In Part 1 we talked about validating our loved one’s feelings.
In Part 2 we talked about supporting without giving reassurance.
Go check them out if you haven't. All 3 parts are crucial for helping your loved one with anxiety.
Accommodation is my specialty. I don’t say that proudly. I am a master at it and I believe it has greatly perpetuated the anxiety and OCD that exist in my family. I hate seeing people uncomfortable. I find joy in helping people. But I have discovered that I was in an unhealthy cycle with my loved ones.
They were uncomfortable (having an anxiety moment). I was uncomfortable not being able to “fix it.” So, I would just do whatever I could to “make it go away.”
For example, when my daughter was old enough to order her own food at restaurants but was terrified to do so, I would order for her. By doing so I was telling her that she wasn’t capable and that it really must be a terrifying thing that she needs help with. When my son said he couldn’t fall asleep at night unless I made his bed a certain way and tucked him in just so, I would accommodate his wishes and confirm to his “just right OCD” that indeed not having everything “just right” was a huge threat. I could go on and on and on and on. I told you, I’m a master at it.
I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed as I try desperately to break this cycle. I’ve had to walk away and hide my tears from my family as I encourage them to fight their battles and refuse to continue to accommodate them.
It’s brutal. But all accommodation does is tell your loved one’s brain that whatever they are afraid of is truly a threat.
If you allow your loved one to excessively wash their hands, you are accommodating.
If you run back inside to make sure the oven is turned off when you know very well it is, but your loved one just can’t seem to have peace about it, you are accommodating.
If you allow your loved one to skip out on an important social event because they are afraid you are accommodating. (That last one is a little more tricky to navigate…it’s not black and white, but I hope you get the picture.)
It’s possible to break the cycle. Use those mantras if encouragement I posted above. And believe them! Believe in your loved one and their strength and capacity to overcome their anxiety. It is possible. It is HARD work, but it is 100% possible.