NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do You Feel Overwhelmed by a Friend's Problems?

Part of being a good friend is being emotionally supportive when a friend needs emotional support.  If there is give-and-take between friends, each friend takes turns being supportive and being supported at various points in the friendship. But what happens when you start to feel overwhelmed by your friend's problems?  

Overwhelmed by a Friend's Problems?

Balancing Your Friend's Need for Emotional Support with Your Need for Self Care
It's important to balance your friend's need for emotional support with your need for self care.  It's not always easy to know when to draw the line.  Feelings of being emotionally overwhelmed can creep up on your before you even realize what's happening.  Before you know it, you might feel emotionally and physically depleted, even though this isn't your friend's intention.

Do You Feel Overwhelmed By a Friend's Problems?

After a while, if this is the usual dynamic between you and your friend, you might respond to his or her calls, emails or text messages with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, you might want to be a good friend, but on the other hand, you might also feel apprehensive about responding and feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

You might also sense that your support isn't doing any good, especially if your friend isn't making any effort to change whatever might be bothering him or her.  In some instances, what might occur is that your friend feels better after he or she vents and then feels no incentive to try to make changes to overcome the problem.

Setting Limits with Your Friend
Even though it might make you feel guilty at first, it's important to know when to step back and assess this type of situation.  The give-and-take in any friendship isn't always going to be 50-50 all the time.  Your friend might be going through a particularly difficult time, and she might be calling on you more than you ask for help from her.

Friendship isn't about keeping a tally about these things.  But if you find that this is predominantly the dynamic most of the time, and your friend's problems are starting to exhaust you, you would be wise to make self care your priority and set some limits with him in a tactful and empathetic way.

Hopefully, you're not the only emotional resource that she has and she'll also turn to other friends or supportive family members for help.  Better yet, if her problems are longstanding, it would be best for her to seek professional help from a licensed mental health clinician.

It doesn't always feel good to set these kinds of boundaries with people that we care about.  Most people don't realize that they're exhausting their friends because they're so immersed in their own problems.  A good friend will understand that you need to take care of yourself too.

But if she even if she doesn't understand, you still need to know what you limits are and take care of yourself.  Becoming emotionally and physically depleted by a friend, family member, or coworker can create problems for you, including compromising your immune system and causing you to become vulnerable to getting sick.

In addition, friends often struggle with the same unresolved issues that you might have, so it can trigger your own emotional upset, if you haven't dealt with these issues.  You can't be your friend's therapist, even if you're trained to be a therapist.  Often, the best solution is to recommend that he get professional help.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours or email me.