Friends & Family - Are They Helping? Or Not?

ColludingFriends and Family : Helpful or Unhelpful Influence on Your Mental Health?

One of the most significant elements of recovering from depression or poor mental health is the impact that friends and family have on this stage of someone’s life.

Specifically, family members can (without knowing) often be part of the problem, especially when it comes to maintaining negative belief systems that underpin many cases of depression, anxiety and phobia. This can take place over years, decades even, and it’s not even noticeable until someone makes a change in their life and gains a different perspective.

Parents and Friends Often Unwittingly Collude with Unhelpful Beliefs and Behaviours
Often, parents or siblings will collude in these belief systems by offering sympathy, agreement and comfort that the someone is correct in their belief, rather than gently challenging a belief that is clearly wrong or harmful. They’re only doing it because they love the person in question but often this forms the backbone for someone’s negative outlook, or a seed that grows into unhelpful thought patterns, leading to anxiety and depression.

Emetophobia for example – which is a chronic fear of sickness and vomit... is often made worse by such collusion from friends and family. Parents, in particular, can often exacerbate someone’s negative beliefs towards encountering vomit, catastrophizing a childhood incident such as being sick or feeling unwell to the point where their offspring develop unhelpful coping mechanisms and eventually a strong phobia around the subject...

Friends and Family: Choose Who You Listen to Wisely!
...Obviously, if you are in the process of recovering from mental illness, it’s great to have friends and family that have a positive influence on your life, helping you to continually thrive and better yourself. Here’s how to spot the helpful ones.

Three Signs That Your Friend or Family Member Is an Unhelpful Or Helpful Influence

  1. They should be prepared to tell you something you might not like to hear, but you might need to for your own wellbeing. Example: if you were on medication that means you shouldn’t drink alcohol but you were about to order a beer, they’d pull you up on it, with it clearly being in your best interest not to drink. If they’re unhelpful, they’d buy you the beer…
  2. If you were in trouble and had to call a friend, you would call them because they’re great at picking up or returning calls, knowing you have mental health issues. But we’ve all had friends who are the opposite of this: consistently poor at returning communications with an excuse of being “busy” or their phone not working properly... Reaching out requires a small but meaningful emotional investment, and if that investment isn’t returned, look elsewhere for friendship and support.
  3. When you see them, are they happy and positive about seeing you – and you both feel uplifted following a social meeting or event? We’ve all known that naysayer friend; the one will remind you off your past failures and disasters, rather than build you up for future triumphs. The naysayer friend is not helpful. You should feel uplifted and happy after a social event – thriving and not brooding over past problems.

At Transformational Therapy we acknowledge that positive personal growth can require a shift in the way you deal with the people around you - sometimes even changing their place in your life. These types of adjustments can impact on close family relationships as well as friendships, hobbies and lifestyle decisions too.  The important thing to remember is that  your first responsibility is to yourself and your own health and wellbeing. Whether you have a significant phobia, are suffering with anxiety or have made a commitment to lose weight and get fitter and healthy again, take note of the impact of those around you, and choose wisely.

Partial extract from a blog post on the Thrive with Karen website.



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