If you talk with the loved one of an addict, you know that the addiction tends to dominate the family dynamic. The same can be true for those suffering from anxiety. Their anxiety can be driving the dysfunction in your family and you don’t even know it. Here in New York City we live in tight spaces and family members are around often. Our living environments can be cramped with few ways to escape the chaos.
Does it ever seem to you like one member of your family is on edge most of the time? The presentation of anxiety can vary greatly but it becomes clear when you sense tension and fear from that family member. Maybe they want the chores done a certain way in order to feel in control. Maybe it is a child who constantly panics about homework and the entire family must be quiet and/or available to help.
In these situations, family members often feel that they are walking on eggshells as they try to be very careful of what they say or do so that they do not trigger the anxious person. They want calm but wind up creating strain. They give space, but that space, when too big can become unhealthy and create an unwanted sense of distance.
It is important that you do not try to fight the anxiety that seems to be controlling your home. Sure, you can have quiet hours, and follow certain cleaning procedures. However, you also need to live a normal life and not feel under scrutiny. If your family member has a significant problem, they are not going to react well to conflict and will not snap out of it.
It is important that you validate the feelings of the anxious person but not sacrifice the household. “I’m sorry you feel that way, let’s talk,” can diffuse the situation and show that you care. They need to understand you are on their side but that they can not run everyone’s lives. If your child is anxious then maybe they need to go to a local library to do homework or start an exercise program to relieve stress. There are many options we can explore.
All families experience stress, especially when there are many people, activities and noise. If you have the feeling that the stress is overwhelming, take a good look at the issues. Maybe one family member is having some difficulty managing stress and their anxiety is starting to take over your home. A therapist can work with you and your loved one to ensure that the stress is appropriately managed.