How To Deal With Relationship Anxiety

Updated October 3, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Relationships require hard work. Any relationship, romantic or not, requires an adherence to a balance of sorts, wherein both parties listen to one another's needs and respect one another's boundaries. Although this is true of any relationship, the give and take of respect is of particular value when dating with anxiety.

Dating with anxiety could mean numerous things. Anxiety within a relationship could manifest as difficulty asking for what you want, or a fear of being left behind. It could be far more broad, with a person experiencing actual anxiety due to simply being in relationship. There can even be an element of social difficulty involved, as in the case of experiencing social anxiety and dating despite those symptoms.

Anxiety and Relationships: An Overview

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I Have Relationship Anxiety, Is There A Way To Make It Better?

Anxiety can impact relationships in a handful of ways. Social anxiety is characterized by the fear of or discomfort experienced in social situations. For some, this looks like extremely shy or timid behavior, followed by difficulty speaking up or sharing. For others, social anxiety might manifest in hermit-like behavior, wherein the person avoids friendships, crowds, or other people as a whole to stave off the symptoms of their disorder. Social anxiety has varying levels of severity and can look extremely different for everyone.

Stress can also occur in the form of dating anxiety.Social situations are not necessarily avoided by the person dealing with dating anxiety, but romantic relationships and all of their entanglements are. The prospect of romance can create anxious feelings, leading to the avoidance of romance. Being within a romantic relationship can prove too stimulating and frightening for a person to form any lasting attachments. The exact mechanisms of this type of anxiety can differ. In some cases, a fear of abandonment creates anxious feelings within a dating relationship.In others, the fear of losing freedom or autonomy is the root cause.

Finally, anxiety while dating can derive from a general anxiety disorder. Because different types of mood disorders cause different obstacles and challenges, dating someone with any type of anxiety disorder can prove difficult. It requires patience and understanding from both parties. General anxiety disorder shows up in many different areas, and no two individuals with this particular condition are alike. Even two people with general anxiety disorder within a relationship may not fully comprehend one another's needs and concerns.

Dating Someone With Anxiety

When dating someone with anxiety, there may be several things to make a note of and consider. Anxiety manifests differently in everyone, but will likely come into play at some point within a relationship. Panic disorders, for instance, might mean plans must be canceled last minute due to a panic attack. Social anxiety might require taking longer to meet friends, acquaintances, or family members in a serious relationship. General anxiety disorders might ask for patience and calm in the face of your partner needing reassurance and support for tasks or situations that might not initially seem problematic to a neurotypical individual.

Although it can be hard, dating someone with an anxiety disorder is not definitively negative.Men and women who experience these conditions are often deeply emotional individuals and may offer much in the way of love, affection, support, and compassion. A disorder is not the inability to feel deeply or experience compassion. Instead, it might be described as the difficulty of processing everyday experiences that others might find mundane or inconsequential.

Dealing With Relationship Anxiety: Partner With Anxiety

Dealing with relationship anxiety depends on whether or not you are the one with the condition. Someone who is experiencing anxiety will have different emotional and physical reactions than the partner who is witnessing anxiety. If you arethe partner who has anxiety, the first potential step is seeking qualified help and understanding the condition. Gaining a greater understanding of your wants, needs, and quirks will go a long way in achieving harmony within your relationship. After all, if you are unable to identify your needs, how can you communicate your needs to your partner?

New relationship anxiety can be particularly problematic if you already live with an anxiety disorder. To help mitigate the symptoms, go slow. Work up to pursuing a relationship with someone new, and after reaching out, take your time. You don't have to jump into anything serious right out of the gate.You may feel more comfortable and safer if you have plenty of time to evaluate your feelings and experiences with a new partner.

Finally, make sure you are communicating your wants and needs with your partner. Anxiety can make effective communication difficult, but coming into a relationship with open communication and honesty regarding your unique needs will make for much smoother sailing for both your partner and you.

Dealing With Relationship Anxiety: Partner Without Anxiety

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Dealing with a relationship anxiety in your partner can be frustrating. The two of you will not experience the world in the same way, and the limitations placed on your partner as a result of their disorder can make dating, communication, and intimacy difficult. Being in a relationship with someone who has depression and anxiety requires constant, consistent communication with an open mind and a plethora of empathy. People with anxiety do not choose to experience the symptoms of their disorder, and cannot readily remove themselves from the fear and anxious feelings they experience. Offering kindness and understanding in the face of a panic attack, irrational fear, or outbreak of anxiety will go a long way in creating intimacy and trust within your relationship.

Part of communicating effectively with your anxious partner means communicating your own needs. If your partner has social anxiety, for instance, you might need to communicate your need for excursions with your friends without your partner. If your partner experiences panic attacks in new situations, you might need to experience new things on your own, or with a friend instead of your partner, then relay the experience to your partner. For some, this might not be ideal. But for others, this can create a strong balance between your romantic and friendly relationships.

Anxiety In Relationships

Anxiety on its own is extremely challenging and can make people feel alienated by their peers. This can spike within a romantic relationship if there is not clear, open communication and a willingness to work with one another’s needs. Working with one another to create a mutually fulfilling relationship, however, can make for incredible one.People with anxiety often have rich inner lives. Sharing this can be rewarding.

When dating someone with anxiety, make sure you both create boundaries, communicate needs, and discuss expectations. Boundaries can include saving some anxieties for the confines of a therapy session or keeping some frustration with anxiety for the safety of a confidant. Needs might include being able to discuss the relationship at length, as many individuals with anxiety experience fear of being left behind, cheated on, or otherwise humiliated.

Needs for the partner of the anxious person might include creating space from panic attacks or over-attached behavior. A thorough discussion of expectations is in order. If one person expects the other to be their entire universe, this is a recipe for resentment and anger. Discussing your expectations for the relationship and the role anxiety will play in the progression of your partnership can alleviate some of the stress and pressure.

Moving Forward

Anxiety can wreak havoc on relationships, romantic and platonic alike. With patience and perseverance, however, a relationship with someone who experiences anxiety can be just as rewarding and moving as a relationship a neurotypical individual. As with any relationship, it is important to carve out time and effort to connect with an anxious partner. To alleviate some of the pressure and worry regarding your relationship, set aside time to engage in an activity that brings you joy and dispels the shadow of anxiety looming over one or both of you.

If you are worried about engaging in the process of treating your anxiety with therapy, it doesn’t need to be a source of concern. Anxiety is the most common mental illness among adults. Furthermore, researchers have been studying how best to treat it for decades. It can now be treated effectively with online counseling. One recent randomized control trial found that 40% of its subjects who were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder were completely free of symptoms after 14 weeks of online cognitive behavioral therapy. Others experienced alleviated symptoms.

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I Have Relationship Anxiety, Is There A Way To Make It Better?

Online therapy from platforms like BetterHelp can also prove extremely useful for a couple with anxiety. Whether the anxious person, the anxious person's partner, or both partners engage in therapy, it can help everyone develop more effective, healthy stress responses. It can improve any gaps in communication that can harm your relationship. Couples therapy, in particular, can help you and your partner understand one another and can lend insight into your unique wants, needs, and hopes. While therapy can have a negative connotation—particularly couples therapy—it can provide people with a means of better understanding one another. Read what others have to say about their experience with BetterHelp below.

“Debra is an excellent listener. After talking her ear off for several sessions, I believe we are getting to the core of my depression and anxiety and relating it to my trauma. She is helping me see patterns in my past that no longer serve me which are contributing to my fears and limiting my life. She is helping me learn new skills to improve the thoughts on which I dwell, my core beliefs, my relationship habits and my self-worth. I have a long way to go but I always feel better and more capable and empowered after a session with her. She is kind and understanding. Whenever I tell her, "this is going to sound crazy" she always helps me feel that -not only is it not crazy- but why it was logical for me to look at it a certain way. Her calm, capable expertise is a very welcome port in the storm of my life.”

“Nicole has really helped me thus far to build a toolbox of skills to work through my relationship. She always lessons without judgement and is very helpful and offering things to think about . I always leave my sessions with her feeling positive.”

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