Originally published at https://ideapod.com/11-things-you-need-to-understand-when-the-person-you-love-suffers-from-anxiety/
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about dating someone with anxiety.
What to do.
What not to do.
(And most important of all) how to be there for your partner when their anxiety is out of control.
Let’s dive right in…
1) Ask questions and do your best to understand what they're going throughAnxiety can be different for everyone. Some people experience uncomfortable reactions in the body like a churning stomach or an out of control heart rate. Others have a racing mind.
While you can read information online on what it’s like to live with anxiety, you’re not going to get the full picture of what it’s really like for your partner.
It’s a deeply subjective and personal experience.
So if you’re going to understand what it’s like for them, you need to talk to them about it.
It’s better to have this discussion when you’re alone and in a comfortable space. After all, your partner needs to be comfortable to talk about something that troubles them.
Here are 3 good questions you can ask:
Is there anything you want me to know about your anxiety?
Is there anything I can do that will help when you’re experiencing anxiety?
Is there anything that you don’t want me to do?
As someone who has dealt with anxiety my whole life, I can tell you that it’s not easy to talk about anxiety.
So be patient and take your time while talking about this difficult topic with your partner.
Remember, you don’t have to learn everything there is to know about your partner’s anxiety in one conversation. It will take time.
Furthermore, if you’ve only just started dating, it’s obviously going to take time to develop the trust and understanding necessary to be totally honest with each other about these kinds of things.
2) Don't underestimate the power of observation to understand your partnerIt's quite common for most people with anxiety to not want to talk about it.
If that’s the case, or even if they are open about it, you can still learn a lot about your partner by observing them in different situations.
Watch how they react to certain things. Notice when they feel uncomfortable or comfortable.
If you’re carefully observant, you’ll be able to understand what triggers their anxiety and what doesn’t.
This is a huge help for your partner as they might not be able to express everything about their anxiety.
The more you understand your partner and their anxiety, the more comfortable they will feel in the relationship.
This is what developing a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship is about.
3) Have patiencePatience is a really important quality when you're dating someone with anxiety. Being antsy and always wanting to "be in the know" can make things worse.
Unfortunately, sometimes being patient is really the only option, especially if your partner is experiencing anxiety at that time. It takes time for anxiety to pass.
The key thing you need to understand about anxiety is that it can’t be “fixed”.
Sure, there are techniques and medication that can help manage anxiety, but nobody can be magically cured of their anxiety in an instant.
So rather than rushing to save the day when your partner is experiencing anxiety, it’s better to be patient and reassure them that everything is okay.
In fact, rushing to take action can actually make your partner’s anxiety worse. It will signal to them that there really is a big problem, which can worsen their anxiety.
The best thing you can do is to be calm, patient and let them know that you’re there with them.
4) Communicate clearly with your partnerNot being direct and honest with your partner can make things worse. It will cause them to question what's going on and to second-guess themselves.
This is not what a person with anxiety needs.
You need to communicate clearly and be self-assured.
This also means that you shouldn’t play games. Don’t take 4 hours to respond to a message after you’ve seen it.
Be prompt, honest and reply when you see it.
In the end, it’s about removing unknowns.
The definition of anxiety is being scared of what’s going to happen in the future, so by being clear and confident about what is going to happen, you can help your partner to avoid second guessing the future and themselves.
5) Be calmThis one is pretty obvious. Obviously if you're getting angry, antsy or impatient, it's not going to help someone with anxiety.
Trust me when I say, a person with anxiety loves being around calm people.
So you should strive to keep your calm, especially during the moments your partner is experiencing anxiety.
It’s also important to remember that anxiety can cause your partner to be a little hostile or rude to you. They may not want to talk to you in certain moments. It’s important in these situations that you remain cool, calm and collected.
Now of course, if your partner is abusing you when they’re experiencing anxiety, this shouldn’t be tolerated and you need to talk to them about it.
But if they just want to keep their own space for a period of time, you should grant them that until their negative feelings have passed.
6) Don't assume that everything negative in their life stems from anxietyBecause anxiety is a big issue in your partner's life, it can be common to assume that everything negative stems from their mental condition.
But this simply isn’t the case.
The truth is, we’re all human and we all have different sorts of issues that we’re dealing with on a constant basis.
Assuming that everything stems from anxiety is simplistic and does nothing to help your partner deal with what they’re going through.
Remember, communication is key. Take time to understand what your partner is going through. Don’t assume.
7) Don't try to explain to them why they shouldn't be afraid of somethingPeople with anxiety know that their fear isn't rational. They know that what they're worrying about probably won't happen.
But making them feel like an irrational idiot isn’t going to help.
One thing you can do to help is to actually go through what the worst case scenario would be. This puts it out there and might even help them realize that it isn’t really that bad.
But the most important thing to remember is, don’t make fun of them for it. They know it sounds silly out loud, so don’t remind them of it.
8) Don't take everything personallyBecause anxiety is a negative emotion, it can be common for people with anxiety to occasionally take it out on other people.
Obviously if this turns into abuse, then you need to have a chat to them about it.
But if you find that they’re a bit moody at times and they’re having a go at you, don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s really about the anxiety that they’re feeling.
If you do take it personally, then it’s going to turn into an argument or a fight and that doesn’t do anything for anyone.
Keep in mind that their negative mood will only be temporary. They’ll be back to being their fun-loving and friendly best in no time.
So shrug it off with ease and learn to accept it. It really isn’t about you.
9) Don't try to change your partnerWhen someone is experiencing bad anxiety, it can be tempting to want to "change" them so they don't experience anxiety anymore.
While it’s a nice thought, it simply isn’t possible.
Unfortunately, anxiety cannot be cured. In fact, this goes for anyone with a mental health condition, there’s not much you can do to change them.
As much as it sucks to see someone else suffering, this is something that they have to learn to manage.
Furthermore, who says that you should want to change them? It’s more fulfilling to love them for who they are. This is how a genuine and long-lasting relationship can be built.
Anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. It might mean that they have more energy than most and they are quick to see future problems before other people.
Just as you wouldn’t want to change who you are, don’t ask them.
They know that their anxiety is tough to deal with, but trying to change it will only make it worse.
The best thing for them to do is to accept anxiety as part of who they are and then they can move on with their life.
Accepting who you are offers a sense of liberation. Fighting against who you are makes negative emotions like anxiety harder to deal with.
10) Don't look down on your partnerYes, it's important to show compassion and empathy. But you shouldn't look down on your partner and pity them.
It doesn’t make them feel good and it doesn’t do much for you, either.
Yes, they have anxiety, but it doesn’t make them any worse than you. We all have our issues and while some people have tougher challenges than others, nobody deserves to be looked down upon.
It’s better for your relationship to treat your partner as your equal. That’s what they’d want.
Understand that they’re trying their best to deal with their anxiety, and they don’t want to be treated differently in anyway. They want to be a normal human being, so treat them like one.
11) Most importantly, live your lifeYes, it sucks seeing your partner experience pain and suffering. It's one of the most difficult things to watch.
But you have to keep living your life. They don’t want you to be the reason that you’re not living life to the full. It adds to the burden they’re already experiencing.
What they want is for you to live life and fulfill your potential.
Now that you’ve read about what to understand when the person you love suffers anxiety, check out our recent article on “anticipatory anxiety”.