Anxiety Online Support is an article on people who are looking for help online. The proliferation of the internet makes information easily available. Yet, the question remains, ‘Is it REALLY helping’?
From a professional standpoint, we do encourage support groups. Additionally, as part of an ongoing treatment, we’d even recommend going to a support group. That’s because we know that the particular support group is being supervised by an actual professional.
For the last decade, we have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of online forums, websites, Quora spaces, Subreddits, and Facebook groups that provide online support for anxiety and depression. I don’t necessarily discourage it. My only concern here is whether people are getting credible information and if the discussions are being guided by professionals.
I would not venture into the definition and types of Anxiety Disorders. There are hundreds of articles on those topics. Even we have articles on this site.
My idea for this article will remain focused on the psychoanalytical approach to Anxiety Disorder and Depression. That is I’ll demonstrate how professionals look at these conditions so that people who seek online support for anxiety would know whether the information they come across over the internet is actually helping them.
The Professional Approach to Clinical Psychiatry
No two people are alike. Whether you are looking for Anxiety support online or support for Depression, remember that your condition is unique. That’s why the first thing a professional likes to do is a complete background check.
Jungian theory suggests the existence of collective consciousness (or unconsciousness) being responsible for our individual consciousness or pattern of behavior (personality). That is we absorb a lot from the people and environment around us. In short, the environment we grow up in has a lot to do with how we behave.
Yet, we also demonstrate signs of disassociative traits, which may be called our ‘ego’. Two children growing up in the same environment and under the same circumstances won’t have identical personalities. They may be similar.
The reason is that there are some elements of the collective consciousness that one child accepts and there are some he/she doesn’t (disassociates). Furthermore, the collective consciousness also has multiple dimensions.
For example, a child that grows up in a loving, compassionate, and supportive environment will, most likely, turn into a moral (so to speak) adult. However, if the neighboring family has abusive parents, he/she may pick up a few characteristics from that family and disassociate some of the traits from his/her own family.
The opposite is also possible. A child in that abusive family does not necessarily grow up to be abusive. He/she may associate him/herself with some of the traits from the neighboring family and disassociates with some traits from his/her own.
There is no right or wrong here, but the professional who treats a patient must be aware of the upbringing of the patient.
Additionally, for Anxiety Disorder, there’s this thing called a ‘Trigger’. A professional has to find out what triggers the disorder and should be aware of that. People who suffer from Depression may not necessarily have a ‘Trigger’, but must have a lot of disassociative components in their current environment.
Therefore, in a group setting, professional supervision is a must. It is always nice to have a group of people who suffer from the same condition and share their thoughts and feelings. It does give them a sense of belonging and empathy that greatly helps others.
However, it is important to keep in mind that a support group is also another collective consciousness. The individuals can pick up or reject elements. A professional presence is, therefore, vital in the guiding of the conversations.
What Online Support Groups Do
So far, I have observed that only a few online forums, subreddits, Quora spaces, and Facebook groups were created or are administered by professionals. These online support groups were created by patients themselves. I’m sure the intention was good, but it is very alarming.
Not only that, in some of those online groups, professionals are not allowed to help, comment, or make any suggestions. If they do, the administrators ban or dismember them.
As I indicated before, it’s okay to share your experiences in a group setting. However, how sure are you that you are not triggering someone else? What if the level of disassociative components in the discussion is very high? You may easily be driven into deeper depressive status.
How to Form an Online Support Group
Whether it is anxiety support online or depression support online, do not just create a forum because you suffer from a condition and you want others to share their experience. Here are a few things you can do:
- Invite at least one professional to administer and guide the group discussions.
- Make sure the members transfer (Email privately) all their previous records to the professional.
- Should the professional ask to individuality interview the members, allow him/her to do so.
- Make sure that the invited professional is not just another member but has admin access so that he/she can modify or erase (if necessary) certain conversation strings and comments.
- Allow the professional to set up the initial parameters for joining the group. Facebook groups have an option that the group admin can create a set of questions. The answers determine whether a person is fit to join. A professional should set up the questions.
- Most important of all, all group members must submit an emergency contact number to the professional.
- Do not join a group that does not meet these conditions.
The internet is a powerful tool. Yet, the tool has no willpower of its own. It’s the users that determine whether to use it properly. A significant number of suicides can be attributed to online forums and support groups.
Online support for Anxiety and Depression is a huge trend. You may feel compelled by it since you do not have to set up and go through a one-on-one therapy session with a psychiatrist.
For some, they find it a matter of shame to acknowledge that they have a problem. They keep it hidden from their families and join a group using fake names to avoid identification.
While you may think that it is safer, you never know what may trigger you to lose yourself and worsen the condition you are in.