How to support family members with GAD


I recently visited my family over the holidays. My father has been diagnosed with GAD and had been struggling with it for a while. He's been on some SSRI medication for the past two months which doesn't seem to be working and is swithing to an SRI so I hope that works. My question is about how we as bystanders should support those with GAD. My mom is a very strong and stubborn woman who approaches all challenges head on with determination and structure and she has a really hard time sympathizing with my dad. She feels like he is not making an effort to change because all he does when he's home is lay on the couch and read books despite the numerous exercises his therapist gave him. She feels frustrated and impatient and my dad feels scorned and depressed by her behavior. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to encourage someone with GAD to take action (beyond just medication) or thoughts on how my mom might manage her own wellbeing as well as my fathers? I have tried to get him to go on walks with me or even to play cards but he just tells me he's tired and wants to rest. Any suggestions are appreciated I am worried for the mental health of both my parents and at this point I will try anything.

5 Replies

  • It's possible your dad is very tired right now and truly has low energy. Depression that's not well treated does that. If that's true for your dad, then patience with his tiredness is called for. Also help by offering to go with him to his doctor appointments to bring this up might be helpful in getting his drugs fine tuned to help him get more energy may be appreciated. Once he has more normal energy levels he will become able to play cards, take walks and do exercises like normal people do.

    Criticism and disapproval now while he has no energy makes him feel worse about something he has little control over and just makes the problem worse. If your mom knows this maybe she can let up on the pressure for your dad to do things. Depression saps your energy and sucks out the enjoyment from just about everything. Even life's simple pleasures aren't pleasures at all. They're just drains on already low energy stores.

    In an effort to feel good about anything, a depressed person will agree to do/see/go just about anywhere and do anything that sounds like fun or pleasure but that takes very little effort on their part. So don't be surprised when the person has no energy to do a chore but agrees to go do something like see a movie, read a book or other pleasurable thing. They are trying to bring joy into their miserable existence.

  • Thanks for getting back to me. I was a neuro major in college and recently started med school so I have a basic biological understanding of anxiety and depression but little first hand knowledge.

    Do you have any suggestions on what we could do encourage him to do the excercises his therapist is suggesting? The women pretty much run our household so my dad has never really done chores to begin (he works a full time job) but when we have family dinners he just zones out and we have to repeat things 3-4 times before he understands what we are talking about. I know this condition is much more challenging to handle then those who don't have experience with can understand. But is there anything I could tell him that might make him feel better or a way I could structure his free time to encourage him to do some of his excercises? Right now all we are trying to do is get him to keep a journal and write in it for 15mim each day but it's like pulling teeth. Would setting an alarm help? If this exercise is to taxing are there other things you guys have tried that worked better?

    Also my mom is not a patient person at all and I don't think she's going to start now. She is really struggling to keep her temper when my dad talks to her about his worries. Is there some support for her? She really isn't keen on psychiatrist or psychologists so I was looking for an online support group for family members of individuals with anxiety; does something like that even exist? Does anyone have suggestions for exactly how involved a spous should be in their respective partners illness? If my mom gets any more involved than she is now she's going to need a straight jacket in the near future.

  • She can post a question about needing support right here and she should get a few responses that may be helpful. She could do that from time to time and that may be helpful. I see a problem with you as family members trying to set up things for your father to do instead of him setting up things for himself to do. Why are you pushing him to do these things besides you thinking these are good for him? Maybe he's not ready for them. Maybe they're good for him once he's further down the road of treatment.

    Possibly your mom needs to go to counseling herself to better understand what your dad is going through and to better understand him. Then she could learn how best to approach him and to tolerate him. It seems to be a critical skill in your household. I can't think of any group that does this for families. Just private practises. She would have to get past any hesitation she has in trusting a psychologist.

  • I agree with what sue has said to you,when I feel like your dad I take to bed and don't move I feel so down,then I can get few days of feeling bit better,I'm on antidepressants for life as maintenance dose,at least your dad is reading books that's a good sign he has not shut off from everything, meds take time to work and he must see his doctor regular to help him and get the right meds for him,just be there for him and go at his pace and once he starts to feel better even a small walk with you ,at least you are they're for him and he will appreciate that,hope he gets well soon .xxxx

  • Hi just a I have just read another post you had written and sues reply.she is so right as I know having anxiety and depression when you are forced it can make you withdraw further and that's not what you want for your dad,chemicals in the brain can go out of balance and the medication helps to put balance back and that can take a while,but don't force him as I would hate that.encourage him if you can but iffy hes feeling down until meds work he might not be ready.therapist has helped me in the past and iam with one now,I hope your dad feels better soon and with a caring daughter like you I'm sure he will xxxxx

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