How To Help Your Partner With Anxiety: 8 Ways To Support Your Loved One
Anxiety is a difficult mental health challenge to deal with in relationships. If you have a partner with anxiety, it can easily disrupt life for both of you and your relationship. And, while you can't "fix them" or take their anxiety away for them, there are ways that you can support them through difficult times.
Anxiety can be brought on for any number of reasons. Some people are predisposed to anxiety, such as those that have a family history of it. And, some experience anxiety as a result of an event that they have been through in life. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, and each one brings with it its challenges. That's why it's so important to receive a proper diagnosis so you and your partner can know exactly what you're dealing with.
While some of the symptoms might be different, there are some general ways that you can use to show them support. Your support can make a big difference in them taking steps to get help and overcome their anxiety. It does not need to be something that they struggle with daily for the rest of their lives. And, you can have a healthy relationship despite it.
- Resist The Urge To Fix Them
When you love someone, the last thing that you want is to see them hurting. However, it's not your job to fix them. You're not their therapist; you're their partner. Your efforts to try to "fix" or help them can often end up making them feel even worse. Even if you have the best of intentions, they can view your efforts to help as a reminder that they're not OK. Then they have to deal with thinking that they're letting you down as well.
- Accept Them The Way They Are
When you let your partner know that you accept them just the way they are, it gives them a more comfortable place. When they don't have to worry about earning your acceptance, it can allow them to focus on what they can do to improve their anxiety. If your partner feels that they have to earn your acceptance, it's likely to cause them even more anxiety.
- Don't Belittle Their Fears
Sometimes anxiety can cause our fears to get the better of us. We can end up worried and afraid of things that might not make sense to anyone else. If your partner has a lot of fears, don't try to explain them away. While you may not understand why they have the fears they do, please don't treat them like they shouldn't be afraid. They may realize that it's an unrealistic fear to have, but let them be the ones to say that. Never make fun of them because of it. This is only likely to cause them more difficulty.
- Keep Them In The Know
This piggybacks off #4. If you know that your partner is highly anxious, then see what you can do to anticipate that anxiety and help them out. For example, if they're worried about your safety regularly and you find out that you're going to be working late, send a text or give a quick call to let them know. This way, when you don't show up on time after work, they aren't worried that something has happened.
- Be A Safe Place For Your Partner
Don't pass judgment on them and love them for who they are. This will allow them to feel safe coming to you and talking about their struggles. You don't want them feeling alone and like they have nowhere to turn. Ensure that you assure them that you are right there for them and you're willing to help in any way you can. Take away the pressure of them thinking they have to have everything figured out for your relationship to continue. It's OK if you don't always know what to say and be there for them.
- Remember That It's Not Your Fault
If your partner struggles with anxiety, it's going to impact your life. It's impossible for it not to. But, it would help if you reminded yourself that their anxiety is not your fault. You can try to do things to make it easier on them, but ultimately, it's something that they're going to need to take responsibility for and get help for on their own. You can't do it for them.
If your partner struggles with anger and irritability because of the anxiety, they might blame you for their situation, but you don't have to own it.
- Keep Living Your Life
Maybe your partner struggles with social anxiety and has a hard time going out with groups of people, but you were looking forward to going to dinner with a group of friends. You don't have to stop living your life because they aren't comfortable doing the same things that you are. It's OK and healthier for you to continue living your own life. If your partner loves you, they aren't going to want to stop you from doing the things you enjoy. However, it's also important to remember to show your love and support. You can find a balance between living your life and being there for your partner as well.
Do Not Allow Inappropriate Behavior
If anxiety is not treated, it can lead to inappropriate or dangerous behavior in some people. While this isn't something that everyone experiences, it's something that you should be aware of if your significant other struggles with anxiety.
Substance Use Disorder
There have been links between anxiety and substance or alcohol use disorder. However, the exact connection is not always the same. Some people experience anxiety because of their substance use, and others begin using alcohol or other substances to cover their anxiety symptoms. But, either way, anxiety is not an excuse for drug or alcohol use disorder. And, studies have found that alcohol hurts anxiety. So, while they might think they are having a drink to make that social setting easier, it could actually be hurting more than it's helping.
When someone is struggling with anxiety throughout the day, it can make them short-tempered and impatient. If they don't know how to deal with their anger properly, they may take it out on you. This is never acceptable or OK.
Do not allow your partner to use their anxiety as an excuse for abusing you physically, verbally, or emotionally. If you're in an abusive relationship, you need to get yourself the help that you need. Contact the National Domestic Violence hotline to find out more. This doesn't mean that you have to end your relationship, but you need to get yourself into a position where you're safe to make this decision.
If your partner is abusive, they're most likely not going to want to admit that it's their fault and something within their control. This could lead them to try to blame you for their anger and outbursts. This isn't OK, either. Anxiety disorders can be complicated and difficult to deal with; however, they are never an excuse for abuse.
Talking To A Therapist
There are several ways that a therapist can help. As mentioned above, you are not your partner's therapist. It's helpful for them to talk to an experienced therapist who can provide the support and guidance they need. Several different forms of therapy are successful in treating those with anxiety. Encouraging your partner to go to sessions can help them make progress in overcoming anxiety.
A therapist can help you, as well. It can be exhausting and confusing when you're in a relationship with someone with an anxiety disorder. Therapy can give you the support that you need, as well. It's easy to get so caught up in trying to help another person that you end up neglecting yourself.
If you're looking for an alternative way to get treatment without having to go into a therapist's office, you can try online therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you help someone with anxiety?
Here are some things to do to help someone with anxiety:
- If they're open about their anxiety, ask them about it.
- Make an effort to learn about anxiety disorders.
- Ask them what is helpful when they're anxious, as well as what is unhelpful. These are important things to know.
- Stay calm when someone is experiencing anxiety or symptoms of anxiety. Don't raise your voice. Make sure to speak in a calm tone.
What shouldn't you do if your partner has anxiety?
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if your partner has anxiety:
- If your partner tells you that they have a specific trigger, respect their request.
- Do not try to replace a therapist or mental health professional.
- Please do not treat them as though they are being irrational or force them to do something that makes them anxious.
- Don't get angry or frustrated when someone's struggling with anxiety. Before you get frustrated, ask yourself, "how must this anxiety feel?" and have empathy for your partner or spouse.
Additionally, do not tell your partner that they should "just get over it" when they're anxious. Anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, and panic disorder are very real conditions. You can read up on anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, selective mutism, separation anxiety disorder, and panic disorder by reading out other articles about anxiety. Additionally, resources such as the NAMI website and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website may benefit those who have a spouse living with generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or another anxiety disorder. In addition to providing information, the ADAA website is an excellent resource for people with anxiety disorders and their loved ones to find support. Use the search option here to find a support group. Remember that support groups aren't a replacement for treatment for people with anxiety disorders.
How can I help my spouse with panic attacks?
When they do not have a panic attack, ask them what you can do to best support them when they have a panic attack. Asking someone when they're calm and able to speak about the topic in a relaxed manner is helpful because it allows them to verbalize their experiences and what they need so that you can understand how to go about supporting your partner. If they currently have a panic attack and you aren't sure what to do, ask simple questions like, "do you want some water?" and "do you want space, or may I sit with you?"
Can anxiety ruin a marriage?
Anxiety itself is unlikely to ruin a marriage, but there are ways anxiety can impact it. Misunderstanding is one potential issue. If your spouse or partner struggles with anxiety problems or an anxiety disorder, make an effort to understand. Fights caused by misunderstandings (for example, "why are you reacting this way? It's not that big of a deal!") can strain a marriage. While it may appear to be irrational anxiety to you, what your spouse or partner is experiencing is very real to them. Work to understand your loved one's anxiety by asking questions about how to help and react in a way that'll benefit them. If your spouse sees a mental health professional such as a counselor or therapist manage anxiety, it might benefit you to go with them for a session. While anxiety and stress aren't the same things, both can impact a marriage. If you find that you're struggling to understand your partner's anxiety on an ongoing basis, are battling anxiety yourself, or if you're facing stressors in your relationship, consider couples counseling as an option.
What shouldn't you do when having an anxiety attack?
When you're having an anxiety attack, don't beat yourself up or put yourself down. Many people live with anxiety disorders, and while anxiety is challenging to live with, having anxiety isn't your fault. It's nothing to be ashamed of. When it comes to the prevalence of anxiety disorders, it's said that 18.1% of those over the age of 18 in the United States will experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. If you have an anxiety disorder or struggle with anxiety, you're not alone.
What triggers anxiety episodes?
One of the most important things to remember about anxiety disorders is that people with anxiety disorders all have different triggers. The ways anxiety manifests vary from person to person, and living with anxiety is a different experience for everyone with an anxiety disorder. Remember, too, that there are various types of anxiety disorders that those living with anxiety may have. Some common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder, and specific phobias. If someone has social anxiety, social situations may trigger them, whereas if someone has health anxiety, fears about health and illness may be their primary trigger.
Can an anxious person be in a relationship?
How do people with anxiety act in a relationship?
Can anxiety make you want to break up?
What's it like being married to someone with anxiety?
It can be challenging to be married to someone with anxiety. When you’re in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, it can feel like they’re constantly on edge and high-strung. You may feel exhausted all of the time because your partner is worried about everything all day long. When you have depression, it can be even more difficult to focus on what your date says or does. Anxiety in relationships can make it hard to focus on anything else.
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