Anxiety Disorder Upsets the Family Dynamics

When a member of the family suffers from an anxiety disorder, the entire family suffers. What this looks like exactly, depends on the type of anxiety disorder the sufferer has. There are five types of anxiety disorder; agoraphobia, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social or generalized anxiety disorder. The circumstances can be even more difficult if the sufferer has more than one anxiety disorder which is the case in most instances. To make matters worse, studies show that first generation family members have a predisposition to having an anxiety disorder. This means that it is likely that more than one family member has an anxiety disorder. When these anxiety disorders are not treated properly, the family environment becomes a melting pot of chaos.

While anxiety disorders have a genetic component to it, the disorder is also heavily influenced by the environment the sufferer grew up in. The sufferer most likely copied the learning or coping behavior they witnessed from family members that also have an anxiety disorder or other behavioral problems. In homes where families experience untreated anxiety disorders, the atmosphere is one of tension where family members display irrational behavior. The sufferer exhibits unhealthy coping skills many times turning into addictions and aggression. These behaviors quickly spread among the majority, if not all, family members. Negativity creates negativity. Patricia A. Farrell, PhD explains that “You model your behavior, you learn to be anxious, you learn to be helpless, you learn not to be able to cope, and you can unlearn it.” “It doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of anxiety.”

Anxiety Disorder has Many Ripple Effects

Anxiety disorders, by nature, keep the afflicted isolated from society and this, at times, includes other family members not having anxiety disorders. Sometimes it is easier to stay home rather than make up excuses why the stricken family member did not come. It becomes even harder to attend social or family events when people want to discuss the absent family member’s “condition” and lend unsolicited advice. Anxiety disorders, therefore, affect the lifestyle and dynamics of the entire family. With all the cause and effect occurrences going on, it is no wonder that families spiral out of control. 40% of adults suffer from some type of anxiety disorder. It is the number one mental illness in the United States today. Prevention and sustainable treatment go a long way to arresting its spiraling affects on the family unit. Anxiety disorder is a highly treatable disease. Period.

Every year, people learn to live a satisfying life managing their disorder and, in many cases, the disorder seems to cure itself after following a treatment plan. Anxiety disorder not only has a behavioral element to it, there are also physical symptoms. People affected by an anxiety disorder experience all different kinds of physical health problems. This also puts stress on the family unit. The medical profession first concentrated on the physical side of anxiety disorders prescribing antidepressants, sedatives, and muscle relaxers and other medications to ease the symptoms back in the 1980s and 1990s. Only in the last 20 years or so have we come up with different types of solutions to address the mental and behavioral side to give sufferers a great quality of life which eventually relieves the physical symptoms. It was inevitable that this family afflicted disorder created more victims before all-inclusive treatments were readily available.

Anxiety Disorder is Truly Treatable

This disorder is treatable and yet, left alone, creates such havoc on our families, neighbors and friends. Because anxiety disorders, many times, leave us feeling unwanted, unloved and worthless, we seek approval and love from people unable to give us healthy love; the odds are good they too have an anxiety disorder. We then have two people in an unhealthy, unsustainable relationship which often results in producing children that have parents not equipped to raise them in a healthy, nurturing environment. Untreated anxiety disorder has so many negative ripple effects on the sufferer, their family and their community. I believe most sufferers want help. With anxiety disorder being a chemical imbalance of the brain, many times it is difficult for them to understand that relief is an option. The challenge is getting them to understand both the process and positive results.

With the family composition, of people with anxiety disorder, so unsteady and even volatile, we need awareness. It is our responsibility to bring the subject of this mental illness out into our communities and start the conversation. For many of us with this disorder, life coaching provides the most effective solution. For others, they will need treatment from counselors or psychologists. If coaching seems like a viable solution for you, I am here to assist. It is my hope that we can empower more people with anxiety disorder to reach a place where their life is purposeful, content and joyous. In return, the conversation can flow freely, and we can get more people finding their solutions. Coaching is about communication and self-discovery. Communication awareness is key. Many years, my friend, many years.