Support or Enabling?

Written by Karen Gibbs


Support or enabling? The question as to whether we are enabling our loved ones confuses many people.
When someone is struggling with depression and anxiety, they often feel unseen and unheard. Misunderstandings occur, which can lead to the sufferer isolating themselves.

We need to step up to stop this disconnection. Once disconnection is present, a decline into the downward spiral is inevitable if measures aren’t put in place to rectify the situation.

As humans, we need connection. If we don’t have understanding family and friends, we inevitably connect with something else. Often this is substance, and the downward spiral truly begins.
Someone alone and suffering will reach out to try to fit in. Often, not understanding why this is happening, those struggling find a way to dull their pain.

The most common first choice is alcohol, mainly because it is readily available and socially acceptable. A few drinks bolster confidence, and they feel things will be okay. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. The first stage of decline has begun.
Reading this scenario, I’m sure you can see where this situation is heading, but what if things were different?
What if we broke the span of disconnection right at its roots?
There is a common belief that to support and help loved ones who are struggling with depression, anxiety, or addictions is wrong. You’ve probably heard well-intentioned family or friends say, “Let them stand on their own two feet.” Do you think they’d say that if the person had a broken arm or suffered from cancer, diabetes, or some other ailment? No, I doubt it.
One of the stigmas of mental health problems is the belief we need to let the sufferer fix the issues themselves. We don’t do this for any other kind of health problem, and we need to be consistent with mental health.
Kindness, love, support and care are critical for the person suffering to recover. If they are trying to help themselves, then we should support their efforts.

Enabling is when the person concerned is not trying to help themselves to recover. They slip into a dreadful lifestyle with no intention of seeking help, and we support them to live this way without ever trying to regain a measure of health. We never want to let things decline this far, so support, in the beginning, is crucial.
Isolating themselves through misunderstanding is very typical, and it’s our place to stop that misunderstanding before it takes a stronghold. After all, we are not the ones struggling, are we? No one wants to feel that bad or suffer such debilitating symptoms.

Stigmas cause embarrassment along with the unknown nature of what’s happening. Self-stigma is the result, and once this happens, it’s tough to get the person to see their worth. We don’t want ever to reach that point.
We need to take some responsibility for this. If we understand mental health issues are no different to any other ailment, that will go a long way to keeping a solid connection with our loved one who suffers.
Working with them toward recovery is the most desirable outcome. Support and connection are the keys.


Stop the Downward Spiral – Everything the person in your life who struggles with depression wishes you knew. —available mid-2021. 

About the author

Karen Gibbs

Karen is a grief and loss mentor residing in Queensland, Australia. She spends her time motivating and inspiring others through her writings and blog posts which she takes great pleasure in creating and designing each day.
Karen published her first book, Scrapbook Creations, in 2002 and won the Sunshine Coast Excellence in Business award for her business of the same name. In 2015 Karen was a contributing author to the #1 best seller "365 Ways to Connect with your Soul." Karen is currently writing a book entitled "Stop The Downward Spiral" - An essential guide to healing and is "Everything the depressed person in your life needs you to know." She continues to put her writing and creative skills into her passion of making a difference in the lives of others and gains inspiration while outdoors with her horse Romey....
You can follow Karen’s writings at
or see her inspirational quotes at either of her facebook pages