How to tell your family about your ongoing anxiety

I have anxiety.

Panic attacks, lack of control.

I have had anxiety for four years.

Why is that so hard to tell my family?

When I was first told that I have anxiety I didn’t really know what it was and didn’t really think that it would impact my life that much. Oh how wrong was I. What started off as me just feeling nervous and constantly having butterflies in my stomach turned into having panic attacks and feeling an overall lack of control. As a result of my job and just life in general, I am constantly anxious, here you can read my ‘How to cope with 24-hour anxiety’. 

I have fully accepted that this is part of my life now. Indeed, most can understand when I can’t always identify my reasons for being upset, or feeling trapped. However, some members of my family think that I use it as an excuse not to do things. They think that I’m just attention seeking or exaggerating and that has been the most difficult part of learning how to manage anxiety. A lot of people have this misconception about anxiety and see it as an attention seeking tool. Anxiety isn’t portrayed very well in the media and is used as a throw away term and seems to have lost a lot of its meaning.

Choose a good time and place

Your family is probably aware that something is wrong. Choose a moment when they are at home, relaxed or at leisure. When you are ready, approach them when they are free and not when they are about to rush off. Speak openly and honestly without being self-conscious and know, that no matter what there will always be someone who will be there for you.

Report the statistics

Constantly remind them that having anxiety is not something to be ashamed of and that you are not alone. 40 per cent of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety, with over 8 million cases in the UK. Let your family know that these statistics are real, and there are families out there receiving the exact same news that they are. The one-week prevalence of generalised anxiety in England is 6.6%, it is in fact the most common mental disorder.

Use concrete examples

Your family and relatives might not know much about anxiety or having a mental illness. Help them understand the problem, and the fact it is serious. Focus on events that have happened or the impact some situations have had on you. For instance, you could say “I have been struggling to cope with stress at work/school/university.” You can even be more specific and say something on the lines of “I have to shower five times because otherwise I feel dirty.” Do not feel pressure to share everything but be very honest about anxiety preventing you from living a normal life.

Suggest ways they can support you

Families want to help but don’t know how.Suggest ways they can contribute or assist you with daily tasks. Ask them to encourage you to get exercise or to seek a therapist. You don’t need to explain or analyse how you feel all thhe time so focus on your developing support system. If a member implies that it doesn’t sound serious, be clear and really tell them that it is.

Don’t give in

I had a hard time telling my family but I didn’t give up. It might take a while for your family to accept, maybe even believe that anxiety is a disorder. Keep raising the topic until they listen. Stress that it is a serious problem that interferes with your daily routine. Your family knowing is important but if after several attempts, you still find yourself alone then the UK’s leading mental illness charity Mind is always available: 0300 123 3393.

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