Experts share their advice for dating someone with anxiety so that you can support both them and yourself in the relationship
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders. Up to 1 in 20 people in the UK have a form of generalised anxiety disorder, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
Living with anxiety can negatively impact many aspects of your world, including your romantic life. Some people with anxiety may even opt out of having a romantic partner altogether due to the additional insecurities that a relationship may bring.
If you are dating someone with anxiety, you may be concerned about how to deal with their often-unpredictable emotions and how this disorder will impact your relationship. It's important to be informed on how to support such a partner.
Callisto Adams, PhD, certified relationship expert and founder of HeTexted.com and Elena Touroni, PsyD, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, shared some tips with Reader’s Digest.
1. Learn about anxiety
If you happen to be dating someone with anxiety, the first step should be to educate yourself on anxiety. This will help to improve your understanding of your partner’s condition, triggers and responses.
"Asking your partner about their anxiety and how best you can help them can also be a great place to start"
“Try listening to experts on different mediums or forums about anxiety, coping with it and symptoms,” Adams added.
Asking your partner about their anxiety and how best you can help them can also be a great place to start.
2. Understand your partner’s triggers
One of the best things you can do for your partner is to understand what triggers their anxiety. You can try engaging them in a conversation about what you can do to make them feel safe when they are anxious and what you shouldn’t do to prevent triggering their anxiety.
Try to learn what your partner's triggers are
“If they struggle with abandonment, for instance, hold in mind that they are likely to be extra sensitive to rejection,” Touroni said. “It’s best to remind yourself that their fears aren’t a reflection of you and be prepared to illustrate that you are different from the people in their past.”
3. Straightforward communication is key
Someone who is anxious overthinks a lot. A vague text from their partner can easily be misinterpreted as a lack of interest in the relationship.
It’s best to be open and vulnerable when communicating with them while offering some sort of reassurance like a love word or subtle compliment.
“Whether you are happy or sad with them, it’s better to let them know about it rather than let them hang on,” Adams advised.
4. Avoid dismissive comments
While every person with anxiety experiences it differently, you should be cautious of the language you use when your partner is anxious or expressing their worries.
Refrain from dismissive phrases such as:
- “Stop overreacting, it’s not a big deal.”
- “Just get over it.”
- “You’re overthinking this.”
- “You’re worrying too much, stop it.”
- “It’s not that bad.”
Instead, be sure to validate whatever they are going through and let them know that you are there for them.
5. Try to get adjusted to sudden plan changes
It’s not uncommon for your anxious partner to switch or cancel plans suddenly.
This may happen if something has triggered their anxiety and/or they are feeling overwhelmed.
"Give your partner space to relieve their anxiety and get back to normal before you offer a listening ear"
If this happens, try to avoid blaming them and understand that the sudden change has nothing to do with you.
According to Adams, the best option is to give your partner enough space to relieve their anxiety and get back to normal before you can offer a listening ear.
6. Learn their love language
“Someone who has high anxiety [might] like to cuddle a lot,” Adams noted. “They [may] always need to be touched. This can soothe their anxiety because they will feel safe and secure.”
Learn your partner's love language
Others may prefer to receive words of affirmation or spend quality time together with you.
Understanding how they express their affection and embracing it can offer some form of reassurance about your love and remind your partner that they are appreciated.
7. Try not to become their therapist
It can be difficult watching your partner suffer and it’s important that you are there for them. However, you shouldn’t be doing the work that’s supposed to be done by a therapist.
"Ensure you are looking after yourself first and you have your own support system in place"
“Playing the role of a therapist can lead to imbalances in the relationship, which will end up benefiting neither of you,” Touroni said. “You can’t pour from an empty cup, as the saying goes.”
Ensure you are looking after yourself first and you have your own support system in place before taking on the role of a supportive partner.
8. Encourage them to go to therapy
Anxiety isn’t just something that you can expect to just "get over", as Touroni said.
Encourage your partner to seek professional support
“The best thing is to encourage your partner to seek the appropriate support, whether that’s their general practitioner or a private therapist,” she added.
The sooner your partner gets the right support, the better their chances of making a speedy recovery.
Read more: Why you don't need children to be happy
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