Participating in an online chatroom could be tempting, particularly for individuals with anxiety. It is often a subtle way to share your feelings and learn from others about their experiences. To some, it can feel safe since it the participation is anonymous. Many chats are easily accessible and have a low barrier of entry. There is an appeal to being able to log in at any time of day and potentially find like minded people who appreciate your struggles. It provides more personal interaction than simply researching a website on the topic.
It is worth exploring the potential benefits and risks of a mental health online chat room.
Online chat room participation can be beneficial for some. Engaging in a chat room may prove useful to provide extra support. There is value in connecting with people who are experiencing similar struggles. It can be validating to talk with individuals who really understand us. Many people find comfort in the acceptance, support, and inclusion that can be found in an online chat group. The anonymity of chat rooms can feel safe for some to be vulnerable and share feelings that they are not comfortable discussing. Having anonymity could protect people from the fear of being judged by people they know. Some chat communities promote a culture of acceptance and non judgment. There can be a fruitful exchange of ideas and techniques that have proven to be helpful to participants. People can share what they have tried and discuss what methods have not been impactful. If it feels helpful to seek this support, process and exchange ideas, it may be a healthy outlet.
There are potential risks to online anxiety chat rooms. There is likely to be a range in quality of advice provided. Individuals in a chat room may experience symptoms of anxiety, yet are unlikely to have professional credentials in treating it. Even those who sound like experts may not have a credible perspective or experience. It is important to use discernment in interpreting the information others are providing. It can be useful to make sure you are not taking anything at face value and it can be beneficial to challenge the assumptions of what you are hearing. Additionally, chat rooms are generally unstructured and fluid, so therefore, typically lack controls and oversight. There can be a range to the quality of the type of chatroom and the community members it draws. There is a risk that false information is shared, and there is no guarantee that individuals participating are coming from a healthy place emotionally. Not having a regular moderator can create inconsistencies in the interactions. Hurtful comments and interactions can even occur. With anonymity can also come lack of accountability, leaving more space for people to be inappropriate or damaging in their exchanges or behaviors.
Regardless, anxiety chat rooms should not be a replacement for therapeutic intervention.
There is a broad range of severity and intensity of symptoms related to anxiety. Clearly, everyone’s perspective will be impacted by this subjective experience. What works for someone with a phobia will not necessarily apply to someone experiencing social anxiety.
Manage your expectations. Be cautious about interpreting advice. Understand your own anxiety symptoms and become educated on the topic. Carefully consider what you choose to share on an online chat room, even if it is anonymous. Over disclosure can bring stress for some later. If your chat room experience is fueling your anxiety and fear, try something else. There are many mental health treatment modalities that have been proven to be effective in addressing anxiety. It is recommended that if you struggle with anxiety, consider seeking professional help.
Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.