Depression and Anxiety - Dual Diagnosis

Enabling in Mental Health: When Caring Goes Wrong

Enabling in mental health starts off with the best intentions....but can rapidly make things worse for both you and your loved one. Learn more.

Enabling in Mental Health: How to Avoid It

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

March 19, 2024

The Forge Recovery Center

Mental disorders affect many, with long-term challenges like depression and anxiety being very common. Living with a mental disorder isn’t easy, especially if it’s untreated. The thing is, it’s not just the person with the mental disorder who suffers. It’s the people around them as well.

It’s natural to want to help, but it can be hard to know the right way. Too often, good intentions can turn into enabling. Enabling in mental health can seem like being kind and doing the right thing, but often it winds up making things worse.

What is Enabling in Mental Health?

Enabling in mental health happens when loved ones, trying to help, actually make it easier for someone with mental illness to avoid facing their issues. It might come from a good place, but enabling in mental health can stop them from dealing with the consequences of their actions and halt their progress towards recovery.

This not only affects the person with the illness but can also strain the helper, leading to stress and a feeling of helplessness. Recognizing and stopping enabling behaviors is crucial for everyone's well-being, encouraging healthier coping strategies and steps toward healing.

Enabling in Mental Health: What Are Some Enabling Behaviors?

The tricky thing about enabling in mental health is that it often feels like you’re doing the right thing and helping your loved one. In reality, well…you know the saying about good intentions. Recognizing what enabling in mental health looks like will help YOU and your loved one.

Here are some examples of enabling behaviors:

Making Excuses

Ever found yourself covering for someone's mistakes, like calling in sick for them when they're not really sick? It's easy to do, but it means they don't face the music for their actions.

Skipping the Tough Talks

Dodging those hard conversations about concerning behaviors? It might seem easier, but it lets the issues grow.

Jumping to the Rescue

Always stepping in to fix their problems, from paying off debts to smoothing over mistakes? It's natural to want to help, but it also means they don't learn from their choices.

Feeding Their Habits

Ever caught yourself handing over money that you know goes towards unhealthy habits? It's tough but cutting off this support is crucial for them to seek real change.

Playing It Down

Thinking, "It's not that bad," about their risky behaviors? Minimizing the issue won't help them get better.

Doing It All for Them

Taking care of everything, even things they can do themselves? It's important to encourage independence to help them stand on their own.

Enabling in Mental Health: Why Do Family and Friends Often Enable?

Below, you'll find some key beliefs that can keep you stuck in enabling behaviors:

“I'm just trying to help, not enable.”

True support means pushing for treatment and positive changes, not actions that might hold back their progress.

“I can't stand to see them hurt.”

Wanting to shield your loved ones from pain is natural, but tough love often sparks the realization they need to seek help.

“This is just for now.”

But when you keep dodging the hard stuff, "for now" can stretch indefinitely, stopping real improvement.

“They're ill, it's not their fault.”

Yes, mental illness makes control harder, but it doesn't make change impossible. Everyone has the power to choose better.

“They'd never ask for help on their own.”

Sometimes, hitting a low point is what drives someone to get the help they need.

“I have no other way to help.”

Enabling might feel like your only option, but there are healthier, more effective ways to support someone's journey to wellness.

In the journey of supporting a loved one's mental health, it's crucial to recognize the fine line between helping and enabling. While your intentions may be pure, it's essential to ensure your actions truly empower their progress.

If you're seeking guidance on providing the best support, don't hesitate to talk to The Forge Recovery Center. Our team is here to offer personalized treatment plans tailored to your loved one's unique needs, helping them take meaningful steps toward healing and growth.

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Would you like more information about enabling in mental health? Reach out today.

How Does Enabling Affect Mentally Ill People?

When you engage in abusive enabling, it doesn't just impact you; it deeply affects the person facing mental health challenges. Here's how it can affect you both:

  • Holding Back Growth: When you're always cushioning the fall, the person misses out on key lessons, slowing their growth and healing.

  • Growing Too Dependent: If someone always steps in to fix things, it's tough for the person to learn how to deal with issues on their own.

  • Feeling Less About Themselves: Constantly being "rescued" chips away at their confidence and sense of value, leaving them feeling stuck and not good enough.

What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Enabling in Mental Health?

When you enable someone, it might seem like you're helping out in the moment, but in the long run, it can really do more harm than good. Here are some things to watch out for:

Letting Harmful Behaviors Slide

Ignoring risky actions lets things get worse, causing bigger problems in health, money, and even the law.

Missing the Push to Get Help

Skipping the hard parts means missing the moments that could make someone realize they need support and treatment.

Feeling Worse About Themselves

When you're always stepping in, it leaves them feeling stuck, dependent, and frustrated, without learning how to cope.

Feeling Burnout

Constantly trying to fix things without seeing progress can wear you down emotionally and financially.

Hurting Relationships

As things keep going south, trust and respect take a hit, making everything more strained.

Wasting Efforts on No Change

Pouring your heart into keeping things "okay" doesn't actually fix anything. It's like running in place.

What Are Some Healthy Alternatives to Enabling in Mental Health?

So, if enabling in mental health isn't the solution, what's the best way for you to support someone battling mental illness? Let's explore some healthier options for you to be there for them:

  • Learn About Their Struggle: Get to know what they're dealing with and the best ways to help. Knowledge is power.

  • Show Love, Not Lectures: Offer your support and belief in their recovery without being judgmental. Trust is key.

  • Set Boundaries: Be clear about what you can handle. Stick to it for both your sakes.

  • Push for Professional Help: Encourage them to see a specialist. Offer to go with them if it helps.

  • Stay Practical: Don't get tangled in their fears. Focus on real steps they can take to feel better.

  • Suggest, Don't Demand: Offer ideas and let them decide. It's their journey.

  • Cheer on the Wins: Celebrate their progress, no matter how small. Positivity goes a long way.

  • Encourage Doing: Help them do things on their own when they can. Independence is healthy.

  • Step Back When Needed: Give them room to make their own choices safely. It's crucial for growth.

  • Look After Yourself Too: Find support for yourself so you stay strong. Your well-being is just as important.

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We’re here to help you find your way

Do you have more questions about enabling in mental health? Reach out.

Worried You’re Enabling Your Loved One? We Can Help

Understanding and the right support can make all the difference for those facing mental health challenges. It's about standing by your loved ones without falling into enabling habits, as hard as that might be when all you want to do is protect them.

Remember, even small steps towards a healthier approach can create big changes over time. With your patience and trust in the recovery process, positive change is definitely within reach.

If you're seeking advice on how to best support your loved one, The Forge Recovery Center will help. We're here to offer tailored treatment care plans that fit your loved one's unique needs.

If you’d like to know more about our effective mental health treatment programs – including mental health-specific housing options – don’t wait. Contact The Forge Recovery Center today.

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