How to Support Your Support People Help the people who are helping you

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Posted by DaveH ( on January 17, 2002 at 20:45:55:

How to Support Your Support People

Help the people who are helping you

Books for Support People
Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Agoraphobia
Helping Your Anxious Child
How to Help Your Loved One Recover from Agoraphobia
Shared Confinement

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"I have panic disorder with agoraphobia which means I have to depend on other people quite a bit, especially my husband. I'm having a hard time lately dealing with the guilt I have for being sick and the effect it has on the people around me. I'm trying really hard, but it seems I can't force getting better and I feel like I should for my family." Gee

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By Cathleen Henning

A solid support system is a vital component of anxiety disorder recovery. Every person's support system is different. It is not easy to create a support system because it's often difficult to explain an anxiety disorder. Once people have offered their help, it is up to you to let them know how they can help you. Here are seven important steps you can take now to help your support people.

Build a Support System
There are many people in your life who are potential support people. Support people are not all the same. Your therapist is a support person, as is your psychiatrist. Family members can be support people and so can friends. Even your boss and co-workers can provide a certain amount of support. It may be difficult to imagine how some of these people could offer you support, and that is why you might need to change your concept of what a support person should be. Mainly, you should not be relying on one person to take you everywhere, to practice all of your desensitization exercises with you, and to listen to every detail of every problem. You should begin to focus on how each person supports you rather than on how they don't. If your boss and co-workers know about your condition, their support will probably consist of knowing that you might leave a meeting suddenly and not getting uptight about it. Your boss will not be your confidant. Regarding family and friends, it's true that not all of them will understand your situation completely. But each person will support you in his or her own way. It might not seem to relate directly to your anxiety disorder, but realize that any positive influence on your life will benefit your recovery.

Design a Recovery Plan
The plain truth is you can't expect people to help you if you aren't helping yourself. If you're unsure how to begin, start reading about your anxiety disorder. Learn what treatments are available as well as what you can do on your own. If you're not yet seeing mental health provider, consider doing so. A therapist should be willing to help you create a concrete recovery plan. Such a plan should have reasonable but definite goals, and it should be flexible. It's impossible to predict exactly how long it will take to reach each goal, so be prepared for setbacks. A therapist who has worked with other anxiety disorder patients will be able to help you create reasonable goals. Also, anxiety disorder recovery will consist of much more than attending therapy once a week. You should be taking steps towards recovery on a daily basis. Edmund J. Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook is an excellent place to find help for creating a recovery plan.

Ask for Specific Help
Once you've created a recovery plan with specific goals, you will be able to see how people may be able to help you. Sit down with each person and ask if he or she can help with a particular goal. Tell the person exactly what you need, and see if she is willing to help. After some negotiation, you'll be able to settle on specific times and days when you can work together. Again, be willing to be flexible.

Recommend Materials About Your Anxiety Disorder
Not everyone will be willing to read about your anxiety disorder. For those who don't want to read, try to find a few short booklets (print articles from the Web). For those who are willing to read, recommend your favorite books and articles. Keep them up-to-date on current research. Open conversations about treatment possibilities rather than always focusing on your symptoms. All involved should understand the basics of your anxiety disorder and should know what to do during a crisis, such as if you have panic attacks.

Understand That One Person Can NOT Do Everything for You
Don't ask one person always to be there for you, and don't expect it. If someone doesn't want to help or has to stop helping, try to be understanding and move on. If you depend on one person only, you will be in a difficult situation if that person stops helping you for some reason. Look around you: friends and family probably want to help but don't know what you need. Reach out to them.

Deal With Relationship Problems
Depending on the nature of certain relationships, you might consider therapy together if you feel your recovery is harming the relationship. Even if you don't seek therapy together, you should be ready and willing to discuss the relationship itself. For example, a friend might feel that you never do anything fun together because you're always working on desensitization exercises. So, ask her what she'd like to do together. Rent some movies. Hang out. Don't talk about your anxiety disorder 24 hours a day. Chances are, you need to have some fun, too. Relationship problems can, obviously, become much more serious than this, so if you haven't talked about it before now, do so. You must know how each person is feeling about the situation. All relationships take effort, and coping with relationships is part of your recovery, too.

Urge Support People to Find Support
Support people can benefit from support, too. In some cases, a support person should consider therapy also. Urge your support person to attend support groups with you, either on or offline. Suggest that the support person start a support group for support people. If your community is small, the support group could include support people for other disorders, like depression.

And to the Support Person . . .
Being a support person is not easy and should not be taken lightly. If you decide to take on this role, be ready to learn about the anxiety disorder, to commit some of your time, and to cope with the effects on your relationship with the recovering person. First and foremost to all involved, be honest at all times and about everything.

Copyright 2001 Cathleen Henning. All rights reserved.

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