Too Much Anxiety to Join an Anxiety Support Group
There are a lot of catch-22s when it comes to managing anxiety. For example, many people with anxiety would feel a lot better if they could avoid anxiety triggers altogether. It is simple to say, but harder to do. Avoiding anxiety triggers isn't always possible. Another common suggestion is to join a support group. But what if a person has too much anxiety to join a support group?
When people suggest joining a support group, they often aren’t thinking of all the steps involved. First, a person must locate a support group that meets at a convenient time and location. Second, the focus of the support group needs to fit the person’s needs. There is a difference between a general mental illness group and a specific diagnosis group, such as bipolar or depression. Finally, the person must have to courage to attend the group.
Sharing Our Anxiety with Strangers Isn’t Easy
People living with mental illness, anxiety included, often find it difficult to share the details of their lives as they pertain to their illness. Often, they have tried to share and have been met with hostility, dismissal, or even discrimination – often referred to as stigma. In addition to being sick, they have the baggage of having had unpleasant experiences with sharing in the past.
Sharing our anxiety with strangers isn’t easy. This is an anxiety disorder; many people have anxiety for little to no reason anyway. Even the average person feels awkward when sharing personal details in a room filled with people they don’t know. Sharing personal failings, illness, and trauma isn’t something that most people want to do, even if doing so could lead to wellness.
Three Easy Steps to Attending an Anxiety Support Group
There is no one size fits all solution to attending a support group. Everyone is different and every town is different. Where I live, there are hundreds of options monthly. I have friends who live in smaller towns that have no options without driving a good distance. That said, here are my three easy steps to attending an anxiety support group for the first time.
- Make contact ahead of time. It can be intimidating going to a place where you don’t know anyone. Call, email, or connect via social media before your first meeting. Most groups have leaders who would be glad to meet you there and show you the ropes. This will help you become more familiar with the way the group works, which will make you more comfortable.
- Use the buddy system. Ask a friend or family member to attend with you. This way, you will know at least one person in the room. Even if they don’t need the group, they can provide needed moral support. (Note: If your “buddy” doesn't need the services of the group, ask to make sure it is okay. Some groups are closed to people who don’t meet the requirements.)
- You aren't required to share on your first visit – or ever. In most groups, the most you will need to say at your first meeting is hello and your first name. And even that is negotiable. Just go and observe. There is no obligation to tell your life story at the first meeting. Many people go to support groups only to listen. There is value in being in a room with other people who have had similar experiences. Share when you are ready.
It is important to keep an open mind, follow the group’s guidelines, and not be judgmental – and that includes not judging yourself. Doing anything for the first time can be intimidating, but it is worth it. Just remember to take one step at a time. It is a process, and you don’t need to rush it. As the turtle in that infamous story taught us, slow and steady wins the race.
Howard, G. (2014, November 26). Too Much Anxiety to Join an Anxiety Support Group, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/11/too-much-anxiety-to-join-a-support-group