Back to homepage

Anxiety in the Family | Easing the Strained Relationships

Anxiety in the Family | Easing the Strained Relationships

Anxiety in the Family | Easing the Strained Relationships


It is expected to experience anxiety as an emotional response in anticipation of a future threat, or when faced with stressful situations. While this emotion can be helpful in preparing the body to feel alert and motivated in difficult in emergency situations, an excessive amount of anxiety can interfere with daily life and even affect relationships.

Anxiety is often approached as a condition that affects a person on an individual basis. The disorders are the most common emotional health issue affecting 40 million American adults 18 and above, or 18.1 percent of the population every year. Although often thought to affect a single person, anxiety can also be experienced together by an entire family. When anxiety cycles run through a family, it is important to seek help from a professional.


Anxiety as a Family Matter


Two types of anxiety may dwell in a household:


  • Family anxiety – This means that anxiety pervades through the entire family system, wherein the members are anxious about the same thing. A common factor may be causing anxiety, but the condition is felt and manifested by members in different ways. Family anxiety is usually triggered by an event, experience or situation affecting the family life, such as relocation, divorce, death of a loved one, illness, or an accident.


  • Individual anxiety that bleeds into the whole family system – This form of anxiety is precipitated by an individual member, but bleeds into the entire family unit. The anxiety felt by one or two members can have a ripple effect when the individual anxiety cannot be separated from the whole unit. For example, a mother who starts dating again after divorce may feel anxious about entering a new relationship. The children may sense her anxiety, resulting in developing anxiety problems themselves and causing the mother to be more anxious.


Although anxiety disorders are caused by a variety of factors, studies are trying to establish the theory if anxiety is hereditary. Up to 50 percent of children analyzed who have a parent with an anxiety disorder have been found to have developed a disorder themselves. In fact, a new study reveals that parents and children living in the same house affect each other’s anxious inclinations. It suggests that children take on anxious behaviors just by observing and hearing their parents. Negative, over-protectiveness may also lead to children’s anxious behaviour.

Having an anxious parent, however, is only one of the factors that may determine whether a family member will have or develop an anxiety disorder. A person’s life experiences, inborn temperament, and environmental risk factors can also greatly contribute to an individual’s risk. Abuse of all kinds, stressful and traumatic life events, difficult family relationships, disruption of routines, low economic status, lack of social support system, and poor overall health are a few sources of anxiety for the family and its members. Regardless of who among the member actually has the anxiety disorder, it is a condition that affects the lifestyle of everybody in the family unit.


A Family Issue Called Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety are wide-ranging and affect not only the one struggling, but the people close to them. It comes as no surprise that anxiety can strain relationships with family, significant others, friends, and other people. Living with a family member with an anxiety disorder can take its toll on the entire unit, disrupt household routines, muddle family events, and isolate the family from social activities. An anxious member’s difficulty may start to trickle over into all aspects of family life.

An anxiety disorder can affect a member or the entire family in a number of ways. Symptoms such as irritability, poor concentration, sleeping and eating problems can have an impact on interpersonal relationships within the family and impair one’s ability to perform household responsibilities effectively. Anxiety disorders often co-occur with other serious emotional and behavioral health issues, including depression and substance abuse. A member who has an anxiety disorder is at tremendous risk of having one or more co-morbid disorders, increasing the serious impact on functioning and relationships.

Anxiety, whether as a family or an individual disorder may lead to the dysfunctional relationship between members: a husband who justifies his infidelity due to his social phobic wife’s inability to function in their social and business areas; a teenage son who rebels against the restrictions of a controlling father and ends up with juvenile legal cases; and a mother who struggles with an emotional breakdown caused by a manipulative child with an anxiety disorder. Family members often find themselves managing the effects of anxiety in the unit while continuing to juggle work, household and finances.

The very nature of anxiety disorders isolates not only a member who has it, but the entire family. It is difficult for the family to explain cancellations or non-attendance to social events because the husband, or wife, or mother, or son is anxious how the community thinks about your “strange” family. A family fueled by anxiety tends to engage in avoidance behaviors. Anxiety is a condition that can reach far beyond a family member, cause distress to the entire family, and detach you from society.

The symptoms of anxiety can have a big impact on relationships, whether with the family, spouse, friends, colleagues, and community. Relationships are a big focus of worries, especially for individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. The worries themselves can result in it being difficult to maintain relationships.


Strengthening the Family Relationship

Anxiety does not sit well with any family. If your family or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, do not blame yourself, your spouse, or some other outside force. Even if anxiety is in your genes, there is a way to navigate through all kinds of anxiety symptoms, such as heart palpitations, nausea, stomach upset, weakness in the legs, etc. Sometimes family and friends may want to help but may actually worsen the situation and result in a strain being placed on your family relationship.

You are not powerless. Anxiety is a common emotional health condition with available treatment and a high recovery rate. You can reach out for more help to change the course of your family. Assistance can come from those who are not intimately involved in your family or your relationship, but from someone who can help you to ease the strained family relationship and improve the functioning of your unit for the road ahead.

One of the powerful things you can do is to hurdle the impediments that deter you from seeking help. It may be beneficial to begin by starting therapy with an experienced counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC. Family counseling is a powerful way to achieve this change. Another option is to get anxiety counseling to experience life without excessive fear.

With the help of the right fit professional independently contracted with CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC, your family can learn to keep anxiety in perspective, work through your worries, and empower each other to break out of your old patterns. Research suggests that strengthening your relationships to be resilient may greatly improve the symptoms of anxiety. Call to take the first step to ease your family relationship strained by anxiety.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

Counseling Information

How Do I Set Up my FIRST Appointment?

  • Call: 910-636-0011 (Fastest way to schedule)
  • Text: 910-308-3291 (Reply will be via phone)
  • Click here and use our Contact Form (You must include your phone number, because replies will only be made by telephone to ensure security/privacy)
  • Call or Text for your New Patient Appointment Anytime!
  • Appointment scheduling for NEW clients: Mon-Fri
  • Established/Standing Appointments are made directly with your therapist!
  • Referrals: MOST beneficiaries do NOT need a Referral!

Other Contact Info

If you have a compliment, concern or comments please contact:

Contact Management:
click here

If you need to speak specifically to the owner
Click here and use our Contact Form

Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

Our Mailing Address:

PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

    Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

    Location: Fayetteville, NC