• Other Friendship Advice

Teen with anxiety issues feels frustrated by her best friend

November 25, 2015 | By | Reply Continue Reading
Anxiety issues can challenge friendships, even close ones.

QUESTION

Hello,

I need advice on how to explain to my best friend that it feels like when I need her the most she couldn’t care less.

In the last year and a half I have been dealing with anxiety issues that make it difficult for me to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. I am a 16-year-old girl and she thinks that means that I can and want to be out of the house every chance I get.

She doesn’t get that I can’t just up and go cause she feels like it. And ever sense she started dating my brother, she’s been pulling away more and more. I could really use some advice on how to get her to understand my side of things.

Sincerely,
A lost girl

ANSWER

Hi Lost Girl,

Being a teenager is difficult enough without dealing with anxiety or other mental health issues.  Even adults often have difficulty understanding mental illness if they don’t have personal experience.

I would start with the assumption that she doesn’t understand your condition. At a time when you’re not dealing with the impact of your illness on your relationship, talk with your best friend about the ways anxiety affects you in a way that explains without sounding like you’re making excuses. For example, you might say:

“One of the ways my anxiety gets in the way of my life is that after a few hours of socializing, I need time to myself to settle down. It has nothing to do with how much I enjoy spending time with you. I’m working with my therapist to be more flexible but it takes time. It would be helpful if you could be patient with me and not ask me to stay out longer when I need to go home.”

The example I gave you:

(1) explained the condition with an example,

(2) made sure to say it wasn’t about her,

(3) showed how you are taking responsibility to improve and

(4) asked for specific support

Since she’s dating your brother, perhaps he can help her understand as well.

As you try to show what you need from your friend, keep in mind that what she needs might not always align with the constraints of your anxiety. She might turn to other friends who are more spontaneous in meeting her social needs, not because she doesn’t care about you, but because she won’t want to stay home due to your anxiety. Watching her go out without you may very well hurt, but try not to take it personally. If you can, use your feelings as incentives to practice anxiety-reducing exercises and whatever other skills you’re working on with your therapist, you’ll be better off.

Again, I’m so sorry you have to deal with anxiety and the impact on your life. While you may always have some periods of anxiousness, you can learn strategies to control your condition rather than allowing it to control you. You can also structure your life in a ways that are life-affirming rather than limiting. Sometimes that means leaving certain relationships behind, but you have a lot you can try with your best friend before you reach that point.

Good luck. Reply to this post after you’ve talked with her and share your experiences with other girls experiencing similar difficulties.

Signed, *Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Teen friendships

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