Coming to terms with your anxiety can be a really difficult and long process. It took me awhile before I could actually admit to myself that I was suffering with anxiety and the panic attacks I was having weren’t just one offs. Eventually you do have to accept that your feelings are valid and this is something you may need professional help with. But telling your parents can feeling like a whole different ball game. The important thing to remember is that having anxiety isn’t anything to be ashamed of, and that most of the time your parents just want you to be happy. That being said is can be really nerve wracking telling your parents, so Psych2Go has some tips to help.
1) Explain how you’re feeling.
When I first told my mum I think I could have anxiety she didn’t really understand what I meant. I had always been a nervous child, and she just thought I was referring to that. I didn’t know how to make her understand until I explained the feelings and symptoms I got when my anxiety would flare up. Naturally this was very difficult and I felt like I was baring my soul but it helped her to understand where I was coming from. Because anxiety is also an emotion that everyone feels, its important to emphasise the level of anxiety you’re feeling and how it’s impacting your life. The more they know about how you’re feeling, the more they can help.
2) Consider writing a letter.
The prospect of telling your parents face to face might trigger even more anxiety, if that’s the case writing a letter might be prefered. It also a good way to ensure you don’t miss anything out and that you can sort through what you want to tell them. This is something I’ve done multiple times and it makes things 10 times easier. You’ll also find you might feel lighter once everything is written down and out of your head. If I’ve ever written a letter to my parents I usually leave it someplace they’ll find it. However you could read it aloud to them, or give it to them and ask they read it privately.
3) Use examples.
Your parents might not know much about anxiety or mental illness, so they may not understand, could possibly brush it off or deny there is a problem. To help them understand the severity use examples of when anxiety has impacted on your day to day life. When I was feeling my most anxious, I’d come out in physical symptoms like nausea, heavy sweating and temporary paralysis, i used these symptoms to explain how much the anxiety is affecting me and why I need help. But you could also use examples like “I’ve been having trouble coping with stress at school. I feel so overwhelmed that I’ve started to skip class sometimes.” Or, “I can’t stop thinking about germs and always feel dirty. Some days I wash my hands 20 or 30 times, so much that they’re raw.” You don’t have to share everything, of course. But don’t sugar coat the situation to spare them. Be very clear that anxiety is preventing you from living a normal and healthy life.
4) Practice with a friend
When I wanted to broach the subject with my parents I was so nervous, I didn’t know where to start or how to begin explaining. I wanted to talk it through with someone first and I naturally turned to my friends. I figured I needed to tell them as some were starting to notice how withdrawn I got in school and I couldn’t brush them off with excuses any longer. Telling my friends first really helped, and me sharing my anxieties lead some of them to share theirs. It gave me a lot of confidence, because even if my parents reacted negatively then I still had a support group.
5) Don’t give up
It will probably take more than one conversation for you to feel like you’ve fully explained yourself and that’s okay. It’s important to keep at it, even if it takes your parents a while to accept your anxiety disorder or to believe it. Emphasise that feeling this way is impacting your daily life and that you’d like their support in order to get better. Also keep talking about mental health, there’s loads of articles, TV shows and films that talk about different disorders. Maybe watching them can help them better understand where you’re coming from and what you’re feeling.
I hope this helps anyone whos thinking of telling their parents or loved ones! Also good luck! What helped you tell your parents? Leave a comment below!