If one of your family members or loved ones suffers from anxiety disorders, have you become an enabler in an effort to help? When offering support, it is easy to sometimes provide so much assistance that you cross the line and actually enable the person.
Are You an Enabler?
How do you know if you are an enabler? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to many of them, you may not really be helping your loved one, but instead giving him or her a reason to manage symptoms and regain independence.
- Do you try to soften the blow or protect someone from the consequences of their actions?
- Do you make excuses for their behavior?
- Do you attempt to shield them from feeling emotional pain that is caused by their actions?
- Do you avoid social situations yourself because of embarrassment or not wanting to explain your loved one's behaviors?
- Do you take on responsibilities that your loved one should do or complete?
- Do you doubt yourself, see yourself as a failure or wonder whether you are "crazy"?"
- Do you feel angry or resentful of the time and effort you must put into caring for your loved one?
- Do you give up taking care of yourself in order to be with or care for your loved one?
- Do you deny or try to hide problems your loved one may have?
- Do you make decisions for your loved one?
- Do you feel trapped and responsible for the problems of the loved one?
- Have you created an emotional wall around yourself to shield yourself from emotional hurt, pain or anger?
If you have answered yes to many of these questions, you may be helping too much and not providing your loved one with the opportunity to seek treatment, follow treatment or recover from anxiety. Remember, anxiety disorders are treatable and most people will be able to live productive and full lives. Many people with anxiety have indicated that relationships improve once treatment has begun but this cannot happen if you continue to do and protect someone from both feeling and seeking help for their anxiety.
This is not to say that you should not be understanding and compassionate in offering your support. The best way to help may be to help your loved one explore different treatment options and find a qualified mental health professional.
The Impact of Enabling
Enabling is creating a cycle of co-dependency. You come to need to the feeling of being needed and the person with anxiety depends on you to care for them, make decisions and avoid all situations that may cause anxiety.
Enabling a loved one is not just detrimental to their well-being it can cause frustration for you as well. Because we want to show that we are helping, we may actually support the anxiety and the problems it causes and shield them from the consequences. Many times, when someone does not seek or follow treatment, the symptoms of anxiety worsen. Your resentment may only deepen as time goes on and there is no improvement.