Loving Someone with a Mental Illness – Part 2

Heart in HandsDoes someone you love struggle with a mental illness? Chances are that you struggle too. Follow our four-part blog to help you learn whether your words and actions are helping or hurting your situation.

Enabling versus Challenging

If your child is afraid of something, and you studiously protect that child from confronting the feared thing, you may be delaying any progress on the phobia. If your alcoholic wife begs you to go out and pick up a new bottle of vodka, because she really needs it, you are allowing her to avoid confronting her day without alcohol. If you try to set up everything to make the depressed person’s life easier, then the depressed person does not get the opportunity to feel the satisfaction of pushing through the fog of depression to reach something better. If your child with Asperger’s  has a tantrum about doing an activity that will inevitably be good for him/ her, and you back down, that is a lost opportunity too.

Note: Your child’s therapist or doctor may have suggested ways to make things better for your child. This is not enabling. It is following treatment advice.

The tricky part about giving into your loved one is that you will not always know the difference between enabling and just being helpful. It is important to remember though, that when we give in we are enabling our loved ones to stay unhealthy. We are contributing to their feeling of being controlled by things outside of themselves. It is usually good practice to let each individual be responsible for improving one’s life. Perhaps your loved one is capable of doing more, and does not challenge themselves as much as they could.

This is part two of a four-part blog series. If you missed our previous posting, please visit http://ingoodhealthfdl.agnesian.com/category/know-go/behavioral-health/.

About Beth Rogers-Doll PhD

Beth graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, is Board-Certified in Psychology and works at Doll & Associates. She works with adolescents, adults, families and couples utilizing a cognitive-behavioral and family systems approach. Areas of expertise include anxiety disorders (Panic, OCD, PTSD, and other trauma-related problems), depression, self-injury, eating disorders, trichotillomania (hair pulling) and marital distress. Also trained in executive coaching and career development, she helps professionals achieve their full potential.

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