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Coping with my partner’s anxiety disorder

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Your partner, a loved one or loved one has an anxiety disorder. This directly affects you and your interactions with each other. For example, a relationship can be overshadowed by feelings of anxiety. Read how an anxiety disorder can affect a relationship and what you can do for the other person as well as yourself!

What are the effects of an anxiety disorder on a relationship?

When your partner or a loved one experiences an anxiety disorder, it affects the relationship or communication. You feel you constantly want to reassure the loved one. Or you may even go along with your partner’s anxiety.

 

With an anxiety disorder, a person experiences disproportionate anxiety; the anxiety is disproportionate to the situation to which this emotion is a reaction. Also, the anxiety is often present. The anxiety is so intense that it interferes with daily life. Your partner himself or herself experiences the effect on his or her work and personal life, and the disorder affects your relationship with each other.

 

Most common situations:

  • You continually reassure your partner;
  • You take over tasks from your partner or loved one;
  • You eliminate yourself;
  • Anxiety is often a topic of conversation;
  • You feel irritated or frustrated that your partner or loved one does not listen to your advice, or does not become less anxious;
  • You do less because of the anxiety;
  • You go along with the other person’s anxiety.

 

Despite your partner’s anxiety disorder, equality in a relationship remains incredibly important. Be open to talking about anxiety while focusing on the things that make you stronger as a couple.

 

Tips for dealing with your partner’s (or loved one’s) anxiety disorder

Here you can read tips on how to take good care of yourself and support the other person in a healthy way. This creates space and ensures that attention remains focused on the relationship between you.

 

  1. Inform yourself
    Knowing about anxiety and anxiety disorders helps you better understand what your partner or loved one is dealing with. This understanding allows you to better empathize with what the other person is feeling and experiencing. Read about the types of anxiety disorders to better recognize which type of anxiety disorder your loved one has. You will better understand what triggers the anxiety and why your partner or loved one may act irrationally, for example.
  2. Learn to recognize an anxiety attack
    Learn to recognize the signs of an anxiety attack so you notice when your partner is having one. Also ask what you can do then. What does your partner like?
  3. You are not a therapist
    As the partner or loved one of a person with an anxiety disorder, your role can be helpful, but you are not a therapist. You are supportive by your presence or by the things you do or say, but it remains an informal and equal contact. Realize that you do not have the position and tools of a professional therapist. Your help as a partner or loved one is important but it can also limit you because you have a (love) relationship.
  4. Acknowledge the fear
    Acknowledge that your loved one is experiencing anxiety. Often people themselves do not understand why they are so afraid; the feeling takes place on a subconscious level. Giving advice usually does not help and can create distance between you. Also avoid discussions about the fear; they will come to nothing.
  5. Do not go along with the fear of the other person
    If you are fond of someone, it happens quickly that you go along with their mood. Just as you become happy with someone who is cheerful, you become less energetic with someone who is sad. Thus, the anxiety your partner feels affects you. Keep observing carefully what you yourself feel when your partner tells you about his or her anxiety. If you do not feel fear, do not go along with your neighbor’s fear.
  6. Set your own boundaries
    You can be there for your partner up to a certain level. Feel your own boundaries and needs in this. When you put yourself in second place for a long time, you can start experiencing symptoms yourself. State your boundaries in a calm conversation. This gives clarity to your partner or loved one; which in itself is also helpful.
  7. Do pleasurable activities together
    An anxiety disorder often leaves an unpleasant mark on the relationship. It is important to continue to have light-heartedness and fun together. Sit down together and make a list of things you enjoy doing. Schedule a few of them right away. Relaxation is important for both of you.

 

What can you do if your partner of loved one is having a panic attack?

  1. Soothe your partner and distract attention from the anxiety. For example, go for a walk and see what you all see around you. A breathing exercise often works well, too.
  2. Do not trivialize the other person’s fear, because a panic attack feels very unpleasant for the person who has it. Even if in your perception nothing is wrong; the fear feels real.

 

I am looking for help

Have you already tried many things yourself and do the anxiety symptoms of a loved one affect your daily life? Do the anxiety symptoms persist and is it getting in the way of your relationship? Talking to a psychologist can help.

publish-icon Published - 28 May 2024
Mariëlle has extensive experience in treating anxiety symptoms. During treatment she discuss, together with the client, which factors play a role in the complaints. Mariëlle uses elements from various scientifically based treatment methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT) and EMDR.
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GZ-Psychologist Mariëlle van der Meer

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