I’ve had anxiety attacks since middle school. I have no idea why. I could be having the most amazing time and I could break down. I’ve also had some suicidal thoughts. It happened in the end of eighth grade then stopped then now they come and go. I want to tell my mom I want help with it but she’ll say she can help cause she’s a psychiatrist but I want someone else but I don’t know how to tell her I want actual help from someone I don’t know. My anxiety takes over my times I’m having fun or times I’m trying to sleep. I never know when it will happen or why.

A. You are assuming that your mother will suggest that she act as your therapist but perhaps not. Most mental health professionals recognize the problems inherent with treating family members. In fact, licensing boards have developed a code of ethics that professionals are obligated to follow.

The American Medical Association, an organization of which your mother might be a member, writes the following about this matter:

“Physicians generally should not treat themselves or members of their immediate families. Professional objectivity may be compromised when an immediate family member or the physician is the patient; the physician’s personal feelings may unduly influence his or her professional medical judgment, thereby interfering with the care being delivered … Family members may be reluctant to state their preference for another physician or decline a recommendation for fear of offending the physician. In particular, minor children will generally not feel free to refuse care from their parents …”

As you can see from the aforementioned passage, it is common knowledge that treating immediate family members is problematic. Armed with this knowledge, be honest with your mother about your desire to seek treatment with another mental health professional. She will likely understand your request.

Many teenagers make assumptions about how they believe their parents will react to their request for mental health treatment. They are often wrong in their assumptions, mostly because their prejudgments are based on fear. As a psychiatrist, your mother has been made aware of the issues related to treating one’s immediate family. Asking to see someone other than your mother is not an unreasonable request. You shouldn’t hesitate to discuss this matter with her. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Aug 2014

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2014). Anxiety But Don’t Know How to Ask My Mom (a Psychiatrist) for Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/08/26/anxiety-but-dont-know-how-to-ask-my-mom-a-psychiatrist-for-treatment/