Understand Differences In How Anxiety Manifests
Because of evolution, were wired to respond to fear by either fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate. For instance, my spouse tends to freeze and will bury her head in the sand rather than deal with things that make her feel stressed and panicky. I tend more toward fighting, and will become irritable, excessively perfectionistic, or dogmatic if I feel stressed.
When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, its easier to understand someone who is feeling scared and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them. By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.
Theyre A Failure And Disappointment
Feeling like a failure and disappointment is all-too-common for anxiety sufferers. The world has taught them to feel this way. When they have an attack and have to excuse themselves, leave someone or cancel their plans, they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. Instead of simply feeling bad about leaving or canceling, they feel like theyve let everyone down, and that theyll never be normal.
How to help my partner with anxiety
Reassurance and support. I cant say it enough. If something happens where they have to cancel or leave, be understanding. Even if you are disappointing, show your support. You can explain how you wish they came or stayed longer, but show more support than disappointment. This will help them in ways you cant even imagine and eventually, the canceling and leaving early will decrease with the more support and understanding you provide. If your partner fears disappointing you, itll make them cancel or become no-shows more often as theyll then feel like they cant leave if they have to, which will make the anxiety worse.
If you struggle with saying the right things or communicating your feelings appropriately, read Magic Relationship Words. Its a communication God.
Missing Out On The Good Times
Still not sure if youre dealing with relationship anxiety?
Take a step back and ask yourself: Am I spending more time worrying about this relationship than enjoying it?
During rough patches, this might be the case. But if you feel this way more often than not, youre probably dealing with some relationship anxiety.
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Identify Your Partners Biggest Anxiety Triggers
Or ask! Were always going to have anxiety in our lives to one degree or another so it helps if we can find ways to best handle these triggers. Some are lifestyle-related, like not enough sleep. Others might not be as easy to manage, but talk it over and see what you come up with together. Dont let your partners anxiety push either of you around. When were anxious we recoil. It feels much safer to avoid the situations that provoke it. But this in turn makes our lives much smaller than they can be. And it only serves to make our anxiety worse in the long run.
My Partner Has Anxiety And I Struggle With What To Do
We explore this even more on this page, and we encourage you to read it if you’re looking for tips to help someone with anxiety. But certainly, anxiety doesn’t just stress the person that is struggling. It can cause distress in the relationship as a whole as well. Dating someone with anxiety or marrying someone with anxiety can be confusing and it is not uncommon to need to learn ways to overcome it.
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Do: Learn Better Communication
If youre in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, you should learn the proper way of communication. Every word that comes out of your mouth, or a word that you chose not to speak, and every action that you do can affect your partner.
Learn how to communicate better if youre dating someone anxious all the time. As part of your partners anxiety treatment, accept their illness. Talk honestly and openly about what theyre going through.
It would be helpful to encourage your partner to open up about what theyre going through. How they feel, what theyre thinking at the moment, and listen openly without judgment. If youre mad, take control of yourself and do not shout.
Understand That They Have Certain Triggers
Getting a handle on your partners anxiety means understanding their triggers. Usually, someone with anxiety knows the kind of things that set them off into an anxiety spiral.
Its not your responsibility to shield them from every single trigger, but helping them navigate their lives more sensitively around those triggers can be helpful. It can also help you to understand why your partners anxiety is heightened at different times.
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How To Be There For A Partner With Anxiety
Anxiety can be hard on relationships. But healthy communication and understanding can help avoid any issues. Heres how to navigate it together.
Relationships thrive on concessions and acclimation. On the one hand, youre human stubborn and proud, enjoying things a certain way. On the other, youre human forgetful and malleable, able to navigate new roads and think they were always the fastest route. To balance these two things is important for any relationship and absolutely crucial if one partner suffers from anxiety.
There are countless examples of what partners of people with anxiety experience. Maybe you drive hundreds of miles to visit family because you know your partner wont step foot on an airplane. Or maybe youve accepted that food shopping is your job because they get overwhelmed in grocery stores. Maybe when that nice dude you chat with at the playground invites you and your partner to a meet-up with other local parents, you start running through the bank of unused excuses in your head, because you know your better half would never go for it. At first glance, these concessions can seem arduous and frustrating. Research suggests that when one partner has anxiety, it can cause a significant strain on relationships. But experts say that if couples learn to navigate anxiety in a healthy, collaborative way, it can make the relationship stronger.
Try To Make Them Feel Safe And Secure
It can be important to re-assure your partner that you are not going to abandon them because of their illness. Knowing that there is someone who stands with them can make a big difference. Its important to be aware of the persons triggers if they are afraid of dogs, a walk in the park is unlikely to be a relaxing experience. You may want to have a plan B in case your partner has an anxiety attack. Often knowing there is a plan helps your partner from having anxiety about their anxiety.
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Anxiety Breaks Down Trust And Connection
Anxiety causes fear or worry that can make you less aware of your true needs in a given moment. It can also make you less attuned to the needs of your partner. If youre worried about what could be happening, its difficult to pay attention to what is happening. When you feel overwhelmed, your partner may feel as though you arent present.
so train your brain to live in the moment. If you notice a fear or concern that causes your thoughts to stray from the facts or the present moment, pause and think about what you know . Calm down before you act. You can make purposeful steps to build trust in your partner. Share openly when youre feeling worried, and consciously reach out to your partner when you might normally withdraw or attack in fear.
Seek Resources To Help You Understand Anxiety
âAlthough everyoneâs individual experience with anxiety is different, taking the time to educate yourself about common anxiety symptoms and triggers can help you support your partner. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have resources to help you learn more about anxiety. You can also seek out blogs and podcasts to give you a broader range of perspectives on what itâs like to live with anxiety.
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Support Rather Than Fix
Its not your job to fix their anxiety, but you can acknowledge the work you see them doing to manage their anxiety.
As their life partner, you could learn when to push and when to back off, and try to avoid accusing your partner of imagining things or overreacting.
Instead, Adams says, Have a calm conversation on whats triggering their behavior, and what can you do together to help one another in this particular situation.
Affirm Your Support Before Opening The Conversation:
Why: Talking about how anxiety affects your daily life is a very vulnerable conversationand many people who struggle with anxiety worry about feeling like a burden to those in their life. Let your partner know that you want to talk about it because you want them to feel safe and comfortable in your relationship, even when it comes to uncomfortable or difficult situations.
What you can say: When you feel comfortable, Id like to have a conversation about your anxiety. I want to be sure Im doing everything I can to make you feel safe in this relationship, and that Im fully understanding your experience so that I can be a better partner.
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Causes Of Anxiety In Relationships
There are very serious issues that cause anxiety and much less serious issues that can cause anxiety. Yet all anxiety is a struggle, and when you find yourself with relationship anxiety it’s something that you want to cure. Some of the universal causes of relationship anxiety include:
- Loss of Trust: In Relationship Future
Easily the most common cause of anxiety is uncertainty about the future of the relationship. This can come from lots of fights, or it can come from previous breakups, or it can come from growing distant. No matter the cause, when that trust that the relationship is going to work out is lost, the uncertainty can cause a lot of anxiety as you become unsure of what to do with your life.
- Loss of Trust: General
Of course, a general loss of trust is also a problem, after things like infidelity or less serious issues like forgetting to run important errands around the home. Trust is a very important part of a relationship, and if the trust is gone it can be very hard to build it back naturally.
- Fight Eggshells
Fighting often is a problem. But the problem isn’t just that fights involve anger â it’s also this general feeling of worry that you’re going to fight again. This worry can cause significant anxiety because you become too afraid to do anything around the home since you are worried another fight will happen at any moment.
Keep Their Experience In Mind Even When They Dont Bring Their Anxiety Up:
Why: Its hard to constantly ask for accommodations. People feel a lot of shame or embarrassment when they cant experience something the way everyone else does, so your partner may not want to bring up their anxiety at every turn. Pay attention to what they tell you about how they experience anxiety, and try to keep it in mind when making plans in the future. You dont have to memorize every detail they tell you, but your partner will feel much more seen and cared for if they dont have to constantly remind you that they experience something differently than you do, due to their anxiety.
What you can say: My friend is having a game night, but I know that groups of new people and new places can make you anxious, so I asked who is going to come, and we know a lot of the people invited! Are you comfortable joining me? I can ask if we can show up a little early so we dont have to walk into a crowd of new people when we get there!
There is no one right way to support a partner with anxiety. The most important part is to ask them how you can best support them, and take that to heart. If you are looking for more guidelines on how to talk to your partner about mental health, check out our post on how to support a partner with depression.
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Learning How To Better Communicate About The Anxiety
Anxiety can be scary. It can make you want to avoid talking about it.
Nonetheless, one of the most effective ways to cope with anxiety in a relationship is to talk about it openly, honestly and directly with your partner.
Having candid talks together on what they are feeling and validating those feelings is paramount, said therapist Daryl Cioffi.
To show your partner you accept their anxiety, you need to encourage them to open up about it. Try to listen without judging, becoming defensive or taking their anxiety personally.
How To Support A Partner With Anxiety: Engage In Helpful Activities Together
When it comes to managing anxiety together, Nathanson says it can be helpful to do an activity “that grounds them to their present or distracts them from worrying,” and suggests something active.
Similarly, Green suggests learning exercises for co-regulation that you can practice together. “For example, holding hands and doing breathing exercises, listening to calming music, or hugging,” she says. “You can also do a mindfulness or grounding exercise together.” And, if your partner is open to it, Green explains that you could invite them to join you in your own self-care practices throughout the week as well.
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How To Help Your Anxious Partner And Yourself
Living with anxiety can be tough your thoughts might race, you might dread tasks others find simple and your worries might feel inescapable. But loving someone with anxiety can be hard too. You might feel powerless to help or overwhelmed by how your partner’s feelings affect your daily life.
“We often find that our patients’ … partners are somehow intertwined in their anxiety,” says Sandy Capaldi, associate director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.
Anxiety is experienced at many different levels and in different forms from moderate to debilitating, from generalized anxiety to phobias and its impacts can vary. But psychiatrists and therapists say there are ways to help your partner navigate challenges while you also take care of yourself.
Start by addressing symptoms.
Because an anxiety disorder can be consuming, it can be best to start by talking with your partner about the ways anxiety affects daily life, like sleeplessness, says Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in New York. Something as simple as using the word “stress” instead of clinical labels can help too. “Often people may feel a little more comfortable talking about stress as opposed to … anxiety ,” Borenstein says.
Don’t minimize feelings.
Encourage don’t push.