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Asking for help- anxiety & depression

One thing that I often see in clinic is clients who have wonderful people in their lives, but as they struggle to move beyond their depression and anxiety, they feel completely isolated.  They simply don’t see the caring people and resources around them.

Unfortunately, these are natural responses in people suffering anxiety and depression.

When someone has depression, they often feel a level of helplessness and hopelessness which makes them feel that asking for help is useless, and only a burden on others.

When someone has anxiety, they often believe that they cannot change.  They have a deep belief that their ‘anxiety’ is an unchangeable part of them.  Particularly if they have been struggling for a long time, the belief that their condition is part of their identity can become particularly entrenched.

These things often mean that sufferers do not reach out to the wonderful people around them and ask for help.  Because they feel that they are stuck, that they are helpless and hopeless, they don’t reach out and ask for help.  Often the sufferer does not want to ‘burden’ their loved ones, and this creates even greater sense of isolation for those with anxiety.

I often ask my clients what it is like for them when someone asks them for help.  What they all reply is that they love to help.  It gives them a really positive feeling when they get the chance to be there for someone else.

So, if they can get beyond feeling stuck and reaching out for help, my clients would be giving the people they care about a real gift by asking for help.  The people that they afraid to burden will actually get something of value simply by being asked.  Reframing it in this way is often the first step in reconnecting them with their friends and resources.

When a client can break out of their ‘no one can help me’ stance and reach out for help, a number of things happen. Firstly, by speaking the ‘truth’ of their circumstance aloud, it can really help people see their issue from a different standpoint.  Often, talking about feelings gives them ‘labels’ and allows justification, and often reconsideration of the meanings that we place on things.  Feelings are often difficult to explain and pin down, and as we turn these into words and descriptions, we often get a chance to create a different understanding of our own circumstance.

Secondly, reaching out may provide a sense of connection to another person, which can be incredibly positive and powerful to someone who has been socially isolated by their condition.  Not feeling ‘alone’, or even feeling abnormal, can be such a relief for people who are suffering.

Thirdly, as we connect to others, we shift out of ourselves and away from the feelings or thinking associated with our condition, and become engaged in the conversation.  This can be a moment of relief for someone who has been suffering for some time.  Just engaging in something other than our thoughts and feelings can be a relief and a circuit breaker from the problem.

In the connection, the person that you ask for help from may offer valuable consolation, advice or encouragement which may help move the sufferer forward.  They may have been there themselves, know others who have, or even know someone else that you can easily connect to who can help you.

If you are suffering anxiety or depression, I wonder if you can experiment with the idea of asking someone you know for help?   I wonder if you can identify one person – either who you know personally, or know of in your community – who you could try asking for a moment of their time?  See what happens.

If you know someone who you suspect is troubled by anxiety and depression, and is perhaps socially isolating themselves, perhaps you can reach out and ask “Are you OK?”  It takes about 3 seconds, but could be the most important three seconds in someone else’s life. Keep an eye on your family, friends and acquaintances, and take the time to check in with them.  If they are OK, then that is fine. If they are not, you can start the process by being there for them, and perhaps connecting them to services (like Lifeline) or professionals who can help.

Are you OK?

How can I help?

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