It is not easy to watch someone we care about struggle. Whether it is a physical illness, an addiction, or even a seemingly invincible affliction, when we know our loved ones are in pain, most would do anything they can to stop it. Sadly, pure intentions may not be enough to calm the monster that many clinically anxious people deal with on a daily basis. What starts as a favor can snowball into debilitating rituals that many won’t even realize they have played a part in creating. Banyan Mental Health explains why making accommodations for anxiety isn’t always a good idea.
Accommodation, also known as enabling, is when an anxious person means to perform a specific action but, instead, they ask someone else (such as a partner, friend, co-worker, or family member) to do it in order to reduce the negative feelings that they are experiencing. This can happen in a variety of relationship dynamics. In some cases, parents may accommodate the fears of their children in order to maintain their routine, while a spouse could participate in their partner's obsessive rituals in order to keep the peace.
An example of accommodations for anxiety could appear like a concerned spouse looking to appease their partner's worries. For instance, on the way to a movie, a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be hit with the overwhelming need to confirm that they locked their door on the way out. Luckily, they weren’t too far from the house, and their spouse agreed to turn around and confirm that they did, in fact, lock it.
As simple as this task was, it is likely that the need for accommodation will only grow over time. These compulsions develop, learn, and look for loopholes in their opponent: reason. Involving another person in checking rituals and appeasing troubling thoughts only perpetuates the cycle for everyone involved and can put a strain on the relationship as a whole.
Enabling mental illness isn't’ helpful because, although it may seem ideal to submit to the troubling symptoms of anxiety and other mental disorders, doing so only further perpetuates the damaging cycles that the sufferer is caught in. You may think you are throwing a life raft out to them, but the reality is that you may be pushing them deeper into the whirlpool of emotions that repeatedly causes them to get stuck.
Imagine if any time you had to put out a fire, you were handed what you thought was a bottle of water, but it actually had a small amount of gasoline in it. Spraying this liquid over the fire may have briefly calmed the intensity of the flames but ultimately did little to solve the problem itself. For instance, we don’t know how the fire started, how much damage there actually is, why it keeps coming back, and so on. In other words, it is a temporary solution.
In the case of childhood mental illness, enabling anxiety can ultimately result in an inability to practice self-efficacy and personal agency and can worsen symptoms in the long run. Accommodation of children never gives these kids the opportunity to fail and persist. Stress is a part of life that we all need to learn how to manage, but if a child is constantly accommodated, they are never even given a chance to.
First and foremost, it is crucial to validate what a person may be going through. Being conscious of their struggles while remaining objective about any kind of irrationality can serve as a good method for keeping yourself and your loved one from simultaneously getting caught in the current of anxiety. For those in need of professional intervention, Banyan offers mental illness treatment in Boca for a variety of illnesses. From anxiety to depression and even co-occurring disorders, our team of professionals will work to guide you toward success over your struggles.
For those in need of more intensive care, our residential mental health program can give you a comprehensive experience that helps teach you healthy coping mechanisms for long-term recovery. No matter the case, we hope to be given a chance to give you the attention and consideration you deserve.