Seeking Support: Finding Anxiety Support Groups Online
Updated April 08, 2020
Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault
The signs and symptoms of anxiety get a lot of focus. The feelings brought about by anxiety can be overwhelming, and frequently land people in urgent care offices and emergency rooms, eager to understand what is happening to their bodies, and to hopefully ease some of the distress they are feeling. What may be less frequently acknowledged and countered, however, is the isolation that often accompanies anxiety, and the difficulty present in overcoming a condition that works hard to keep people down.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety can be many things, but it is most commonly used to describe either an anxiety disorder or a state of anxiousness. Although one is more intense than the other, both can be troubling, and both can require the intervention of a therapist or other form of mental health professional.
As a disorder, anxiety is defined by the presence of anxious or nervous feelings without a single catalyst or source. Anxiety disorders can be extremely disruptive to one's life, as they can cause debilitating fear, confusion, exhaustion, breathing and heart problems, muscle tension, and nausea. Anxiety disorders are increasingly common mental health ailments and can present in people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
Anxiety itself is a state in which someone feels nervous, afraid, agitated, or uncertain. Anxiety can arise in response to an important meeting with a boss, an impending conversation with a partner, or an uncomfortable situation with a loved one. Typically, a state of anxiety is brought about by the anticipation of something happening-usually, something going awry, or ending unpleasantly.
The Role Of Support In Anxiety Treatment
Few phrases are as life-giving and soothing, as "Me, too!" when you have divulged something you are embarrassed by or ashamed of. There is a lot of freedom in finding someone with whom you share similarities, especially when those similarities are immersed in stigma, misunderstanding, and indifference. Support amid anxiety treatment can be a powerful determiner in whether or not therapy is effective, and can also play a role in how long treatment must be actively engaged to see lasting results.
Mental health experts have long acknowledged the importance of having a solid, reliable support system in all areas of your life. Whether that support system is comprised of a spouse, a series of loved ones, or the closest friends you have, support can make all the difference in achieving healthy goals, and succumbing to setbacks.
Treatment Without Support
This isn't to say anxiety treatment is wholly ineffective or useless without a support system. Anxiety treatment can succeed even in the absence of any form of familial or friendly support, provided that the client in question adheres to the treatment protocol set before him or her. Treatment can go more smoothly; however, when there are people alongside you who can commiserate with what you are experiencing, who can offer support and encouragement when a therapist or therapy appointment is not available.
If you are stepping into anxiety treatment without some form of support, you can create your support systems through online friendships, or even through reading or listening to music. Books, poetry, and music are all rife with instances of people expressing pain, regret, and apprehension, and there is certainly no shortage of these themes within any sort of media. If human contact is not available for sources of anxiety support, try to support yourself with others who have been in the boat you are in now and have found their way forward, even if that means simply reading accounts in health journals, novels, or listening to them play out in a musical score.
Finding Anxiety Support Groups
Even in the absence of strong familial support or support from friends or loved ones, you can find anxiety support groups in several ways. Whether you go through your therapist, a local therapy clinic, a local mental health recovery chapter, or an online source, there are many ways to reach out to and connect with people who are experiencing similar mental health issues, in order to ground yourself in reality, uplift yourself in times of upset, and give yourself hope for the future.
When searching for in-person support groups, one of the easiest places to turn is your therapist. Some therapists will offer this information as a form of treatment, while others might simply know of a local anxiety support group you can attend. Some therapists will not know of anything in the immediate area but may be able to direct you to someone who does. Your therapist is not merely a valuable asset during your sessions; therapists often have numerous resources available to you to implement existing treatment protocols further.
Local therapy clinics or mental health recovery chapters might also provide support meetings. Some therapy clinics might advertise these freely online or might only offer access to support meetings to people who are actively engaged in some form of treatment within the clinic. Regardless, it never hurts to send a quick email or make a quick phone call to determine if there are any support groups in your area open to new members.
Online support groups can be enormously helpful for people with anxiety because many people with anxiety struggle to get out and about, or have difficulty engaging in large social situations. For these individuals, online anxiety support groups are invaluable and can be an important aspect of healing and moving forward in treatment.
Engaging Anxiety Support Groups Online
Online therapy and online support groups have a distinct advantage over other forms of therapy and support, in that they allow people to engage in healing, helpful conversations, without requiring them to leave the comfort and safety of their own homes. This is particularly true of people who have Social Anxiety Disorder or PTSD; avoidance is extremely common in both of these disorders, and finding the will or the drive to get up and get into a building to meet with a therapist or support group can feel impossible a large portion of the time. Online support provides people with a sense of security and safety that many in-person programs cannot.
Online support groups and therapy can also be helpful for people who have frequently-changing schedules or unpredictable days. Many therapy offices operate strictly within standard business hours, which can make meetings difficult, and many in-person support groups meet on weekends or evenings, both of which are common work schedules for people from all walks of life. Engaging both of these forms of assistance online can allow people to be far more proactive and invested in their treatment than the constraints involved in physical meetings.
Finding online support systems can be as simple as entering a search for "online anxiety support groups," or can mean chasing threads on existing anxiety support threads. You might also consider creating your own anxiety support group, by engaging with discussion boards found on sites such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or other psychological health sites, and creating your online community around anxiety and anxiety symptoms.
Online support might mean "meeting" at a single, weekly time, or could mean creating a network of friends that you can text or email at any time, with the promise of response in 24 hours or less. The type of support needed will depend largely on your anxiety levels, where you are in treatment, and how self-aware you are regarding symptoms, flare-ups, and periods of stress.
Anxiety Treatment And Support Groups
Many therapists will encourage their patients to seek out support groups early on in their treatment plan, while others might not mention the possibility at all. This is likely due to a simple personality difference and, in some cases, a lack of awareness of the many resources now available to people with mood disorders and other forms of anxiety. Even if your therapist does not expressly encourage you to visit an anxiety support group, enlisting the support of like-minded people who are either struggling with anxiety or who have overcome anxiety in the past can give you a sense of hope and accomplishment even amid fear and uncertainty.
Although anxiety support groups should never take the place of therapy, they can be invaluable when engaging in a treatment plan with a licensed mental health professional; engaging with others who have been in your shoes can make you feel less alone, and can remove the isolation that so often accompanies any type of mental illness or disorder-isolation that can increase symptoms and worsen outcomes.
Creating strong, solid support systems can function beautifully as a supplement to your existing anxiety protocol, or can be a good place to start on your treatment journey, as a group of people who have been where you are now can offer you support and encouragement, and can even point you in the direction of a reliable source of treatment. When you are struggling with anxiety, your support group can help keep your feet on solid ground, and when you feel as though you are untouchable, and therapy maybe isn't so important, after all, your support group can remind you of where you used to be, and encourage you to hold steady on your journey. Though it can initially be daunting, aligning yourself with an anxiety support group, whether online or in person, can greatly enhance your healing journey, and help you move forward.