Over 18% of the entire American adult population suffers from anxiety disorders every year. This means about 40 million people, aged 18 and above, have this condition. And no, it isn't another American thing. In fact, one in thirteen people suffers from it globally. And being the most common mental disorder in the whole world, you are more likely to date somebody with the illness than not.
Unfortunately, a lot of relationships have ended because many people don't understand this common mental health condition. Most just chalk it up to staying far away from bad energy, but it isn't always the case.
In fact, dating someone with anxiety is not an impossible feat. If your partner is suffering from this illness, here are some things you need to know to help you better manage their symptoms of anxiety that may show up every now, as well as better support them in the relationship.
I won't sugarcoat things and tell you that dating someone with anxiety is a walk in the park. It is stressful and will require a lot of work on your part. However, it’s worth noting that there are different types of anxiety; nevertheless, a symptom that is common to all is an excessive worry, and this might be accompanied by a high degree of irritability.
This irritable feeling can be so persistent to the point it interrupts their daily lives. As a result, the condition tends to take a toll on their life, as well as those around them. And since people in a relationship naturally spend a lot of time together, if your partner has it, sooner or later, it will be projected on you.
This projection could manifest as an occasional moodiness or incessant worry at a particular time. I know it can be hard not to take things personally at times, especially when you've done nothing wrong. However, it is imperative to keep an open mind during times like this and understand that it is mostly your partner's anxiety rearing its ugly head and not about you.
If your partner suffers from anxiety, I’ll also advise you to digest all there is to know about the condition. The saying "ignorance is bliss" can be true in some cases, but it's not a philosophy you should adopt if you're around a person with an anxiety disorder.
Thankfully, the internet makes it easy for us nowadays. Google, for instance, is a robust research source and, at the very least, a good place to start. You can quickly and easily access resources on the different types of anxiety disorders so as to identify what your partner suffers from and go from there. More so, it’s also a good idea to learn about the dos and don'ts, so you don't put them in a position where they have to complain all the time.
Also, bear in mind that your significant other won't always be able to put their feelings into words, and even if they could, many prefer to bottle things up, so as not to come off as needy. No doubt, you can't completely understand how your partner feels or what they are going through because even they don't. You can, however, learn how to be their support system by putting in the work.
I know you're trying to help your partner the best you can – I mean, it's probably why you're reading this right now - but whatever you do, don't play therapist. No matter how well or how long you've known them, you can't (or shouldn't) take on the role of a professional therapist.
I don't hold a psychology degree or anything close, but I can tell you that your emotional investment puts your partner at a disadvantage if they rely solely on you. Don't get me wrong, support them all they need, but you also need to understand that anxiety disorder is an ailment that should be treated as seriously as a physical illness.
In the same manner, you wouldn't play doctor when your partner needs heart surgery, don't try to do the same with an anxiety sufferer. The disorder isn't something you can simply love away. The best method of how to help someone with anxiety is to encourage them to seek the help of an objective third party who is trained to handle such issues. And that is a professional therapist, not you, dear.
You can't be their peace if you let their anxiety get to you too. Understand that your partner's issue might sometimes present itself as a panic attack. That said, the symptoms may not be as obvious and can be easily misread as micromanagement or distrust.
Say, for instance, they keep bringing up scenarios of you cheating or outrightly leaving them for a "better" person. Instead of getting mad at your partner at times like this, a little patience and compassion can go a long way in helping them feel better at that moment.
It might also help to know that they are not intentionally trying to hurt you or doubt your affection for them, it's just the anxious thoughts in mind that won't stop churning. Also, know that seeing somebody with the condition means you get some of it transferred to you as well.
And if you notice you're getting anxious in anticipation of your partner's anxiety, it is time to take a deep breath and slow down. Go for a run, meditate, do yoga or anything else that helps calm you down. Remember, your mental health matters too, and you can't help your lover if you crash and burn yourself.
Anxiety triggers can be anything from a place or object to an experience or emotion. They are basically elements that can heighten the symptoms of the disorder. These elements are highly subjective, so you may have to do more than just read about your partner's form of anxiety. The truth is, many people deal with the condition from a young age, so only they already know what their stressors/triggers are and what will make them spiral.
To get a good picture of what not to do, have a sincere conversation with your partner about what triggers their angst. No doubt, getting your partner to trust you enough to open up about their anxiety may take time. Still, seeing as it can help improve the overall quality of your relationship, I say it is worth the wait.
Nevertheless, if your partner isn't ready to go deep into their condition with you yet, you can resort to other ways of identifying these elements. Researching the common triggers for their specific type of disorder is a way to go. You can also learn a lot about your partner's angst by taking the time to observe them.
I once read an article about a woman who constantly worried about her husband dying in an accident or her kids not doing well in school because of fast food. She was, no doubt, a very educated woman but her illness made her fear the worst anyway.
The same can be said with those suffering from anxiety - they are not afraid or over-analyze everything because they want to. Understand that these anxiety activators do not necessarily have to make sense to you. When your partner is going through it, they don't want to hear just how illogical it is - certainly not from you.
Don’t get me wrong, I know you think you are trying to help by explaining how silly it is to be so anxious about something that doesn’t exist, but it won't help. You will only make them feel worse because chances are, they are already highly conscious of their condition. So, the last thing you want to do is validate that by mansplaining their disorder.
Another vital reason to study your partner's anxiety is to learn about their triggers. But please don't make the mistake of thinking you now know it all because you read a couple of articles on the subject. Like I mentioned earlier, this illness is profoundly personal and is different for everyone. To really be their support system, you need to do more than just learning what to avoid.
After gaining a better understanding of their triggers, ask your partner how you can help. Don't assume or try to toughen them up by putting their fear triggers up in their face. Knowing what to do puts you in a better position to help when you’re needed and reduces the chance of you panicking - which will only make things worse.
Also, ask what works best for the usual ways in which their disorder manifests. Like "what do I do when you have a panic attack?", "do you prefer to be hugged or left alone when you feel cranky?", etc. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst together. This is how to solidify your relationship with someone who has the disorder.
Though anxiety can be managed with medications and psychotherapy, episodes still happen. Panic attacks can happen out of nowhere with no apparent reason, while anxiety attacks are usually triggered by a stressor. Both are caused by the disorder and can go away within minutes - although, some severe anxiety attacks can last for hours or even days. When these happen, there are many ways to help, but telling the victim to just calm down and get over it isn't one of them.
If you are not sure of what to say at that moment, I'll advise you to remain quiet. Telling an anxiety patient to calm down in the middle of an attack is like telling an asthma sufferer to just breathe. It might help to know that the person you are with is not a complete idiot, and the bright idea to "calm down" has probably occurred to them too.
That’s said, if you're guilty of doing this, don't feel too bad. According to therapist Dawn Wiggins, a lot of people also make that mistake. Apparently, toning down the expression of others' anxiety rather than encouraging it is a common mistake many of us make. This is often borne out of ignorance and not ill-intention - but now that you know, please do better.
If your partner has anxiety, they are already worried about a lot of things, whatever you do, try not to add to their stress by becoming one yourself. Very likely, their mind is already thinking about a thousand ways in which things could go horribly wrong, so don't substantiate that anxiety by adding more fear to their already fragile life. For instance, if they are suffering from social anxiety, don't feed their insecurities by spending too much with the people they are avoiding.
Likewise, if every time you step out of the house triggers your partner's anxiety, don't be adamant about doing the things that endanger your life. And if, for some reason, you have to keep doing those things, reassure them often about the measures you are taking to stay safe.
These hypotheses don't stop, you could be drinking water, and they get palpitations thinking about how you could choke on the water, and your brain melts. It's bad enough that these morbid imaginations keep running through their mind with you not being in any apparent danger. Imagine what putting yourself in harm's way could do to them.
Communication is paramount in every relationship, but this is even more so when your partner suffers from anxiety. Having to deal with the condition is hard enough without you giving your partner any reason to second-guess you or themselves. Everyone wants somebody who gets them, this is as true for you as it is for your partner, but it doesn't just happen overnight.
You need a certain level of discernment to understand that even though not everything your partner does stems from their anxiety, it still plays a significant role in how they react to things at times. This discernment is acquired, not inborn. What’s more, even if you've dated someone else with the disease before, you still have to communicate intimately with this person to really get them.
My pro advice: Don't turn the disease to Voldemort, it is not to be feared to the level where you are scared to talk about it. Instead, ask questions when things are unclear and listen when necessary. More so, don't keep needless secrets; rather, reassure them often that you are not going anywhere and back your words up with actions.
A lot of things that fuel anxiety may be irrational, but they are not always baseless. Many people struggling with their mental health have been forced to keep quiet about it, rather than voice out and get help both because of the people around them and the stigma that surrounds the topic. At the onset, anxiety can present as being cynical or oversensitive, and, as a result, the person may not get the right attention.
Sadly, many people still have trouble accepting that mental illness is "a thing," and with this naivety comes stigmatization for those who come out. Some go as far as attributing the condition to hormones if the patient is a woman. If it's a man, their "masculinity" is questioned.
This is the reality of those living with anxiety, and if your partner comes out to tell you despite all that, you owe it to them not to be an ass about it. Remind your partner they are not their anxiety and chip in the things you love about them every now and then. Thankfully, more people are becoming aware nowadays that health problems are not always physical, and it can only get better in the coming years.
As the saying goes, "An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly." It is easy to get carried away when caring for a loved one, but make sure not to forget to take care of yourself as well. Encouraging your partner to seek professional support is good, but they are not the only one who needs it.
Like I mentioned earlier, being with somebody who suffers from anxiety is no easy feat. You are constantly on your toes, and it can mess with your mental health too if proper care is not taken. My advice? Sign up for therapy as well. The same way you don't have to be ill before you go see a doctor, you shouldn't wait until you're diagnosed with a mental illness before you see a therapist.
Because they are better equipped for handling psychological issues than you are, signing up with a therapist is your best shot at helping someone with anxiety. They can tell you how to cope with the relationship, along with the excesses of what your partner is going through, while also making sure that your own health remains optimum. This way, you can actually help your baby without making things worse for you, them, or your relationship.
We have talked about the need for patience and compassion, but the need for boundaries is also as essential. For the relationship to work, there has to be a balance between these qualities, so one person does not end up resenting the other. Anxiety can sometimes be unpredictable, but most times, there is a pattern to the way it affects behavior.
This is another reason why observation and communication are essential. They help you identify the typical ways in which your partner's condition affects their behavior, and you can determine where to cut them some slack. However, cutting them slacks does not mean you should condone abusive behavior. Your partner owes it to you not to let their anxiety get the best of them when they can.
Have a candid conversation about what you can and cannot take and draw the line at constant threat, hitting, and other forms of physical and emotional abuse. You may also consider joint counseling if you two are serious, a therapist can teach them the best way of coping with their illness. This way, you can be sure you are not signing up for a lifetime of abuse, and your relationship can be a healthy and happy one.
Going out with people with anxiety is not a decision that should be made based on butterflies alone. It is a decision that you have to understand that may impact your own life if care is not taken. So, you should only go ahead with it if you're convinced your feelings for them are strong enough to withstand the unpredictable nature of their condition.
Dating someone with anxiety is a lot like going out with a regular person; you just have to bring a little more understanding than usual to the table. You also need to be very patient and empathetic to accommodate their excesses without being dismissive of their worries. Listen, ask questions, and love them truly.
Yes, anxiety can ruin a relationship if proper care is not taken. It is easy to mistake some symptoms as an attack on you or your personality. The ups and downs of a relationship can also trigger somebody suffering from the disorder. Dating with anxiety can be so overwhelming that ending it altogether may seem like the better choice for their health.
Seeing a girl with anxiety can be the best or worst experience of your life, and this is because of their condition, not despite it. People with anxiety usually have plans for everything, and that includes you. When a girl like that loves you, she does so with all she has. And this can either be a good thing or a bad thing.
Don't treat them like they're fragile because they are some of the strongest people you'll ever meet. They don't have the disorder because they are weak, so don't make them feel like they are. Don't take everything they do personally, and most importantly, you should not take on the role of their therapist.
Being with a person who has anxiety does not necessarily mean you have to be unhappy in your relationship. You just have to know what (not) to do. I have a feeling you enjoyed the list, but I have no way of knowing what you think unless you tell me in the comments below. Do well to share the article too, a lot of people out there need to see this.