How To Overcome Relationship Anxiety
Relationships require hard work. Any relationship, romantic or not, requires 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 can be 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 abandoned. It could be far broader, with a person experiencing 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, yet still dating despite those symptoms.
Anxiety And Relationships: An Overview
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 may look like extremely shy or timid behavior, followed by difficulty speaking up or communicating one’s feelings. 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 different from person to person.
Stress can also occur in the form of dating anxiety. With dating anxiety, social situations are not necessarily avoided, but romantic relationships and all their entanglements are. The prospect of romance can create anxious feelings, leading to the avoidance of romance. Being in 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 can cause different obstacles and challenges, dating someone with any type of anxiety disorder can prove challenging. It requires patience and understanding from both parties. General anxiety disorder may show up in many different areas, and no two individuals with this particular condition are alike.
Dating Someone With Anxiety
When dating someone with anxiety, there may be several things to consider. Anxiety manifests differently in everyone, but it 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 in a serious relationship. General anxiety disorders might involve your partner needing reassurance and support for tasks or situations that might not seem problematic to a neurotypical individual.
Although it can present challenges, dating someone with an anxiety disorder is not always a negative experience. The people who experience these conditions are often deeply emotional individuals and may offer much in the way of love, affection, support, and compassion. An anxiety disorder is not the inability to feel deeply or experience compassion. Instead, it might be described as difficulty processing everyday experiences that others might find mundane or inconsequential.
Managing Relationship Anxiety
Someone who is experiencing anxiety will have different emotional and physical reactions than the partner who is witnessing anxiety. If you are the one 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 effectively 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 you and your partner.
Living With Your Partner’s Relationship Anxiety
Dating someone with relationship anxiety can present challenges. The two of you may not experience the world in the same way, and the 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 plenty of empathy. People with anxiety do not choose to experience the symptoms of their disorder, and cannot always remove themselves from the fear and anxious feelings they experience. Offering kindness and understanding in the face of a panic attack, irrational fear, or spike in anxiety will go a long way in fostering intimacy and trust within your relationship.
Part of communicating effectively with your 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. 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. For some, this situation might not be ideal. But for others, it can create a fulfilling balance between your romantic and platonic relationships.
Anxiety In Relationships
Anxiety on its own can be challenging and can even make people feel alienated by their peers. This divide can present itself 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 be rewarding. People with anxiety often have rich inner lives.
When dating someone with anxiety, make sure you both create boundaries, communicate needs, and discuss expectations. Boundaries can include saving some discussions 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 abandoned, cheated on, or otherwise rejected.
Needs for the partner of the anxious person might include creating distance from panic attacks or overly attached behavior, for example. A thorough discussion of expectations may be in order. If one person expects the other to be their entire universe, this could be a recipe for resentment and anger. Discussing your expectations for the relationship can alleviate some of the stress and pressure.
Anxiety can present challenges in relationships. With patience and perseverance, however, a relationship with someone who experiences anxiety can be just as rewarding as a relationship with a neurotypical individual. As with any relationship, it is important to carve out time and effort to connect with your partner. To alleviate some of the pressure and worry regarding your relationship, set aside time to engage in an activity that brings you both joy.
If you are worried about treating your anxiety with therapy, you’re not alone. The symptoms of anxiety can sometimes cause people to withdraw, making in-person therapy an intimidating prospect. Online therapy can be a viable option for relationship anxiety as well as other types of anxiety disorders. With this mode of therapy, you can talk to a mental health professional without ever leaving the comfort of your home. You can also schedule appointments outside of normal business hours, which could make it easier if you or your partner has a full-time job, for instance.
Researchers in the field of mental health have found that anxiety can 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.
Online therapy from platforms like BetterHelp can prove useful for a couple living with anxiety. Couples therapy, in particular, can help you and your partner understand one another and can lend insight into your unique wants, needs, and hopes. You don’t have to navigate problems related to anxiety alone. Reach out to a licensed therapist online.
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 listens 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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