A loving, stable relationship can be the best anti-anxiety drug out there.
Being in a relationship when you have anxiety can feel pretty complicated.
On one hand, having a partner to lean on can be the most reassuring, healing thing there is – better than Klonopin, even. On the other hand, when things get rocky, anxiety can magnify problems a hundredfold, making the relationship and your mental health even worse. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether it’s even worth trying to have a relationship, or if you’d be better off alone.
As someone who suffers from anxiety, I realize my out-of-whack brain can be tough for a partner to deal with. When I have a panic attack, it’s horrible and scary for me – but it might be even more so for my boyfriend, who feels confused about what’s happening and helpless to make things better. It’s embarrassing to start freaking out in a crowd of people and frantically root through your purse for your medication; it’s worse when you feel like the person you love is upset and embarrassed too.
If your partner has anxiety, the first thing you need to know is that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Millions of people have anxiety disorders – along with depression, it’s the most common mental illness in the world. The second thing to know is that you actually can help make it better. While you might not be able to stop a panic attack in its tracks, there are absolutely things you can do to support your partner. A good relationship is invaluable to a person suffering from mental illness.
Here’s how to be a good partner, and keep your relationship strong, when your partner suffers from anxiety.
1. Get informed. Taking the time to find out about anxiety disorders in general, as well as your partner’s unique experience of anxiety – history, triggers, treatments – will not only help you deal, it’ll show how much you care.
2. Don’t take it personally. Anxiety is a type of mental illness; it’s no one’s fault. If your partner is struggling, don’t assume it’s because you did something wrong, and don’t get defensive.
3. Be patient. Dealing with anxiety can be frustrating and painful; if you sometimes wish your partner could just “snap out of it,” know that they wish that, too – and they would if they could.
4. Learn how to really listen. People with anxiety don’t need you to make it better; they just need you to listen to them.
5. Be supportive. If alcohol, caffeine, loud concerts, or crowded parties trigger your partner’s anxiety, help them avoid these things, and suggest alternatives. Don’t pressure them into doing things you know will be difficult for them.
6. Don’t minimize their feelings. If you’ve never experienced a panic attack, you might not understand how truly terrifying they can be. Don’t just blow it off and expect us to do the same.
7. Ask how you can help. The person who can tell you the most about how to be a good partner is your actual partner. If you’re not sure what to do or how to act, just ask.
8. Don’t walk on eggshells. Having anxiety doesn’t make someone an invalid or a liability. Tiptoeing around and treating your partner with kid gloves is only going to make you both feel weird.
9. Make them laugh. A sense of humor is priceless, and sometimes laughter really is the best medicine. There’s no need to be serious all the time.
10. Focus on the positive. When things are going well, and your partner is anxiety-free, make the most of it. Don’t make your partner’s anxiety the center of your relationship.
11. Tell them you love them – a lot. People with anxiety need a lot of reassurance. You may be thinking, “I already said ‘I love you’ ten times today!” but if your partner needs to hear it one more time, say it again.
12. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Being a good partner to someone with anxiety can be exhausting. Practice your own self-care so you don’t get burned out.
13. Just be there. Having a stable, loving, committed relationship is one of the best things for someone with anxiety. Often, your presence alone is enough to make things better.
Image via pexels, GIFs via hulu, comedycentral, firstandmonday, tumblr, fox, reddit, emmys, starz, a24films
Comment: Does your partner suffer from anxiety? What helps you deal with it?