Dating someone with anxiety can be difficult–there is no way around it. However, your partner’s anxiety is harder on them than it is on you. The most important thing you can do is try to help, even in a small way. Sticking by their side and using a few of these simple strategies could truly strengthen your relationship.
1. Educate Yourself
Crack open a book or hit the interwebs to learn about anxiety. An estimated 18% of people live with anxiety of some kind–so this knowledge will aid you in helping your partner and likely others as well. There are many types of anxiety to learn about such as general anxiety disorder, which manifests in uncontrollable worry about everyday topics and occurrences. Something that may seem completely mundane to you could be a large distraction to an individual living with anxiety.
Additionally, social anxiety is the fear of being judged or rejected and can make it difficult to interact with others in a range of social settings.
While this may seem like a lot to sort through, it is likely you will recognize symptoms your partner has exhibited in connection with their anxiety–helping you to understand what they could be struggling with.
The best way to learn what your partner is going through is to just ask–then listen. Ask them questions during a quiet time such as “What does your anxiety feel like?” or “What do you wish I knew about your anxiety?” or “What can I do to help when you are not feeling good?” Let them talk and resist jumping in and providing your own input unless they request it.
Respecting your partner and truly listening is the best way to show you care.
3. Ask About Triggers
Learning what sets your partner’s anxiety off is important. Learn their triggers by asking what they are and once again, listening. Ask questions like “When does it get really bad?” or “What usually makes you feel better?” or “What can I do to help?”
You may have already picked up on some of these triggers–continue to be attentive. This way, you could not only help your partner once their symptoms have begun or, even better, keep them from starting in the first place by avoiding certain situations.
4. Do Not Make It About You
Try not to take your partner’s anxiety personally. Remember that no matter how you may feel, they cannot just “get over it.” It can seem like their anxiety is due to you or your relationship, however, this may not be the case.
Rather than assuming how they are feeling and why–again, just ask.
5. Recognize & Respect Their Emotions
If your partner is struggling and acting in a way that may seem irrational to you–such as crying, yelling or talking in circles–stay calm. You piling on emotions will only escalate the situation. Instead of pointing out their behavior as excessive or erratic, validate how they are feeling and remember what they told you about what makes them feel better. Maybe they like being distracted–throw on their favorite TV show. Maybe they just need a good hug.
It is okay to be empathetic and feel their emotions with them. However, do this while staying calm and helping them to move forward and through these painful feelings.
If you fear your partner may harm themselves or you would just like some professional help reach out to a mental health professional or call a free crisis hotline:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAIMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
6. Take Care Of Yourself
Vicarious anxiety is real. Your partner’s anxiety may begin to cause similar feelings in you. Therefore, try to remember that their anxiety issues are not yours. Practice self-care and encourage your partner to do the same.
You need to take good care of yourself to avoid compassion burn out so try out healthy stress relieving strategies such as talking to a friend or loved one, meditation or yoga.
7. Do Not Try To Be Their Therapist
Try to assuage their anxiety–but do not think it is your job to somehow cure your partner. A professional is the best option for aiding your partner in coping with their anxiety. Therefore, suggest they seek expert attention. A therapist can provide them with the medical and professional attention you can not–no matter how hard you try.
Be there to support your partner but remember you cannot “fix” them–especially since anxiety does not make a person broken anyways.