Anxiety. Noun. “A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
We all feel anxiety in one form or another at some points in our lives. There are the types that most everyone feels – test, existential, or social anxiety. These feelings of uneasiness and nervousness come and go throughout our lives during times of growth, change or challenge. When we see our loved ones experience these feelings, we feel called to put our arm around them or try to find a way to ease the stress that is causing their anxiety.
But, what do you do if your partner suffers from a more extreme version of anxiety?
It’s important to note that while we all feel anxiety in some form, individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders are faced with a very different – and much more challenging world. Anxiety disorders can be caused by a variety of things – genetics, substance abuse, or medical conditions. Having an anxiety disorder changes your life and can often close doors that might otherwise be open.
In reality, people suffering from (I hate writing “suffering from” when speaking about anxiety disorders, I think it frames people with the disorder as weak or incapable when it is actually the exact opposite. Coping with an anxiety disorder can make you one of the strongest people out there) anxiety disorders are all around us and you may never even know it.
Chances are that you’ve dated someone with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. If you (like me) don’t have an anxiety disorder it can be really challenging or confusing to be in a relationship with someone that does. Because of that, I have put together 8 things you NEED to know to be a supportive partner for someone with an anxiety disorder. In the case of something like an anxiety disorder – knowledge is power, and the more you understand the more capable you will be to be an amazing partner.
Actually, it’s 9 things – but the 9th is first and foremost and will really help you in more than just this area of your relationship so I am just going to give it to you here and now: Make sure you are communicating effectively. When someone has an anxiety disorder reality can appear skewed sometimes so it’s incredibly important to make sure you are speaking very directly and clearly with that person. Our WWC Communication Scripts will help you make sure that you are using the correct words and conversation structure to help you and your partner have a discussion about the following tips.
Here are the 8 Things You Absolutely Need to Know If Your Partner Has Anxiety:
Listen to Them
Sometimes just opening the verbal floodgates will solve most, if not all problems. By listening, you give your partner an open space to vent or explain what they are feeling, and you give yourself space to understand what is causing the stress. Remember, don’t assume, ask. And then listen!
Don’t Judge Them
The last thing you ever want to do is to judge or criticize someone with an anxiety disorder. Obviously, you don’t want to shame your partner in general – but if they are prone to one, it would behoove you to keep a very open mind. I say this because what may seem completely inconsequential to you – may be the end of their world. And when it feels like the end of their world, you don’t want to be the asshole that just basically says, “get over it.” Judging what your partner is anxious about is not helpful in anyway and is a sure way to get your partner to not confide in you.
Have Patience with Them
Similar to having no judgment, being extremely patient is key to being a good partner to someone with an anxiety disorder. Giving your partner the time and space needed for them to do what they need to get through a particularly tough day or bad interaction is super important. It can be difficult to sit back and listen or sit back and watch your partner be in pain or distress, but it will go away. It’s temporary and the more patient you can be, reminding them that it will go away that that you’ll be there when it does… it helps.
Learn Some Grounding Skills
You may have heard someone call their partner their “rock” or maybe heard someone vow to be their partner’s “rock” throughout life; Helping your partner stay grounded is the literal interpretation of that sentiment. Keeping someone “grounded” is the method of helping them stay in the present during an overwhelming moment or two. For this, I recommend that you and your partner talk about possible techniques to use in the future. What helps your partner come back to reality? Asking questions? Stating facts? Touching something? Talk about it and come up with a plan.
Help Them Separate Anxiety Voice From Reality
This is a grounding skill in itself and not easy to do when you are the one experiencing the anxiety. However, when you’re not, you can help your partner separate these voices. Anxiety can often feel like another voice inside of your head, so gently reminding your partner of what might “actually” be happening rather than what the anxiety is saying can be really helpful. Just make sure this is done in a kind, loving, way.
Offer Simple Solutions
In the event that your partner is having a bad panic attack or an anxiety-filled day, one of the best things you can do is give them an A or B option. You don’t want to overwhelm them with a million options, as that will usually just make things worse. I know this from experience. Example: “Babe, let’s either go into the bedroom and talk or we can sit on the couch and talk. Which would you like?” Make sense?
Go Outside Together
Assuming your partner is not actively having a panic attack, fresh air, a nice breeze, and a cute dog could be the fix! Things like puppies, fresh air and other lovely ‘outside things’ can often help relax anxiety. A walk around the block is a great option if your partner is feeling particularly off one day. Hold hands, or don’t – but enjoy the time with your partner.
Know That You May Have To Make Some Sacrifices
If you don’t have an anxiety disorder, understanding what it feels like can be a real challenge – especially when it offsets plans that you may have. Depending on the type of disorder almost anything can bring anxiety, no matter how the day has gone. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than your partner feeling safe, secure, and loved. And that might mean canceling something you had planned or calling out of work so you can sit on the couch together and watch bad TV.
These tidbits of information about being a supportive partner for someone with anxiety are in no way a catch-all. Sometimes none of this information will help. Anxiety works in ways that can be impossible to predict, solve, or help. Sometimes just being there quietly with your partner is what they need. At the end of the day, that might be all you both need.
Anxiety is one of those things that we all experience. So, it can sometimes be hard to tell if it’s “normal” anxiety or something that needs to be addressed more seriously. One of our monthly masterclasses was on this topic and I highly recommend checking it out if you or someone you love is showing signs or symptoms of anxiety. You can click here to learn more.
Come discuss this article and many other topics related to wellness, mental health, relationships, & sex in our community on Facebook. Additionally, our WWC Communication Scripts will have you and your partner navigating arguments and speaking in the correct terminology in no time! Check them out by clicking the image below. ⬇️