Loving a person who has an anxiety disorder can be very difficult at times. You might find yourself taking on extra responsibilities that you do not want, or avoiding certain places or activities that you used to enjoy because they trigger your partner’s anxiety. Understandably, this can strain a relationship. But it can also bring the two of you closer together. Here are some tips derived from experts and authors in the field of anxiety and relationships.
1. Care for yourself
As the saying goes, you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. Set up self-care routines for yourself and stick to them. Make sure that you take time for yourself. Consider the ways you can bring physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, professional, and relationship health into your daily life. Talk to friends, maybe even find a counselor of your own for support.
2. Educate yourself about anxiety.
Learn as much as you can about anxiety and treatment for the many manifestations it may take. Talk to your partner openly about how her anxiety affects her. Ask how you can help when she is experiencing an anxiety attack. If you know how you can effectively help, you will be calmer when the situation arises.
3. Never use force.
Don’t force your partner to find treatment. Nagging your partner or commanding that he go to counseling will not help. Your partner is the one with anxiety, let him decide what to do and when to do it for himself. Be encouraging and offer advice without judgment, when asked, but never use force.
4. Demonstrate positive, healthy behaviors.
Rather than being your partner’s guardian from triggers or the things that upset her, try to be a role model. DO quietly show positive reinforcement of healthy behaviors. DON’T criticize irrational fear, avoidance, or rituals.
5. Never criticize.
It’s as simple as that. Don’t judge and don’t try to convince your partner he is being irrational. He probably knows that, but it doesn’t make the experience any less real. If your partner is hanging an anxiety attack, ask what you can do to help, and do that.
6. Know that it doesn’t have anything to do with you.
This is one of the most important things to understand. It is not your fault. Your partner is having an anxiety attack and is freaked out and might snap at you, but it’s not about you. It’s about her brain going haywire and her panic about getting food poisoning. Don’t take it personally. She loves you!
Anxiety in a relationship can cause strain, but it can also be a source of strength. Be open with your partner and non-judgmental. Lean on one another in times of need. Go to counseling—individual, but maybe together too. The ride is going to be bumpy, but only from time to time.
Written by Catherine Clubb-Brown, intern
Photo courtesy of anxiety-disorders-101.blogspot.com