Can A Spouse Or Other Family Member Compel An Adult To Receive Treatment For An Anxiety Disorder Against His/Her Will?

Dr. Jeff Szymanski answers the question: 'Compelling Treatment For Anxiety?'

— -- Question: Can a spouse or other close family member compel an adult to receive treatment for an anxiety disorder against his or her will?

Answer: So, if you're at a place where you're trying to compel your family member into treatment, what's probably happened is that you've tried to be helpful to them and it's not worked. In terms of, they're saying things like, "I need help with this," you give them help, but the anxiety continues. So in that situation, a lot of people get angry and resentful, and they do start saying things like, "You just need to get into treatment."

The problem is is that if you blackmail or push or nag them into treatment, the therapist is really going to -- or the psychiatrist is really going to need to have their cooperation and collaboration in the treatment. This isn't really a treatment you can do to someone.

So, instead of just pushing them in, or compelling them, or making them do something that they don't want to do, you can instead do one of two things.

One is that there might be ways in which you are what we call accommodating or enabling the behavior. So, if they're afraid of driving that you drive them places -- those are the kinds of behaviors that you can stop doing. If they're engaged in excessive cleaning around the house, don't go and get them more cleaning products. So you can not participate in the anxiety disorder. So that's one option.

The other option is to gently and nicely say to them, "Look at all the ways in which your anxiety disorder is getting in the way of important life goals that you have. You used to socialize in a particular way, you used to be able to go to work, you used to be in school, you used to -- your life had a particular course, look at how this anxiety disorder is costing you." Saying those kinds of things in a nice and supportive way might generate more motivation for them to elect to go into treatment. If you again offer to go to sessions with them, drive them to sessions, anything that supports them getting involved. But blackmailing and strong-arming them typically doesn't work.

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