Support groups are a helpful tool, whether you are dealing with an illness, grief or even a life change. But what should you do if you can’t get to a support group in your area? Many people are taking it to the web.
A prime example is Amy, whose last name has been withheld for privacy, is a member of an online support group. She told me that her anxiety keeps her from leaving her home. She says in an e-mail interview with me, “I’ve been told by my therapist to get out, go to a support group. But how can I do that when I can barely leave the house? It takes me over an hour just to work up the nerve to get to my car so I can get to my therapy appointments.”
Many others, including myself, are in a similar situation. While my anxiety is not as severe as Amy’s, I have other health conditions that keep me from attending a support group in the “real world.” I have Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While I can leave my house, I do not have anyone to care for my children and have limited transportation.
When my counselor suggested a support group, the nearest available meetings were in San Antonio, an hours drive each way. So, I scoured the web and signed up for one of the online support groups and am finding I can be honest about my feelings. One feature I appreciate of these online support groups is you are anonymous… I might not be so upfront and honest if I had to be in a tiny room with several other people.
Some people doubt if online support groups do any good. I can assure you, they can save a life. A few weeks ago I was in a very bad state with my illness and was having hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. While I did not have the courage to call anyone, I did post it in one of the online support groups I belong to. Within minutes I had people encouraging me to call my doctor, get to a hospital as well as members reminding me of coping techniques. I am thankful that my online support group was there for me in a time of crisis. I shudder to think of what could have happened if I were left alone with my psychotic thoughts with nobody to reach out to.
Anxiety is not the only reason someone may not attend an in-person support group. There are those that are bedridden, who have no transportation and those who are in an abusive environment who may not be able to leave for their support group safely. There are even people who utilize online support groups because they travel extensively, work long hours or who do not have any childcare. Websites like Daily Strength provide a safe place to be honest, get advice and to receive encouragement while keeping members anonymous.
Online support groups are offered for a variety of issues, including depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, abusive survivors, obesity and even for rare genetic disorders.
Do not let your health condition or lack of being able to attend keep you from getting the support you need. There are several websites that offer online support groups:
DBSA Online Support Groups