How A Mental Health Condition Changes A Family
When a family is in the midst of a challenge that heightens tensions and emotions, it can be helpful for them to remember the saying, “There’s no such thing as a ‘normal’ family.” Every family has its own unique dynamics, and for that reason, a one-size-fits-all solution is rarely the most effective approach.
Feinberg Consulting is a company that was created to help families through their most challenging moments: chiefly catastrophic injuries related to serious car accidents, elder care, and recovery from substance use disorders (i.e. opioid addiction, alcoholism, etc.).
These challenges are often complicated to solve, but the objectives are simple. People understand intrinsically that safety is incredibly important in elder care. Most people are also aware that that consistent, long-term support is critical in recovery from substance abuse.
When it comes to helping a family member with a mental health condition, however, most people are less clear about how to help. That’s why even a mild mental health condition in one family member has the ability to create long-term consequences.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in three children will experience an anxiety disorder between the ages of 13-18. Think of a family whose adolescent child is struggling with anxiety. In these situations, it’s common and understandable for a parent to overcompensate in an attempt to make things as easy as they can for this child.
For this example, let’s say it’s the mother who is making special compensations for her youngest daughter that’s struggling with anxiety. She allows her to stay home from school when she’s overly anxious, and she regularly limits house guests as a way to minimize social anxiety triggers. This includes the friends of her older siblings, who become frustrated with their mom because of the special attention and consideration she’s always giving to her youngest daughter.
This problematic cycle is exacerbated when her youngest daughter learns to depend on special attention from her mom as a way to soothe her anxiety. Her father sees that his wife’s accommodations are not helping, and he and his wife start getting in fights about how she’s “coddling” their youngest daughter.
Mom has good intentions. Dad has good intentions. The older siblings are understandably frustrated. And the youngest daughter is only getting worse. This is how a mild mental health condition can create a toxic environment within a family, even one that has good intentions.
What’s important for families to remember is that the negative impact of these situations is magnified when the proper treatment is delayed. As we described in our article, The Link Between Mental Health and Addiction, underneath every case of addiction we generally find a mental health condition that has driven a substance use disorder. That’s yet another reason why it’s critical to get a family member the help he or she needs as soon it becomes clear that there is a problem. With early intervention and an effective treatment plan, we can stem the progression of a mental health condition or substance abuse before it becomes a crisis situation.
Again, every family and every situation is different. Sometimes medication is needed. In many cases, therapy, counseling, or coaching are enough to offer the skills, insights, and strategies necessary to help a struggling family member overcome their mental health condition.
It’s our goal to fully understand the situation so we can recommend the most effective solution. We want to help family members support each other in the correct ways in the face of a mental health condition that has the potential to divide them.
This article was written with Kristen Byrne (MA, MCAP), Vice President of Feinberg Consulting Addiction & Mental Health Services. Do you have a question for the Addiction & Mental Health team? If so, don’t hesitate to call us at 877.538.5425 or email Kristen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.