Wednesday, June 12, 2024

How To Help A Spouse With Anxiety

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What Does Anxiety Look Like


Before anything else, it is essential to differentiate between reasonable situational anxiety and when anxiety becomes a chronic struggle. Everyone worries from time to time, and everyone is faced with situations in life that cause stress.

If you lose your job, it makes sense to become anxious. If you get injured, its reasonable to feel stressed. Anxiety becomes an issue when those worries go unchecked and take over, or the situation is disproportionate to the stress felt.

People with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder , for example, spiral through a series of what if questions that become difficult to stop:

What if I sleep through my alarm and Im late for work? What if being late for work means Im disciplined by my boss? What if that discipline is the last straw and I get fired? What if we cant pay our bills? What if we lose everything?1

Or, as Focus on the Family Canada counsellor Karin Gregory puts it, Anxiety treats your skull like a velodrome. You know how bikes go around and around those tracks at increasing speeds? Anxious thoughts behave in much the same way, and it can feel impossible to get off the track and stop.

Similarly, if you get sick, a reasonable reaction may be one of disappointment or frustration. Someone who deals with health anxiety, though, may think a common cold is deathly pneumonia or a headache is due to a brain tumor.2

The following are different ways people with unchecked GAD behave in everyday life:;

It’s Ok To Provide Validation And Support

Your partner may feel ashamed of his anxiety. Its fine to acknowledge how hes feeling.

Hes nervous to drive again after his recent accident, and you totally get it. But you believe in him. Hes so much stronger than he thinks he is.

Supporting, but not enabling, Daitch explains. What you dont want to do is drive him everywhere.

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Signs Of A Spouse With Anxiety

Before you approach them, you need to look for the signs. Again, it can be tough to spot them at first because youve probably thought of them as natural parts of your spouses personality. But once you take a closer look, you may find that they are indicative of a serious problem. Symptoms of high-functioning anxiety include:

  • Persistent feelings of worry

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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.;;

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.

Alves suggests:

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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Ask Them How You Can Help

All of these tips have helped both me and many other people I know who suffer from anxiety, but everyone is different. Asking your partner what they need is the best way to ensure you’re being the best support system you can be for them, and they’ll appreciate whatever effort you make. They don’t expect you to be perfect. They don’t need a heroâthey can save themselves. But having an amazing sidekick certainly helps.

Images: Franca Gimenez/Flickr; Giphy

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 support your anxious 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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What If Your Partner Has Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder facts.

partner has generalized anxiety disorderpartner has generalized anxiety disorderpartner has generalized anxiety disorder

At Barends Psychology Practice, we offer therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. Contact us to schedule a first, free of charge, online session. .

Encouraging Your Partner To Work With A Therapist Or Try Couples Therapy

How To Help Your Spouse Deal with Anxiety

When you care for someone, its tempting to support them by trying to act as a surrogate therapist. The problem is youre not a therapist. Trying to play that role will be emotionally draining. It could make you resent your partner.

You are not responsible for providing therapy to your partner. This is why you should gently guide your partner toward working with a therapist. A therapist can help them improve how they deal with anxiety, in and outside a relationship.

If youre in a serious, long-term relationship, consider couples counseling. Some of the anxiety issues might be based in your relationship.

Working with a couples counselor can take the pressure off your partner. Rather than encouraging them to do something on their own, you are inviting them to join you in therapy.

What happens in couples counseling?

In couples counseling, you and your partner will gain insight into your relationship, learn how to effectively resolve conflicts, and improve your overall relationship satisfaction through various therapeutic techniques. Therapists will often assign tasks to the couple so that they can apply the skills learnt in therapy in their daily interactions. Most couples conclude therapy with a better understanding of their relational patterns and heightened communication skills, allowing them to continue their relationship in a much healthier, more fulfilling way.

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How Anxiety Destroys Relationships

There is an abundance of information about how anxiety impacts our healthmentally, emotionally, and physically. Have you considered the impact anxiety may have on the health of your relationship?

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.

If you are feeling a strain on your relationship, anxiety may be playing a role. Could your anxiety be putting your relationship at risk?

Heres how and why anxiety destroys relationships, and what you can do to stop it.

Openly Talk About Their Anxiety And Listen

Once your spouse feels comfortable discussing their anxiety with you, it’s good to create an open conversation about it. Ask your partner to describe some of the things they are feeling. If your spouse has any insight into their anxiety, this can be used to help identify triggers or anxiety-driven patterns that are occurring.

As you have these conversations with your spouse, it is crucial that you actively listen to your spouse. They are in a constant battle with themselves, and they need to feel heard. By listening and paying close attention, you are showing them you care.

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Avoid Acting On Your Feelings

Feeling anxious about your relationship or your partner can sometimes make you want proof that everything is all right.

Its natural to want to reassure yourself, but resist the impulse to find this proof in unhelpful or harmful ways.

Pay attention to the difference between your usual behaviors and impulsive actions. Texting regularly might be normal in your relationship, and keeping up a steady conversation can help reinforce your sense of connection. But sending several texts in an hour asking your partner where they are and what theyre doing, when you know theyre hanging out with friends, can lead to conflict.

When you feel these impulses, try to distract yourself with some deep breathing, a walk or jog, or a quick phone call to a close friend.

Dos And Donts Of Helping Someone With Anxiety

How To Help A Spouse With Anxiety
  • It is challenging to love someone that lives with anxiety
  • Some of the ways that friends/family try to help can make anxiety worse
  • There are many dos and donts for those who have loved ones with anxiety
  • Your support is going to be a big part of their recovery
  • If you personally have never experienced an anxiety disorder, it is helpful to remember that the experience of living with anxiety is typically not what most people imagine

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Identify What Is Driving Your Anxiety

Is it fear? Low self-esteem? Lack of confidence? Or shame? Assessing the root of your anxiety and drawing connections to previous experiences or how you were raised can increase your awareness. Sometimes, we feel insecure because we lack confidence in the ability to choose healthy relationships for ourselves.3

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, this could lead to arguments or cause the two of you to grow apart.

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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.

Be Sensitive To Their Triggers

How To Help Someone with Anxiety

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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Dont Trivialize What Theyre Feeling

Even if you donât understand what weâre going through, telling us that that the reason for our anxiety is âsillyâ or âstupidâ is one of the worst things you can do. Most of us know that our fears are irrational or exaggerated, but that doesnât stop us from feeling them. Just as you expect others to sympathize with you when youâre sad or happy, we feel better when you try to understand our anxiety rather than trivializing it. Of course, thatâs not to say you should tell us that weâre correct in being terrified, but making us feel crazier than we already do is only going to make our anxiety worse.

Take Care Of Yourself Too

Recognize that your goal is to help, not to cure the person or relieve them from their anxiety. Taking too much responsibility is actually a symptom of anxiety, so make sure youre not falling into that trap yourself.

Keep in mind that your support doesnt need to be directly focused on anxiety. For example, exercise is extremely helpful for anxiety; so perhaps you could simply offer to go for a walk or attend a yoga class together. Its also fine to put some limits on your support. A 20-minute de-stressing conversation while taking a walk is far more likely to be useful than a two-hour marathon discussion.

Helping someone with anxiety isnt always easy and you may feel like youre getting it wrong. But, if you remind yourself that you and your loved one are both doing your best, it can help you keep things in perspective. Its important to remain compassionate and, as the saying goes, to put on your own oxygen mask first. That way, youll have a clearer head for figuring out whats going on with your anxious loved one and how you can truly be of help.

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A Tendency To Question

A questioning nature can also factor into relationship anxiety.

You might need to ask yourself about all possible outcomes of a situation before deciding on a path. Or maybe you just have a habit of carefully considering every decision.

If you tend to ask yourself a lot of questions about your choices, even after youve made them, youll likely spend some time questioning your relationship, too. This isnt always a problem. In fact, its usually healthy to take time to think about choices you make, especially significant ones .

It could become an issue, though, if you find yourself stuck in an endless pattern of questioning and self-doubt that doesnt go anywhere productive.

Be Your Partners Stress

How to Support a Spouse with Anxiety

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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What Not To Do When Your Wife Is Anxious

When youre in the thick of it and your wife is feeling anxious, there are four things I see husbands attempt that inevitably backfire. When youre talking with your wife about her anxiety, keep these four things in mind as what NOT to do:;

1. DONT try to fix or solve whatever is going on.;

Now, I know Im stereotyping here, but Im going to go out on a limb and say that men really want to do this. You want to fix it.;

If your wife is worried about you going out with your friends, you might say, Fine, I wont go!;

If your wife is worried about how youre loading the child car seat, you might just stop doing it, thinking that if she wants it done a certain way she can do it herself.;

Problem solved. Right? Not so fast.;

These types of fixes lead to resentment , and can end with both partners feeling like they cant do anything right, or cant express how theyre feeling without having to take on yet another task.

Rest assured you dont need to have a solution or a fix for your wifes anxiety.;

2. DONT make it about you.;

When your wife is in the middle of something triggering her anxiety, its universally unhelpful to say things like, Your anxiety is driving me nuts! Or, Do you know how hard it is to live with this?;

Becoming defensive or dismissive is another potential pitfall in this category. Resist saying things like,;You call me nonstop! Or, We have enough in savings, so dont worry about it.;

3. DONT be judgmental.;

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