Why is asking for help so hard?

I know that when I was growing up, asking for help was seen as a sign of weakness. We were raised to not go outside of our family system with our problems. It is no wonder that I was well into my twenties when I realized that in order to be successful both emotionally and mentally in my life, I needed to learn how to trust others that were outside my family system. Only then could I to begin to heal. I have learned that isolation and recovery are mutually exclusive. By asking for help, others are able to provide objectivity, support, and a clarity that we can’t achieve on our own. 

Throughout the years as a clinician, I have heard clients come up with all kinds of reasons that they did not seek the help they deserved. Here are a few…

  • “Others will judge me.”
  • “It won’t help.”
  • “If I get better then I won’t be able to drink again.”
  • “I will be humiliated.”
  • “Everyone always lets me down anyways.”
  • “I tried before and it didn’t help.”
  • “My problems don’t matter.”
  • “I don’t want to bother anyone.”
  • “I have to be strong and figure it out on my own.”
  • “My family will be mad if I ask for help from anyone other than them.”
  • ”Whenever I have asked for help, I get rejected.”
  • “No one could possibly understand.”

Asking for help requires that you learn how to take healthy risks and go outside of comfort zones

Recovery means increasing healthy coping strategies “to manage life on life’s terms” without self-medicating or hurting self in any way.  Like any new skill, it takes practice.  To get good at anything, we have to be willing to go outside of our comfort zones and “try on” new behaviors.  We can start out in small ways such as role playing in therapy asking for help with someone you trust.  Rehearsal helps to prepare you for the real life event.  In the rehearsal, it helps to prepare for responses that may bring up feelings such as rejection or hurt and even anger if someone is unable to meet your request.  It will be important to explore any emotional obstacles that may surface from the experience. Also in asking for help is to be specific about the kind of help that you need at the time.  If you need someone to listen to you without giving you advice, then you need to request that up front.  It may be safest to start out with a physical request rather than an emotional one.  For example, you may ask a friend for a ride.  The goal is to move towards connecting with others, however miniscule, and to build on this skill.  It is also important to not give up easily especially if the first person tells you “no”.  Be persistent and call someone else. Try to ask for help when the problem is small although you can ask for help before, during or after a hard time.  When you ask for help, you do not have to tell someone “your life story”.  As you practice asking for help, continue to build on your support system asking new people along the way.  Use assertiveness skills and avoid being aggressive or passive to get your needs met.  Always keep phone numbers of safe people with you so that you can call on them when hard times emerge.

Replace maladaptive coping strategies with healthy ones.

Building on healthy coping strategies to replace compulsive destructive behaviors is essential to positive change.  Trying on new behaviors for at least 30 days is important in order to develop new ways to respond to stress.  This list is endless.  Some of my favorite ways to cope are:

  • Staying in the present
  • Remembering to breathe
  • Saying self-affirmations out loud in front of the mirror
  • Exercising
  • Spending time with my dog
  • Staying connected to safe people
  • Sports activities
  • Getting a massage
  • Making a gratitude list
  • Meditation
  • Help another person who is in distress
  • Validating my feelings

Keep a journal of your experiences

Journal about your successes and also reflect on what else you could have done differently when your old negative default behaviors took over.  Change is hard especially when strong emotions are present.  Learn from your experiences without “beating yourself up”.  Life is a journey and it is not a success only road that we travel.    

Address mental health issues like depression and anxiety

Recovery becomes even more complicated when addiction is accompanied by mental health issues.  Often times, in an effort to self-medicate mental health symptoms, substance-use or other process addictions are activated.  I have found that typically addictive behaviors will worsen as a result of untreated depression, anxiety, or other mental health issue.

Therapy can be a great place to begin working on new skills needed in recovery

Take a risk and call Thriveworks at 512 649 3050 to set up an appointment with an experienced  therapist who will help you on your journey towards positive change!  Many people live happy successful lives when they acknowledge that they have a problem and surround themselves with safe people who are part of the solution.  Get help today! 

Article by Linda Mikesic, LCSW, LCDC

Specialist in addiction and mental health.

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