How To Help Your Partner With Anxiety: 8 Ways To Support Your Loved One
Anxiety can be a difficult mental health challenge whether you live with it yourself or are in a relationship with someone who struggles with it. If you have a partner with anxiety, it can easily disrupt life for both of you and impact your relationship as well. While you can't "fix" your partner or take their anxiety away for them, there are ways that you can support them through tough times. In this article, we’ll be discussing eight different ways you can offer your support when your partner has anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to frightening, stress-inducing, or tense situations. While most people have anxiety during stressful situations, some people experience it on a regular basis in everyday life. 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, while others 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 unique challenges. Receiving a proper diagnosis can be important so that you and your partner can know exactly what you're dealing with.
Ways To Support Your Partner
While everyone’s experience with anxiety looks different, there are some general guidelines you can follow to offer your support to your partner. Being there for your loved one can make a big difference in them getting help and overcoming their symptoms. You can have a healthy relationship even if one or both of you struggles with anxiety. Below are eight tips that may be useful as you learn how to support your partner:
Resist The Urge To Fix Them
When you love someone, the last thing that you want is to see them hurting. However, it can be important to remember that it’s not your job to fix them. You're not their therapist or doctor; rather, you're their partner, and you still play a big role in their life. Your efforts to try to "fix" or help them can often end up making them feel even worse. Your partner may view your efforts to help as a reminder of their anxiety. Further, if your efforts don’t work, they may feel that they’re letting you down by not showing any improvement.
Even if you have the best of intentions, your partner may need more than you can offer. Or they might need something that you hadn’t thought of. By considering their needs and offering support instead of quick fixes, you can learn how to be there for your partner in the ways that they need.
Accept Them The Way They Are
When you let your partner know that you accept them just the way they are, it can give them peace of mind. Those with anxiety may feel the need to put on a brave or happy face even when they’re struggling. 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 must earn your acceptance, it may cause them even more anxiety.
Don't Belittle Their Fears
Sometimes anxiety can cause our fears to get the better of us. We may end up worried and afraid of things that might not make sense to anyone else. If your partner has a lot of fears, avoid trying to explain them away. While you may not understand why they have the fears they do, understand that to them, their anxieties feel real and frightening. They may even realize that their fears are unrealistic to have, but nevertheless feel unable to control their thoughts surrounding them. Instead of adding to their anxiety by downplaying their fears, support your partner in overcoming them.
Keep Them In The Know
If you know that your partner is highly anxious, you may be able to help them out by anticipating and preparing for situations or things that may make their anxiety worse. 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
Instead of passing judgment on your partner, love them for who they are. This may 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. Try to reassure them that you are there for them and that you're willing to help in any way you can. Take away the pressure of them thinking they must have everything figured out for your relationship to continue. Even if you don’t always know what to say, you can still offer a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.
Remember That It's Not Your Fault
If your partner struggles with anxiety, it may impact your life in one way or another. If your partner struggles with anger and irritability because of their anxiety, they might blame you for their situation, but you don't have to own it. While you may feel tempted to believe their anxiousness is a result of your relationship, remember that someone else’s feelings are not your fault. While you can take steps to ease their anxiety and offer support, it can ultimately be vital that your partner accepts responsibility for any mental health challenges they’re facing. You can’t get help for your partner; rather, they must seek it on their own. Of course, you can encourage them along the way and continue to be there for them through the healing process.
Keep Living Your Life
If your partner struggles with anxiety, it makes sense that you’d want to be sensitive to their situation. However, it can be unrealistic to think that you can always switch up the plans to accommodate their needs and lessen their anxiety. You don't have to stop living your life because they aren't comfortable doing the same things that you are. It’s acceptable for partners to have different interests and needs whether it’s socially, professionally, or personally. Partners who love and care for each other allow one another the freedom to do the things that make them happy. You can find a balance between living your life and being there for your partner as well.
Online Counseling With Regain
Although you may not be able to fix your partner’s anxiety, a qualified professional could offer the appropriate support. It can be helpful for them to talk to an experienced therapist who can provide the support and guidance they need. Several different forms of therapy can successfully treat those living with anxiety, and encouraging your partner to go to sessions can help them make progress in overcoming their anxiety. A therapist can help you, as well. Regain provides online counseling for individuals and couples, meaning your partner can get help for their anxiety and you can find ways to support them through tools that the therapist gives you. Even if you have busy or opposite schedules, online counseling allows you to pick a time that works for both of you and connect from anywhere you have an internet connection. If you're looking for an alternative way to get treatment without having to go into a therapist's office, you can try online counseling and see if it helps improve your partner’s symptoms and your relationship as well.
The Effectiveness Of Online Counseling
Counseling has been shown, through research, to be effective in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In one study, researchers assessed the efficacy of a remote cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for those experiencing GAD. Results showed large effect sizes in the reduction of GAD symptoms from pretreatment to posttreatment regardless of the intensity of the treatment. Researchers concluded that “Overall, the current meta-analysis provides preliminary results to indicate that both low and high intensity remote CBT treatments are effective in the treatment of GAD.”
When your partner lives with anxiety, it’s natural to want to do everything you can to help them through it. However, while supporting your partner with their anxiety, you may start to neglect yourself in the process. This can be important to avoid, as taking care of yourself first and foremost can enable you to support others and the relationship. If your relationship is already struggling due to anxiety, it could worsen if neither of you is equipped with the right tools to care for yourselves while also continuing to build a healthy bond as partners. Counseling can be appropriate if you find yourself in this situation. A counselor can work with each of you to address mental health concerns like anxiety and give you tips and tricks for building a healthy partnership. Happy, satisfying, and stable relationships are possible even when one or both partners live with anxiety.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you help someone with anxiety?
Here are some things you can do to help someone with anxiety:
- If they're open about their anxiety, ask them about it.
- Try to learn about anxiety disorders.
- Ask them what is helpful when they're anxious, as well as what is unhelpful. These can be 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.
- 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 might this anxiety feel?" and have empathy for your partner or spouse.
Additionally, avoid telling 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 that you can read up on. Resources such as the NAMI website and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) website may benefit those who have a partner living with any type of anxiety. Further, professional counseling can be beneficial for those wondering how they can support their partner.
How can I help my spouse with panic attacks?
When your partner is calm, ask them what you can do to effectively 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 can be helpful because it allows them to verbalize their experiences and what they need so that you can understand how to go about supporting them. 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, try to understand how it could affect your conversations. 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 likely feels 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 can benefit both of you. If your spouse sees a mental health professional such as a therapist, 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 can be challenging to live with, having anxiety isn't your fault and is nothing to be ashamed of. If you feel anxiety coming on, don’t ignore it, and take steps to minimize those feelings. This could help prevent an anxiety attack. If you know your triggers and can remove yourself from an anxiety-inducing situation, do so. Don’t force yourself to do something or stay somewhere you know will only make you more anxious. If you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack, try to calm yourself down through deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and other relaxation methods.
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. Remember, too, that there are various types of anxiety disorders that people 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. It can all depend on the individual.
What's it like being married to someone with anxiety?
If you’re married to someone with anxiety, you may face challenges that other couples don’t. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy, healthy, and fulfilling union. When you’ve tied the knot with someone who has anxiety, there may be times when your spouse is on-edge or tense for part or most of the day. They may get anxious over things you don’t find bothersome or experience symptoms like anxiety attacks, which can affect your day-to-day life together. Perhaps you can’t go out to concerts or other crowded places because they have social anxiety or you can’t participate in other events because it may make their symptoms worse. Being married to someone with anxiety might present unique situations, but by being a loving, supportive, and patient partner and encouraging your spouse to seek treatment, you can help create a safer, healthier union for each of you.
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