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Can Communication Reduce Anxiety in Your Family?

October 13, 2019 George Abitante

There's a relationship between communication and anxiety. If I had to guess, I'd say that more often than not you try to hide your anxiety instead of sharing it. Does that sound right? It can be difficult to communicate anxiety, which is something so challenging and personal, with others, and I think people often default to keeping it as closed off from others as possible. While this is a valuable skill to develop in some cases, it can also be detrimental to hide away your everyday emotional experience. We tend to feel the most secure and happy in our relationships when we share our true selves with others, so the benefits of being open and honest about ourselves are hard to overstate. Additionally, by being honest with others, we often invite honesty in return, which helps cultivate trust and communication to reduce anxiety. 

Communicating Your Anxiety to Your Family

This development of trust and communication is perhaps most important for our immediate family. Sharing yourself with your partner, your parents, siblings, or even children can be a rewarding and liberating experience and it can also benefit your family members as well.

For anyone who becomes irritable when anxious, for instance, I'm guessing there have been times when your family had trouble understanding why you were irritated by something. Without awareness of your internal state, it can be really difficult for others to understand why you behave in certain ways, and in turn, this can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings. This is not only frustrating, but it's also inefficient and can reduce the amount of quality time you have to spend with family. Communicating openly about anxiety, on the other hand, can facilitate meaningful interactions with family and make it easier to resolve conflicts.

3 Benefits of Communicating Your Anxiety

There are many potential benefits of being open about your anxiety, but I think the social implications are among the most important. But I think openness and communication about anxiety go beyond this. Below, I share three ways that discussing anxiety with family can help you work through your own anxiety and also support your family members if they experience anxiety. 

  1. Track anxiety. It can be difficult to keep track of what precursors lead to anxiety, but asking for help from your family is a great way to improve at this. When anxious, your attention is focused on very specific things in your environment, and consequently, your memory of that time will also be biased towards those things. Keeping track over time of important aspects of your anxiety can be really challenging because of this, but asking your family to help can make this significantly easier. With outside perspectives, you can develop a clearer understanding of your anxiety, which in turn can help you identify effective coping tools for anxiety. You can also offer to help your family members with their anxiety in this way. 
  2. Identify anxiety. Maintaining open communication about your anxiety may also help your family members identify their own anxiety. It can be difficult sometimes for people to understand what they are experiencing when they feel anxiety, and if they don't show overt signs of anxiety, it may be particularly challenging to know they are anxious. Cultivating openness about your anxiety can help your family identify and understand anxiety they may experience, and this can make it easier to begin anxiety treatment earlier. 
  3. Resolve anxiety. This follows from point two, but by identifying anxiety earlier, treatment can begin sooner as well. Beginning treatment as soon as possible can have positive long-term results, and one of the biggest barriers to treatment-seeking is the stigma surrounding mental health treatment. By sharing some of your experiences with anxiety, you can help your family members feel comfortable about asking for help. 

There are a number of benefits to being open with your family about anxiety, and not just for yourself. Identifying healthy ways to communicate with family about your anxiety can be difficult, but I hope you will consider the potential for improving your own anxiety as well as helping you support your family members with their own challenges. 

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2019, October 13). Can Communication Reduce Anxiety in Your Family?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 5 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2019/10/can-communication-reduce-anxiety-in-your-family



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
October, 15 2019 at 2:13 pm

I think this is a beautiful idea. As we enter the time of the year where, for many, family events are much more frequent, this is a great thing to discuss. I love your suggestion to track, identify, and resolve. I think this can be extremely helpful when it comes to really getting to the root of anxiety. Thank you for sharing!

October, 16 2019 at 6:33 pm

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks as always for your kind and thoughtful comment! I hadn't considered that this may be particularly timely advice, but you make a great point that this is an excellent time to be thinking about how we can communicate effectively with family.
George

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