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.
Dont Buy Into The Common Myths About Anxiety
We have a lot of misconceptions about anxiety in our culture. As a result, we can give really bad advice to people were trying to help. Here are a few of the common phrases people with anxiety often hear:
- Just chill out.
- Try some yoga or deep breathing.
- Anxiety is a disease.
- Anxiety is a genetic disorder that was passed down to you from your parents. Its just the way you are!
- Anxiety means something is wrong with you.
- Anxiety only affects lazy, weak or undisciplined people.
- If youre anxious, youre probably hiding something from your loved ones, from God or from yourself.
- Anxiety is just stress. We all worry. Get over it.
Now, you might not say those things word for word, but I bet youve heard a similar rationale beforeor at least felt it. The truth is, anxiety is caused by about a million different factors converging together to create a chaotic ecosystem. And while things like yoga and breathing can help, healing from anxiety takes more than just a 10-minute meditation with some essential oils. Dont belittle or minimize the anxiety your loved one is feeling.
What Not To Do When You Have An Anxious Partner
When dating someone with anxiety, there are certain things you may want to avoid to prevent them from experiencing more stress or anxiety.
If youre dating someone with anxiety, dont do the following:
1. Dont Judge Them Pause and recall everything that you have learned so far about anxiety. Having an anxiety disorder is not a choice. Know that if your partner feels judged, those feelings may trigger additional feelings of anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.
2. Dont Explain Why They Shouldnt Be Afraid You may have some new knowledge about anxiety, but unless you have experienced anxiety, please avoid using these words. Instead, try saying, You are safe or Im here with you.
3. Dont Act Like You Know Everything Your partner is their own best expert. Only they know how they experience anxiety, and it may be similar, yet different each time. Respect that your partner knows everything about their anxiety. Not you.
4. Dont Blame Them We often blame because it provides us with a quick escape from guilt. Unfortunately, blaming another person for a behavior keeps us in a negative place and doesnt allow us to focus on solutions.
5. Dont Make Assumptions Each incident of anxiety is different and each person will respond in a different way. Sometimes specific ways to cope will work one day, and not another day. Allow your partner with anxiety to take the lead. They are the expert.
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Living With Anxiety: What You And Your Spouse Need To Know
- What does anxiety look like?
- Letting go of shame
- Building your tool kit as a couple
- What to remember if you live with anxiety
- What to remember if your spouse lives with anxiety
Lana* always suspected anxiety would play a role in her life. Her brother and mom both struggle with anxiety and it was only a matter of time until hers started to get louder in different circumstances.
As a teenager getting ready for her drivers test, for example, her nerves escalated to the point of physical illness. When her family went through a rocky time as a young adult, she realized she needed to get medical help for her anxiety.
Throughout her 20s, she has found a combination of medication and counselling to be a huge help as she rode the waves of anxiety and depression. There was no getting rid of these burdens, but she had found tools to help her and a support network of trusted family members and friends to be there when she felt like she couldnt cope.
Then she met Pete*.
Early in their dating relationship, she felt the understandable nervousness that comes with the territory, and when they started to talk about marriage, she felt peace that this was the right man for her.
Before going into the specifics of what a husband and wife can do to support and encourage one another, its important to understand anxiety itself.
Help To Reduce Stress In Their Life
Anxiety can be exaggerated by stress. Try to combat their anxious moments by helping them narrow down what stresses them out, such as housework, childcare, etc., and do your best to lessen the stress for them. Set aside time to do things that will help them feel calm, give them a break from the mundane or help them with extra chores around the house. Instead of getting irritated when they are irritable or frustrated, put your energy into helping stabilize the home’s environment. Ask them to try and figure out what triggers their anxiety and do your best to accommodate. They will be less anxious if they know that they can be loved, cherished, cared for, and taken seriously even in their most anxious state.
Anxiety can be a monster, but when handled with delicacy and love, you can help your spouse out of even the darkest and deepest pits. What your spouse needs is love, not judgment. Care, not disdain. They need understanding, not ignorance. It’s not up to you to fix them, but as their spouse, you can help them on the road to healing and living the abundant life that God created them to live.
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Remind Your Loved One That Theyre Worthy Of Being Well
One of the most important things you can do to help a friend whos struggling with anxiety is remind them that theyre worth being well. They deserve to live a full, rich and joyful lifefree from the crippling restraints of anxiety. Were complex creatures with many layers of needs, including:
- A nutritious diet
- Close, supportive and intimate relationships
- A broader sense of community and belonging
- Meaningful work
- Healing from past trauma
If your loved one is struggling in any of the above areas, encourage them to take steps to get well. Try a fitness class together. Cook some healthy recipes. Help them dream about a new job opportunity. If theyre not interested in joining you, set an example and seek to begin your own wellness journey. Sometimes our loved ones will follow the roads that weve carved for ourselves. Whatever area need some attention, keep reminding your loved one that theyre worthy of a better life.
Sometimes There Is Nothing You Can Do And You Have To Accept This
Once a panic attack begins, there is nothing you can do to stop it. It has to run its course. With anxiety, there are ways to stop it, but again, sometimes your partner just has a bad day and cant reach their methods and thought-stopping processes in time. I would encourage you to be supportive, patient, and loving during these episodes. Often times, people with anxiety can recognize when their thoughts are going dark, but at the same time, they may not be able to pull themselves out of it before the point of no return. Do not become frustrated because you cannot help. You help us the most by just being there.
How To Deal With Depression And Anxiety In Your Wife
It is extremely important for partners of those with an anxiety disorder to take care of themselves. These tips will help you cope: Dont give up your own life and interests. Maintain a support system. Set boundaries. Seek professional help for yourself, if necessary.
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How To Help Your Wife With Postpartum Depression
My wife had postpartum depression, and it was the first time in my marriage that I really felt like a problem was out of my league.
I went through so much painful trial and error until we finally saw a counselor who had experience with PPD. Only then was I confident that I was helping my wife survive PPD to the best of my ability.
Id like to help you skip all the hard lessons Instead, Im going to teach you everything I wish Id known from the beginning. This post is divided up into two main parts:
- 1During an episode When your wife is having a really bad day , what should you do? What is the right way to handle it?
- 2Big picture advice This is where youll be learning the things you should be doing all the time as long as your wife has postpartum depression.
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Reduce Your Wifes Anxiety And Improve Your Marriage
Stop feeling powerless in the face of anxiety.
As a couples therapist, Ive worked with many husbands throughout the years who say a big problem in their marriage is their wifes anxiety.
Men can certainly experience anxiety as well, but I see more women present with anxiety. This falls in line with scientific research which consistently shows that women are 1.5-2 times more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
To help reduce a wifes anxiety, a husband can validate his wifes fear even if he doesnt share it. The husband should not try to fix his wifes anxiety or make the issue about himself. Instead, he should show empathy, be curious about her fears by asking questions, and paraphrase back her worries to show he hears her.
This is a particularly tricky dynamic because for a lot of men, when faced with a problem, their instinct is usually to fix it. But anxiety especially someone elses anxiety isnt as simple as going out and buying the right tools from Home Depot.
So, lets dive into how each partner can support themselves and each other in this situation.
Can Anything You Say Help
We may think we need to be like Bob, and only send affirmations of love to our anxious spouse. But remember, love is not empty platitudes.
Love also means speaking the truth. It has been noted that non-hostile criticism can actually help an anxious spouse. If you can give your spouse feedback that does not in any way communicate rejection but provides an alternative, more balanced perspective to negative thoughts and beliefs, it is likely your spouse will consider it. The key part is that is cannot communicate rejection in any way.
Going back to Betty and Bob, lets create a hypothetical scenario to emphasize this:
If Bob, getting frustrated with Betty, told her in a gruff voice to just calm down, it would have sent the signal that he was not happy with her feelings which, given her emotions at that moment, she would have sensed keenly as disapproval and rejection.
Instead, Bob could have started with empathy and told her how disappointing it must be to miss the ferry and scary that she may not be able to make the car payment.
At this point, once Betty knows that Bob cares and understands, Bob could provide some alternative thoughts about the situation such as switching shifts with a co-worker, or arranging a flight that would get her there on time, etc.
Adult Romantic Attachment and Cognitive Vulnerabilities to Anxiety and Depression: Examining the Interpersonal Basis of Vulnerability Models ProQuest Psychology Journals ProQuest,
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Why Your Kids Misbehave And What To Do About It
Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. Youve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.
Be Sensitive To Their Triggers
If you know they get an instant panic attack at the sight of vomit, close the bathroom door when you need to puke. If the idea of death makes them hyperventilate, give them a heads up before they decide to get into Game of Thrones. Basically, donât be a jerk. The ADAA says that 8.7 percent of the US population suffers from a specific phobia, so if your partner suffers from any type of anxiety disorder, chances are good that they also have something specific that terrifies them. While you shouldnât feel like youâre walking around eggshells around your partner, taking reasonable steps to make sure theyâre as relaxed as possible will keep both of you much happier.
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The Spiritual Battle For Your Marriage
God designed marriage to reflect His love to the world and because of this, the enemy wants to destroy Gods beautiful design. Based on his book, Defending Your Marriage, Dr. Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff share about the reality of spiritual warfare against marriages, and how to combat the enemys lies with the truth of God. Couples will be encouraged that theyre not alone in the fight for a godly marriage and better equipped to be a shining example for the world around them.
Try Being More Mindful
Mindfulness practices involve focusing your awareness on whats happening in the present moment without judgement. When negative thoughts come up, you acknowledge them and let them move on.
This can be particularly useful when youre stuck in a negative thought spiral. It can also help you to prioritize your day-to-day experiences with your partner.
After all, maybe the relationship will end in a few months or a few years, but you can still appreciate and enjoy it in the meantime.
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Be Your Partners Stress
Heres the good news:
While you cant fix your wifes anxiety, you do have the power to make a difference in how she experiences it.
You can add to her stress and anxiety by becoming angry, defensive, and shutting down.
Or, you can be a stress reducer a safe haven for your wife when shes battling the storm. The key is to listen to your wife the way she wants to be listened to.
In order to do this, there are four things I want you NOT to do, and three things I want you TO DO in your conversations with your wife about her anxiety.
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The Donts: What To Avoid
Whether you like it or not, you are part of your partners treatment. As a partner of someone with anxiety, your goal is not to make the anxiety worse, to avoid panic attacks, control the symptoms, and keep the anxiety from leading to depression.
You do these things because of love, because you also know that if the tables were turned, your partner would do the same for you. Here are some tips you could follow on what to avoid if your partner has anxiety.
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Assist Them In Finding Help
Studies done to help uncover how to help someone with anxiety and depression show psychotherapy applied alone or together with pharmacology, can be helpful in symptom management. Therapists learn how to treat people with anxiety, and they can provide the help you cant and shouldnt .
If your partner is not attending therapy, assist them in finding adequate help. Also, consider having separate sessions to learn how to handle people with anxiety better and take care of yourself in the process. Therapy can make the process of learning how to help your partner with anxiety much easier on both of you.
How To Help A Partner With Depression
If you suspect your partner is dealing with depression,Dr. Borland recommends these five action items:
1. Encourage your partner to seek professional help
Depression is treatable. So rather than ignoring theproblem or trying to fix it yourselves, enlist the help of a primary caredoctor or psychiatrist.
Depression can be hard to talk about. It helps to work onassertive communication. Share your feelings and concerns without playing theblame game. Start sentences with I statements that focus on your feelings,such as, I noticed, or, Im worried. Talk openly about symptoms youve seenand how you want to help.
2. Work as a team
If talk therapy is part of your partners treatment, join their first few sessions or more. Your partner may also want you to participate in meetings about medications.
Being depressed can be scary, Dr. Borland relates. Your spouse will benefit from all the support you can offer.
3. Practice self-care
Maintain your own health and well-being. You may alsobenefit from your own outpatient therapy. This is not you being selfish itsmaking sure that you have enough in your tank to help your partner and family,Dr. Borland reassures. You need to carve out time for yourself without feelingguilty.
4. Dont take it personally
Depression isnt anyones fault. Give your partner a senseof security and support even when theyre acting out. This takes patience andcommitment but its worth the effort.
5. Educate yourself
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