spiritual practices that make you feel healthier and happier. Add some relaxation techniques as part of your wellness, including deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), yoga, and mindfulness meditation.

Your wellbeing can also be enhanced through the use of positive affirmations, in which you repeat encouraging statements silently to yourself, such as “I am getting better everyday” or “My ability to seek treatment is a strength.” 

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