In the United States, anxiety disorders affect over 40 million people and are the most commonly seen mental illness. Luckily, anxiety support groups can help those who are suffering; here’s what to know about them.
You may be against support groups. You don’t really see yourself telling your whole life story to a group of strangers. Plus, you have anxiety and going to a support group makes you feel more anxious. Everyone attending an anxiety support group right now has likely had similar thoughts to those. So, you are not alone.
Doubts about anxiety support groups are often due to a misunderstanding of the support group basics. The more you know, the more confident you will feel, opening your mind to new opportunities that can help you cope with anxiety.
What Are Support Groups?
Support groups are also known as group therapy. The American Psychological Association claims group therapy works just as well as individual therapy. This may be because group members share the purpose and provide social support and an expanded base of helping connections.
Support groups typically consist of five to 10 people, sometimes a fifteen. Any more than this may become unmanageable or lack the ability to help everyone involved. They are led by a trained mental health professional. The therapist, or group leader, will have a variety of tools and techniques to help everyone change the way they think, feel and act.
So, if your problem is anxiety, the therapist will help you learn how to replace the negative thinking that creates anxiety with positive thoughts. These new positive thoughts will lead to better feelings and better actions, opposite of what you may be experiencing now.
Support groups are private, confidential meetings that allow you to give and receive feedback for improvement, and to show empathy for other group members. Gaining support from peers is a huge benefit. You realize you are not the only one who suffers from anxiety. Research shows there is a science behind peer support. It leads to:
- Higher self-esteem
- Reduced negative symptoms
- Improved quality of life
These are great results for someone overcoming anxiety.
Why Try Anxiety Support Groups?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports anxiety is the number one mental illness in America. They claim 40 million people suffer from anxiety and that is just the age groups of 18 and older.
And even though anxiety is 100% treatable, only about one-third of those suffering will seek help. Those who do go on to live fully functioning, happy and healthy lifestyles. Proper anxiety treatment regimens will include treatment combinations such as individual counseling and for some, medication. But one of the most popular forms of treatment are anxiety support groups because of the following:
- Support groups are cost effective
- Support groups provide you with the latest information on anxiety
- You can learn tips and tricks from peers on how to cope with anxiety
- It helps you realize you are not the only one with anxiety
- It allows you to help others, which is a great mental health boost
- You build a support system of people you can contact outside of the group when you need help easing anxiety
Not All Support Groups Are Designed the Same
Back in the day, to get support group benefits you had to personally attend a group each week for about two hours. The groups took place in a community site, like the local mental health agency, a church or library. While this is still the best option for support, it is not the only one. Below is information on options for anxiety support groups.
Social media is not all bragging about new cars or photoshopped pictures or gossip. Online outlets can also be great places for anxiety support groups. There are already established Facebook groups for those who suffer from anxiety.
If you find it difficult to connect with the members of the groups already in existence, you can start your own group. Forums and chatrooms are like social media groups and can help you connect with thousands of people around the world who suffer from anxiety.
Some innovative therapists have created online support groups where you can attend a group live, online. Agencies like www.supportgroups.com allows you to sign up for multiple groups. The groups are free to attend. You simply register and book the group you wish to join.
Groups by Disorder
If you prefer support groups with more specific themes, you can likely find one. Groups can be divided by disorder. For example, if you have panic attacks, you can choose to attend a support group that focuses on helping others who suffer from panic attacks.
If you have signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, attending a group geared to help those with OCD and anxiety can help.
How to Get Started
Finding a support group is easier than you may think. Your first step should be to contact a local treatment facility. They usually have group therapy sessions but may not have any specific to anxiety. That’s okay. Keep asking.
Many treatment agencies will establish a group based on your recommendation. Or, they will be able to point you in the right direction. You can also check with larger companies who have created online resources.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Psychology Today are a few resources.
Choose the Right Group
Choosing the right anxiety support group by making sure the group meets your needs. The group’s focus should be on anxiety. The group should not be a place for gossiping, chatting or wasting time on meaningless activities.
You should leave each group with education and a clear understanding of what you need to do to cope with anxiety. Confidentiality, respect, and support are priority. Furthermore, while the group deals with personal matters, it should function professionally.
Finally, you should be able to recognize progress in your journey to overcoming anxiety. You should notice reduced symptoms, a higher level of hope, and a rise in your self-esteem and confidence. With the right anxiety support groups and treatment, you can regain control and start living your best life.
Paradigm Austin is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.