Understanding Anxiety & What It Does To Your Partner
Learning some basic facts about anxiety will help you better understand and support your loved one. Talkspace therapists Kate Rosenblatt, MA, LPC, LMHC and Bisma Anwar, LCSW among other mental health professionals, recommended you keep these ones in mind.
Sometimes, anxiety symptoms within a partnership can be triggered from some past traumas in relationships, such as cheating, or the divorce of parents, or anything else that impacted your partner in some way. While your partner might feel anxious in the relationship, sometimes it can really be about a past trauma, and have nothing to do with the current relationship. It can feel supportive to encourage your partner to talk about any past relationship experiences that might be contributing to any anxiety they have about their current relationship with you so you can process them together, and offer reassurance. Your partner can also discuss this with their therapist, or you can see a couples counselor together for support.
How To Support A Partner With Anxiety: Be Patient
Both Green and Tracy Nathanson, LCSW and founder of Pace of Mind Therapy, say that being impatient with a partner who has anxiety is a common “mistake” people make. “They may get frustrated with their partners inability to control their anxious thoughts and feelings,” says Nathanson.
Because as Green explains, “It doesnt help to tell someone to ‘just get over it,’ ‘move on,’ or ‘stop worrying about it.'” Instead, you should try to understand your partner’s anxiety, continues Nathanson. “At times, we can personalize our partners behaviors and take it personally. It is important to be patient and recognize that it is our partners ‘anxious brain’ that is influencing his or her thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.”
‘i’m Tired’ Is Code For ‘i’m Afraid’
Yes, anxiety can be exhausting, according to Jeremy Tyler, PsyD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. But if your loved one is always “too tired” to go out, it might be an excuse. People with social anxiety worry they’ll “do something embarrassing,” he told Health. To avoid looking foolish, they skip outings that may make them uncomfortable.
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Address Your Own Feelings About Your Partners Anxiety
Dating someone with an anxiety disorder can be difficult, and you may find yourself having intense reactions to what is going on with your partner. This is normal and understandable. Taking some moments to practice some self-care and empathy for yourself is vital.
If it feels difficult for you to cope, or if you find yourself reacting in unhelpful ways to your partners anxiety, you might want to consider entering counseling or therapy.
Take Some Time To Learn About Anxiety Disorders
One of the simplest, most supportive things you can do if you are dating someone with anxiety is to learn a bit about anxiety and about anxiety disorders.
Many of us have an idea of what it means to have anxiety that may not be in line with what its actually like, so it can be helpful to get some clarity. Understanding anxiety will also help make you more empathetic.
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Remember That You Cant Cure Them
You might want to do everything possible to heal your partners pain and improve their everyday circumstances. Thats an entirely natural response.
Yet mental health conditions, as a general rule, dont disappear. They can be managed and treated, though.
Support from a mental health professional can do a lot to ease symptoms, but its also possible that anxiety may never entirely go away.
Rather than going forward with a Lets beat this attitude, it may help to approach things from an Im here to help you through this mindset.
- starting a meditation routine together
- asking whether theyve learned any breathing exercises or other helpful techniques in therapy
- making a habit of getting regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or cycling. exercise can boost serotonin production in the brain, which may help ease anxiety
Practicing self-care yourself can encourage them to do the same. Self-care might include:
- making regular time for your hobbies
- spending time with family and friends
- getting enough sleep
- eating regular meals and staying hydrated
- making time to unwind before bed
Healthy boundaries set limits around things you will and wont do for someone else. They help you protect your physical and emotional needs in relationships.
A few examples:
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Understanding Your Role In Your Partner’s Anxiety
Dealing with anxiety in a relationship can be incredibly difficult, but it’s a challenge many couples can overcome by shifting perspectives and getting the help they need. Always start by remembering that you can’t “cure” your partner’s anxiety any more than they can force you to overcome your own problems.
Healthy communication, practice and patience are the most important tools you can bring to the task. When your partner knows you’re there to support them, they’ll be much more willing to listen and seek the help they need.
Not sure where to look as you get started? Here are a few great resources that can help you connect with help in your area:
They’re Terrified Of Being Judged
Anxiety can make someone feel insane, but let’s be entirely clear, they’re NOT crazy. They are experiencing thoughts and feelings that can be jarring, especially if these are new feelings. Sharing these thoughts with someone else leaves that person feeling incredibly vulnerable to judgmentyes, even if you’ve been a good listener and supportive partner thus far.
So, the last thing that you want to do is somehow judge your partner for how their thinking, feeling, or acting. Saying things like “just get over it,” or “that’s not that big of a deal,” or “you can snap out of this,” are all ways of judgemental statements against what someone is experiencing. Unintentional placing judgment on the validity of what your partner is anxious about is not only unhelpful but is a surefire way to make sure you’re partner doesn’t feel safe to confide in you in the future.
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Make Them Feel Accepted
In your attempts to figure out how to help your partner with anxiety, you might inadvertently make it seem like your love is conditional. They might feel they need to get or be better to keep you by their side. When dealing with how to help your partner with anxiety, be mindful of this slippery slope.
A spouse with anxiety and anger can easily think they are not good enough for you.
So, make sure to let them know otherwise. Help them understand and feel they are accepted, even when anxious. Aim to help them think you want them to feel better, not because they dont match your idea of a good partner, but because you want them to be happier.
Focus On Small Wins And Be Patient
Sometimes with anxiety, it feels like youre taking two steps forward and one step back. Your partner may learn some tips to help counter the anxiety, put them into practice for a while, and then stop using them and resort to old behaviors. Learning how to manage anxiety is a practice, and it wont always be perfect.
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You Only See The Tip Of The Iceberg
Your partner gets worked up about things. But do you really understand what they’re struggling with? “Some people just don’t disclose all the depths, all the scary parts, of their anxiety in detail to the person who in theory is closest to them,” Tyler said. “They’re trapped with their own anxiety.”
Let your partner know you want to hear their thoughtsno matter how scary.
Dating Someone With Social Anxiety
If you are dating someone with social anxiety, the anxiety will most likely affect your social life. You might not be able to take your partner to all of the social events or gatherings you want to go to. Like with other forms of anxiety, social anxiety disorder could lead to arguments or cause the two of you to grow apart if it starts to impact your relationship.
Suggestions For Breaking A Trance State
You can help to wake your partner up, as it were, from an anxious trance state.
By anything unexpected, just so that they have to think: What the heck? NOT a bucket of water or anything else abusive of course!
Here are some ideas
- An invitation for anything they can cope with at a completely unexpected moment .
- Humour! Make fun of yourself, tell a joke!
- Discuss a completely unrelated story, about your work, someone at work, the neighbour, your childhood, your friend You get my drift. Use your judgement it might make them angry, which may or may not break the original trance state.
- Tell them youve lost something ordinary your socks for all I care!
- Put a note under their nose with: Did you know I love you? or something completely random.
I am sure you understand what I mean by now. So, be sure to have your list with distractions at the ready, youre going to need it often. Most importantly, know that eventually, you will find the best way of helping your partner to gently get out of their comfort zone and build their confidence.
Theres another aspect to the dynamics between the two of you that I want to cover though However much you may like to you cannot change your partner!
Your Partner May Avoid Certain Places Or Situations
Avoidance is a key feature of anxiety. Unless you’re both on the same page, it can cause a rift in your relationship.
Though it may not seem like a big deal to you, certain tasks can be too much to handle for them. Your partner with anxiety may never chip in certain situations because doing so involves the thing that triggers anxiety, Daitch explained.
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Realize They Are Not Their Disorder
In your own mind, and as you are interacting with your partner, try to think of their anxiety disorder as something separate from them. Yes, its something that colors their life, but its a disorder, not a state of being.
People who experience anxiety are so much more than their anxiety, and treating them as a whole person who also happens to have an anxiety disorder is the more compassionate way to approach things.
Going To Therapy Yourself
Whether your partner accepts or resists your suggestion to go to therapy, you should do it yourself. It will help you develop the skills necessary to understand and cope with your partners anxiety. A therapist can also teach you how to more effectively become a supportive partner.
When you are dating someone with anxiety, its easy to forget about taking care of yourself. By going to therapy, you can ensure you are still focusing on your own mental health.
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How To Stop Anxiety From Destroying Relationships
There is an abundance of information about how anxiety impacts our healthmentally, emotionally, and physically. Anxiety can cause periods of panic, feelings of fear or overwhelm, and a general sense of unease and tension. It can take over your thoughts and bleed into many areas of your life. Have you considered how anxiety destroys relationships with those closest to you?
If you are feeling a strain on your relationship, anxiety may be playing a role. Could your anxiety be putting your relationship at risk?
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.
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Dont Try To Explain They Should Not Be Afraid
As much as you want to be there for your partner, avoid convincing them that they should not be afraid. Your partner already knows that their fears are irrational. They are aware that what theyre worried about might not happen.
However, trying to convince them not to be afraid can make them feel like an irrational idiot. This isnt going to help.
Most importantly, never make fun of their fears or the things theyre afraid of. These fears are real if this sounds silly to you, its better to keep your mouth closed. Just be there for your partner and hold their hand. If youre not sure if what youre going to say isnt doing any good, its better to keep quiet.
Seek Mental Health Support
If youre confused about this illness and want to understand your partner more, the best step at this point is to consult with a mental health professional. Kentucky Counseling Center can help you if this is your goal. After going for individual therapy or couples therapy, you and your partner can come out of this stronger and happier.
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How To Kindly And Effectively Deal With Your Partners Anxiety
Is your partner bafflingly nervous? Dont understand it and dont know what to do for the best?
Im aiming to help you help him or her.
Start by reading my article on Anxiety for no reason, so you understand better what might be happening to them. Ill be here when you come back.
On this page then some clear guidelines as to what precisely helps and what hinders.
Be sure to also read my article How to be an emotionally supportive spouse.
Treatment Options For Patients With Anxiety
There are two primary treatments for individuals with anxiety:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy , which involves learning how to lower anxiety and face distressing situations.
- Medication management with antidepressants, which works well on its own but even better when coupled with CBT.
During therapy, continue to show your support by:
- Asking your loved one what you can do to help them.
- Asking if you can attend a therapy session to learn some skills to better support them.
- Making time for your own life and interests to sustain your energy.
- Encouraging your loved one to try another therapist if the first one isnt a good fit.
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Know What Triggers Your Partners Anxiety
Anxiety triggers are different for each person, but the types of triggers are usually similar. Being aware of these triggers is a great way to be proactive to better help manage them in the future. Some common triggers are caffeine, the news and doom scrolling, negative thoughts, social media, conflict, and stressful situations. Once you and your partner are aware of what triggers the anxiety, you can work to either avoid those situations or build skills to cope with the feelings they bring up.
Take Responsibility For Your Behavior
Even if you are blessed with a reassuring partner, it is still your responsibility to be aware of your disruptive behavior that surfaces the moment anxiety sets in.
Learn to talk openly about whats going on and what you need, and express appreciation when they show up for you in the way that you need, adds Dr. Elizabeth.
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