We all have relationships that interest us. We have relationships with our family, friends and romantic partners. When you have anxiety, all of these relationships can and probably will be affected. You can unknowingly put a strain on a relationship by trying to avoid the problem altogether. Dealing with anxiety in relationships is difficult. To do this, you need an open mind and a willingness to communicate together. Whether you are the anxious person or watching an anxious person suffer, you have a part to play in making the relationship work. Let’s see how anxiety can manifest in a relationship and how each partner should respond appropriately.
Generalized anxiety disorder, GAD, is different for each person. Symptoms manifest depending on your situation. It can also manifest differently around the relationships in your life. Just because you act a certain way with a family member doesn’t mean you’ll act the same way with a romantic partner. All the same, we can look at some of the more likely possibilities and how it affects the relationships you’re in.
Some anxious people will develop a codependent relationship with a loved one, likely a romantic partner or relative. Codependency acts as a security blanket for the person when they are feeling anxious and can cause more anxiety when they are separated or things don’t go as planned. Relationships with codependency issues can feel strained if there is no open dialogue about anxious feelings and needs that need to be met. This often manifests as a ‘clingy’ partner, which can cause the non-anxious person to feel smothered or controlled. It is important that the feelings are communicated during a quiet moment to try to find a resolution to these feelings.
On the other side of the spectrum is avoidance. Some anxious people withdraw into themselves and do not allow outside help. They leave family members, friends, and partners feeling helpless and left out. Avoidance can look like physically avoiding loved ones, refusing to talk about feelings, making plans to avoid facing a problem, and other similar behaviors. The strain this leaves on relationships can quickly turn into blame or anger from a loved one. And if the anxious person does not want to be so closed off, he must be aware of his actions.
Anxiety sometimes turns to anger when other people get involved. Without the proper help or treatment, anxiety can be devastating for some people. When you don’t know what to do to deal with raging thoughts or the physical symptoms that accompany them, unsolicited advice or attempts to help can cause you to lash out unintentionally. If a partner is unaware that their loved one or friend has anxiety, these angry outbursts could cause them to question the relationship or fight, turning an episode of anxiety into a fight of their own. whole.
For romantic couples, this anxiety sometimes manifests because of the relationship itself. This is aptly named relationship anxiety and is a real form of anxiety that can cause problems in romantic relationships. At its root, relationship anxiety is based on fear – of rejection, of their partner, and sometimes even of the notion of a relationship. Anxiety should never be treated alone, but for relational anxiety which is extremely important. Even if the anxiety is one-sided, both partners will need to explain what is causing the fear. Then both of you can find a way to cope and hopefully let go of some of what makes you anxious.
Since we’ve now talked about the different ways anxiety manifests, let’s see how both sides of the relationship can pave the way for communication.
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If you have relationship anxiety
Whether your anxiety stems from the relationship you’re in or you’re anxious in general, the first step in communication is realizing that only you know exactly how you’re feeling. With the help of counselling, you can use some communication tools that will help you explain these feelings to your family, friends and partners. Admitting that you need help is hard, but if your anxiety regularly interferes with your life, counseling is a great option to get you the help you need. If you are afraid to go alone, ask someone to accompany you. They may be in the room with you or drive you and wait outside during the appointment. Mental health counselors want to help you get better and are specially trained to listen and offer advice.
Once you have the tools to communicate, you should do it often. Whenever you feel anxious, even about the smallest thing, let the other person know. Only you can judge what you can handle on your own and what you need help with, and over time this will become clearer as you talk about your fears. Be upfront about what you’re willing to do and what you can’t. If you need to be alone to overcome your anxiety or say no to an event you previously thought you could go to, that’s fine. Remember that your mental health is important and should be taken seriously.
On the other hand, give your friends, family, and partners time to catch up. They will not be able to help you perfectly from the start. Probably, they will make mistakes that sometimes seem overwhelming to you. That’s why it’s so important to talk to them, the more you can educate the people you love about the things you’re feeling, the more they’ll be able to help you when you’re struggling to help yourself.
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If your partner has relationship anxiety
If your loved one has anxiety, let them take the lead. Offer support and encouragement, but avoid “fixing” the problem. Often anxious people need someone to listen to. If you can listen to them and give them time to work out what’s causing the anxiety, you often won’t have anything else to do. If they ask for help, be there for them as often as possible. Whether they’re asking for a ride to a therapist’s office, helping you make a dreaded phone call, or explaining something they don’t understand, they look at you like someone to lean on.
That doesn’t mean you should be a crutch. When you help, let them know that they are doing well on their own. Don’t just make a phone call for them, but support them and allow them to dial the buttons and talk, while you support them all the time. If the anxiety is an irrational thought or fear, ask them to speak out loud, ask them to challenge their thought process, let them see that they can overcome the fear through their thinking.
Finally, let them know that it’s okay to need help. Support decisions to go to therapy or take medication. In a world that still stigmatizes these things, your support will make it much easier for your loved one to accept help.
I hope you’ve picked up some tips on how to navigate the different relationships in your life while dealing with anxiety. The more you know about anxiety, the more you can help yourself. But while these tips are very helpful, they cannot replace communicating with a therapist, counselor or psychiatrist. There is nothing more valuable than having one-on-one communication with someone who is uniquely trained to get you the help you need.
There are so many therapy options, you can find the one that’s right for you. Maybe you’re not comfortable sitting face to face with a counselor. It doesn’t matter! Many counselors offer therapy sessions over the phone or video chat options. There are also chat-based tips. Chat-based counseling allows you to communicate entirely via text to a mental health counselor. They’ll also respond to you in text, so you never have to worry about a nerve-wracking phone call or meeting.
At ReGain, our secure chatrooms are available for couples and individuals. You have the option of communicating by text only or signing up for a phone call once you get to know the therapist. If you start chat therapy for yourself and have a partner you want to join later, you also have the option of adding them to your chat room. For more information about ReGain and to get started using our platform with licensed mental health professionals, click here.
Anxiety in relationships is very common and doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. With the right communication and support tools, you can live a life despite anxiety and not just through it.
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