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When Your Loved One Resists Treatment

When a Loved One Resists Treatment

Sometimes we don’t know when we’ve passed out of range of “normal” moods or behavior and entered into the range of mental health disorders. If we’ve lived a long time with anxiety or depression, for example, we might think it’s just part of life to feel this way. It can take an outsider’s perspective to help us see that we could use some professional help. 

Even among family members, it can be hard to recognize a mental health disorder. This person is just “a grump,” this person “a Cryer,” this person is “moody,” or “volatile.” Most people aren’t trained in recognizing mental illness and may think it’s easier to “let things be” than to try to get help. Some people might believe that treatment will just cost time and money without making much of a difference. 

Sometimes, a group of friends or family know something is wrong with their loved one and urge that person to seek help, only to find that the person denies they have a problem and/or resists getting help for it. It’s estimated that between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health issues never get treatment.  

Why Don’t More People Seek Mental Health Treatment?  

According to a 2018 study, 74% of Americans believe that mental health treatment is not accessible for everyone, for a variety of reasons: high cost, lack of insurance coverage, limited options locally, long waits, and not knowing how to seek treatment or where to go for it. 

It’s unfortunate when people who would like to get treatment avoid doing so because of reasons out of their control. If you or a family member or friend are in this position, don’t give up. Rather than assume treatment is out of reach, talk to your doctor. Talk to your insurance company. Schedule a no-cost consultation with an admissions counselor at a treatment center like Miramont Behavioral Health. There may be paths to paying for treatment that you are not aware of. 

However, some people avoid treatment not because of the above reasons but because they don’t believe they need it, don’t think it will help, or are resistant to change. Let’s look at these reasons in more detail. 

Why Do Some People Resist Mental Health Treatment? 

Even when the path to treatment is open, meaning that the person can afford it and find good local options, some people still resist getting help. You may know someone like this. They are suffering, their suffering is affecting everyone around them, and still they refuse to let anyone help. Why does this happen? For several possible reasons:

  • Fear – most of us fear change, even when we know it will be good for us. As much as our habits and patterns bring us suffering, we’re reluctant to give them up. Getting help may mean discovering things about ourselves we don’t like or revisiting past trauma or having to face our feelings.
  • Shame – As far as we’ve come in our attitudes toward mental health, our culture still places a stigma on mental illness. Someone suffering from a mental health disorder may feel a great sense of shame that they can’t “will” themselves out of it. 
  • Anosognosia – This is a common symptom of mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in which damage to the brain’s frontal lobe makes it difficult for people to see themselves accurately. People with this condition may become convinced that their loved ones are lying to them when they tell them they need treatment. They may become angry, paranoid, and withdrawn.  
  • Lack of understanding – Some people don’t understand that the symptoms they’re experiencing are signs of a disorder. Everyone gets stressed out, everyone gets moody–it’s not like talking about it is going to help, right? (Wrong.)
  • Distrust – Some people distrust doctors and psychiatrists. They worry about the side effects of medications or that their treatment team will treat them unfairly (this can especially true for minorities who have experienced healthcare discrimination before).  
  • Hopelessness – Some people may believe that they are beyond help. They’re convinced treatment won’t make a difference, or that even if they did feel better, they wouldn’t have anything to contribute.

What Can You Do When a Loved One Resists Treatment?

Start by expressing your concerns. Ask your loved one how they’re doing, and listen to their answer. Sometimes all a person needs is to know that they’re loved and accepted no matter what; then they’ll be more willing to listen to you and follow your encouragement to seek help. 

If you suspect that the time and cost of treatment are a concern, offer to help. You can offer to research treatment options with your loved one, visit a therapist or treatment facility with them, and help with any responsibilities (child care, pet care, etc.) while they’re undergoing treatment. 

Remember that you can’t control or fix your loved one. If they refuse help, seek support for yourself. Meet with a therapist and prioritize self-care as much as you are able. 

Of course, sometimes a situation becomes serious enough that you have to intervene. This is the case if your loved one is talking about suicide or is a danger to others. In the case of suicidal ideation, seek help immediately by calling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can also call 911 if your loved one is endangering themselves or others, and you can seek an involuntary commitment

Help at Miramont Behavioral Health

At our Middleton, WI, facility, we understand the resistance people can have to treatment. Our compassionate, professional team will work with your loved one to assess their concerns and create a treatment plan that meets their unique needs. If you think your loved one needs help but aren’t sure how to proceed, call and speak with an admissions counselor. We can help you determine the next steps.

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