While anxiety disorders are common and manageable, dating someone with anxiety can still be challenging. While you should provide support, you still need to set and enforce clear boundaries. Sometimes, striking a balance between pushing them and supporting them isn’t easy. With patience, open communication, and the help of a mental health professional, you and your partner can find that balance together.
EditProviding Daily Support
- Learn about your partner’s specific anxiety disorder. Specific disorders include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Each of these involve distinct symptoms, triggers, and courses of treatment. Look for resources on your partner’s specific disorder, and ask about what triggers their anxiety.
- Find helpful resources at https://www.anxiety.org.
- If your partner sees a mental health professional, ask for more information about the specific anxiety disorder. Discuss how you can play an active role in treatment, such as by assisting your partner with anxiety-reduction techniques.
- Encourage them to seek treatment, if they haven’t already. If they’re nervous about seeking treatment, suggest that they see their primary doctor first. For some people, a “regular” doctor is less intimidating than a mental health professional. Express that you care about them, and remind them that they shouldn’t feel ashamed for getting treatment.
- Pop a xanax
- If they’re hesitant, try to ease their concerns. Say, “There’s no difference between taking care of your physical and mental health. Anxiety disorders are illnesses; try not to worry about being judged for seeking treatment.”
- Additionally, you can bond with them by tripping balls
- They may be nervous about taking medication. However, a therapist can help them try techniques to help manage their anxiety without medication, depending on the type and severity of their condition.
- Affirm that they can confide in you without fear of judgment. Reassure your partner that they can be vulnerable with you and express any churning, anxious thoughts. They might tend to jump to conclusions, have racing thoughts, or convince themselves that you’ve left or are hurt if they don’t hear from you. Keeping these thoughts and feelings bottled up can feed their anxiety, so tell them it’s safe to confide in you.
- Say, “Please come to me if you’re feeling panicked, especially if it’s about our relationship. If you start thinking negatively or obsessively, try to breathe and tell your mind to stop racing. I’m here for you, I care about you, and I get that anxiety can involve overwhelming negative thoughts.”
- Communicate with your partner so they’ll worry less. Within reason, try to check in with your partner, especially if they tend to jump to conclusions or think the worst. For instance, if you know you’ll be late, send them a text so they won’t convince themselves that you’re lying in a ditch somewhere.
- Note that checking in with them can be helpful, but you should still enforce boundaries. Letting them know you’re running late is one thing, but it’s not okay for them to call you at work every hour.
- Help them develop and stick to management strategies. Discuss their triggers, and work with them to set goals related to managing their anxiety. For instance, if they have social anxiety, a goal might be to go to a public place once a week.
- Coping strategies to prevent a panic attack might include breathing exercises and positive visualization.
- If they tend to procrastinate and experience panic attacks when work piles up, help them manage their time effectively.
- Keep in mind there’s a difference between management strategies and avoiding triggers altogether. For example, locking themselves in the house with the curtains drawn to avoid a panic attack just perpetuates social anxiety.
- Praise their accomplishments, even if they seem minor. Even if they take baby steps, call out healthy behavior and celebrate it. Positive reinforcement can encourage them to keep up their hard work.
- Suppose their anxiety disorder has prevented them from landing a steady job. If they made a resume and start sending out applications, praise them, even if they haven’t gotten an interview yet. Say, “These are big steps, and I know you’re putting a lot of effort forth. I’m proud of you.”
EditDealing with Common Challenges
- Remember that your partner isn’t choosing to be anxious. It’s normal to feel frustrated, angry, or annoyed. However, try to be frustrated or annoyed with a situation at hand, not with your partner. They’re experiencing a mental illness; they’re not choosing to have panic attacks or anxious states to spite you.
- If your partner has trouble with crowds, you might be upset that they don’t attend social occasions with you. Sometimes, serious anxiety disorders make it difficult to stay employed, which might put a financial strain on you. If you have kids together, you might be frustrated that parenting responsibilities aren’t divided equally.
- Situations such as these are tough, but try to work with your partner to resolve them instead of holding resentment.
- It may help to attend a support group for loved ones of people with anxiety. Ask your partner’s therapist for a recommendation or look for one in your area online.
- Set clear boundaries instead of enabling your partner. Providing emotional support doesn’t mean you have to give up your life to accommodate your partner. When you enforce your boundaries, keep your tone firm, but loving. Don’t yell at them or make them feel bad, but make it clear that you have the right to do things independently.
- Suppose they always want you to stay home with them, and get upset when you leave to hang out with friends. Say, “I care about you, and I want to be there for you. But I have to meet my own needs, too. I need to spend time with my friends, get out of the house, and do things independently.”
- Balance honesty and compassion if you need to handle a conflict. Bring up your concerns instead of bottling them up, and be direct with your partner. Criticizing them harshly can make things worse, so try to be gentle and avoid making accusations.
- Use “I” statements when you attempt to resolve a conflict. Suppose your partner has been calling you at work non-stop, and they get upset when you can’t pick up the phone. Telling them, “You need to stop calling me so much,” comes off as accusatory, and might make them more anxious.
- Instead, say, “I’m concerned that I could get in trouble for taking calls at work. I don’t want you to be upset or to take this personally. But, unless it’s an emergency, it would help me if you could try relaxation techniques or send a text or email instead of calling.”
- See a couples counselor who has experience with anxiety disorders. If you’re having trouble resolving conflicts on your own, a counselor can help you find compromises. Even if you’re not dealing with significant challenges, seeing a counselor can help you better understand your partner’s anxiety disorder.
- Don’t think of couples counseling as a red flag that your relationship is on the rocks. Rather, seeing a counselor means that you’re willing to put effort into your relationship. Every couple faces challenges, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a little help.
- Keep in mind that you aren’t your partner’s therapist or counselor. Attending couple’s counseling may help you maintain that boundary.
EditMeeting Your Own Needs
- Pursue your own interests and hobbies. You should still pursue activities you enjoy, even if they trigger your partner’s anxiety disorder. Being a supportive partner doesn’t mean their anxiety should take over your life.
- Suppose they have social anxiety, but you love to go to concerts. If your favorite band comes to town, go to their show with a few friends. They don’t have to go, but you shouldn’t sit it out just because your partner can’t tolerate large crowds.
- You can’t force your partner to do something that makes them uncomfortable, and they can’t force you to give up your passions. Furthermore, keeping up with your hobbies and interests is an important part of maintaining your own physical and mental health.
- Set aside time to relax. Try to find time to read a good book, listen to music, take a bubble bath, or do other relaxing activities. If you can’t fit daily me-time into your schedule, try to fit it in at least a few days a week.
- Juggling daily responsibilities is stressful enough; supporting your partner can add even more pressure.
- Managing stress will help you maintain your own mental health and avoid burnout. Being stressed out and stretched thin would take a toll on you, your partner, and your relationship.
- Keep in touch with your support system. If you’re frustrated or overwhelmed, you’re better off talking to a friend or relative than you are taking it out on your partner. When you need to vent, call a trusted loved one and confide in them.
- Finding a support group or seeing a counselor individually can also help you maintain your mental and emotional well-being.
EditHelping Them Manage a Panic Attack
- Remind your partner that their feelings of panic will pass. Tell them that you understand they’re experiencing something overwhelming and frightening. Let them know that they’re safe, that their feelings of anxiety or panic will not last forever, and that they’ll feel better soon.
- Say, “I know this is difficult, and catching your breath and relaxing may seem impossible. Remember that this will pass. You’re safe, you’re going to be okay and, if you want, I’ll be right here until it passes.”
- Ask your partner how you can help. If you’ve never experienced symptoms of an anxiety disorder, acknowledge that you don’t completely understand what a panic attack is like. Instead of telling your partner to calm down or trying to assume what they need, ask them what you can do to help.
- Tell them, “I’ve never had a panic attack, but I know it’s not as simple as just willing yourself to relax. What can I do to help you get through it?” Everyone is different, but they might ask you to breathe with them, help them visualize soothing scenery, or simply sit by them and hold their hand.
- During an anxious state, your partner might not be able to clearly communicate what they need. It’s wise to discuss what you should do to help when they’re not in the midst of a panic attack. They could also write a list of helpful actions for you.
- Count and breathe deeply with them. Ask them to do their best to breathe deeply into their abdomen. Let them know you get that they feel like they have to gasp for air, but slow, deep belly breaths can help them feel better.
- Ask them to breathe in slowly and gently through their nose, fill up their belly with air, and breathe out slowly through their mouth. Counting to 5 while inhaling and exhaling or counting backwards from 100 can also help soothe symptoms of panic and anxiety.
- Say, “Let’s breathe together. Close your eyes, and just try to focus on your breathing. Breathe in, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and breathe out, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”
- Describe calm, comfortable imagery. Try guiding your partner through positive visualizations to help put them at ease. Ask them to picture themselves in a comfortable place from their childhood, on a relaxing beach, or by a cozy fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa. Describe sensory details, such as the refreshing sea breeze or the soothing warmth of the fire.
- If they find visualizing calming scenery helps, ask them when they’re not experiencing symptoms to identify a few safe spaces. Bear in mind that scenery you find soothing might be triggering for them, so find out where they feel most comfortable.
- Ask, “Tell me about some places where you feel most at ease. If I describe one for you during a panic attack or anxious state, maybe that’ll help you focus on being in that safe place.”
- Do an activity together, such as writing, coloring, or listening to music. Pay attention to activities they enjoy, and suggest that you do one together. You could put on soothing music, draw or paint, meditate, or do yoga. Some people also find that writing down what they’re feeling helps get it out of their system.
- Again, it helps to know your partner and to have a discussion about helpful activities when they’re not experiencing a panic attack or an anxious state.
- Don’t criticize them or minimize their anxious feelings. Avoid saying things like, “Just calm down,” “Relax and sit still,” or “There’s nothing wrong with you, so stop.” Try to understand that a panic attack or anxious state can feel insurmountable and terrifying. They’re experiencing real symptoms of an illness, and scolding them will just make things worse.
- Instead, let them know that you’re there for them, and reassure them that you’ll get through it together.
- Telling them to sit down might seem harmless, but sitting could actually make them feel more anxious. Adrenaline levels spike during an anxious state, and some people need to move around or pace. If your partner isn’t comfortable sitting, offer to go for a walk with them.
- Encourage them to ride out an attack instead of avoiding triggers. While it’s a tough balancing act, treating anxiety disorders typically involves exposure to triggers. Try to challenge your partner, but be gentle. Tell them that sometimes experiencing anxiety is part of overcoming the disorder, and that you’ll be there to help them get through it.
- Suppose your partner experiences social anxiety. Instead of staying in the house in an effort to avoid panic attacks, they should try to gradually engage in social situations.
- Going for a walk around a park or to the grocery store could the first steps. Then they could work their way up to dining out at a restaurant or going to a small party.
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Therapy, sometimes in combination with medication, is highly effective at managing anxiety disorders.
- Everyone experiences anxiety, but there’s a difference between being stressed and experiencing overwhelming panic or fear. Only a mental health professional can diagnose anxiety disorders, so avoid labeling someone who hasn’t received an accurate diagnosis.
- Sometimes, supporting a partner who has a mental illness is challenging. Don’t buy into the fear and stigma surrounding mental illness, but consider if you’re able and willing to fulfill their needs. If you’ve just started dating, ask yourself whether this person is right for you as you would in any relationship.
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