• Family Outreach
    Family Outreach & Response Program
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The Family Outreach and Response Program (FOR) offers recovery oriented mental health support services to families and youth.

How to help someone who's living with an anxiety disorder

People who experience anxiety disorders and their families may spend months, even years, without knowing what is wrong. It can be frustrating, often putting a strain on relationships. Even with a diagnosis, some strain often lingers, and recovery may be a long process.

Family members who want to help may not know how. An important fact to keep in mind is that anxiety disorders are real, serious, but treatable medical conditions. Reliable evidence links panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other anxiety disorders to brain chemistry. Furthermore, events can trigger the onset of an anxiety disorder in someone who is genetically predisposed.

Like other illnesses, anxiety disorders can take a toll on family and friends. Household routines may be disrupted, special plans or allowances may be necessary, and the person with the disorder may be reluctant to participate in social activities, which can have a negative impact on family dynamics.

Anxiety Family Help

Family members should learn about the disorder to help them know what to expect from the illness as well as the recovery process. They should also learn when to exercise patience and when to exert a little pressure. Family support is important to the recovery process, but it is not the cure. Getting better takes hard work, mostly from the person with the disorder, and patience, from everyone involved.

Here are some things family members can do to help a loved one diagnosed with an anxiety disorder:

  • Learn about the disorder.
  • Recognize and praise small accomplishments.
  • Modify expectations during stressful periods.
  • Measure progress on the basis of individual improvement, not against some absolute standard.
  • Be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.

It is also important for family members to keep in mind that the recovery process is stressful for them too. It is helpful to build a support network of relatives and friends. With appropriate treatment from a mental health professional, an anxiety disorder can be overcome, leading to a better quality of life for everyone.

Everyone who is a member of a family in which someone has a mental illness should read this book. It tells the stories of forty-four families who live with the mental illnesses of their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and the close friends who have become their family members. These family members have depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette's Syndrome and anxiety disorders. They are children, young people, middle-aged, and older. They are from diverse racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. They live in rural areas, small towns and cities across the country.

But these families all have one thing in common: the burden of stigma that accompanies mental illness. They all live with the myths, stereotypes and misunderstandings society holds about people who have psychiatric disorders and their family members. Each family profile includes a family portrait and interviews with various members of the family, including the member who has a mental illness. Some of the stories are touched with tragedy and struggle, courage and strength, hope and love.