Any suggestions of how to deal when the disorders of others set off my own?

Often, my own anxiety is set off by issues my friends are dealing with. For example, I just found out a friend is dealing with a great deal of depression, and while I want to be there for him, his situation is causing me to have a lot of anxiety to the point where I’m not sure I’d be any help at all. Any suggestions of how to deal when the disorders of others set off my own? I don’t want to do what I usually do, which is just avoid the situation (bad tactic, I know) Help?


Misery sure does love company doesn’t it? And an anxious mind loves to party with other people’s problems, especially for those of us who are fixers. Fixers want to help need to help! It’s hard coded into our system. If someone’s in trouble we put on our Bob the Builder belts and step in to save the day. Unfortunately, the day cannot always be saved. (Unless you’re from the planet Krypton and you wear ridiculously tight leggings and a cape)

The problem with not being able to save the day is, it’s stressful. All the disappointment of not being able to help and the feelings of being a failure to that friend who needs you creeps up until it’s in full blown party mode. Anxiety throws a killer party too! It gets us so excited that we can barely breath.

I think the thing we need need to focus on in these situations is that it’s NOT our responsibility to save the day. It is NOT our job to fix them. Our responsibility is in making sure we are there for them when they need us. It’s our job to comfort them and listen to them. It’s hard to remember that the only person who can help someone with a mental disorder is that person. We can make all the suggestions we think will make their problems magically disappear, but I’m not sure if you noticed or not, there is no such thing as magic. (I know this to be true because I’ve waited 7 years for my Hogwarts acceptance letter and I’ve never once spotted an owl!)

It’s hard to watch people be in pain knowing they could do something about it, but refuse to do it. It’s stressful caring about that person and not being able to make them understand that things could be better if they just listened to your advice. I think the only way to not let it set off an episode of our own is to accept that we can’t save them. We can tell them what we think and hope the listen, but we need to accept that they probably won’t. I don’t suggest avoiding them, but I do suggest trying to be there for them, even though it is difficult. And when it gets to be too much, take a step back and gather yourself.

I’m not sure if this was helpful at all. It’s hard to stop our triggers from being triggers, and to be honest I’m not even sure it’s possible. I hope both you and your friend are able to work through this and I hope they are able to seek the help they need.

2 thoughts on “Any suggestions of how to deal when the disorders of others set off my own?

  1. Thanks so much for the great answer!
    I’ve been in that same position many times, and as I tend to want “fix” things, I’m learning that I can’t always fix things. I’m also learning that if I’m not ok, I’m not much help to anyone sometimes.

  2. I have a friend who tends to get as hypomanic as me. There are times that I know talking with her will set me off. I used to think that I was either avoiding her or being a bad friend by not talking with her when I knew she was in one of those moods. Now I know I am just protecting my own sanity. When she is calm, we have a great time together. But when she is manic, I get too worked up myself to handle being around her.

    Great answer!

Thoughts? Questions? Leave your feedback here!