In a Relationship with Anxiety

I wrote a post a couple of months ago about being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder.  I thought it may be helpful to write something about how to deal with someone who has anxiety.  Anxiety is an overwhelming feeling of fear or worry.  Anxiety causes a person to feel out of control.  This affects a person physically as well as mentally.  A person in an anxious state has an accelerated heart rate, their breathing is fast and their muscles become tight.  They can’t usually think rationally in those moments because of their fear.  To avoid those feelings, some people with anxiety try to control the things around them that make them anxious.  This can cause problems in their relationships with others.  If someone is anxious about being late it can cause them to be pushy to those around them who may make them late.  They feel the need to leave early to avoid being late but if they are waiting on others, this person can seem very impatient.  I can relate to this one because I have some anxiety myself.  My husband has to deal with some of my quirks because of this, and it isn’t always easy for him to understand my moods.

When I get anxious I tend to become more impatient and my tone of voice changes.  I don’t always realize how I am coming across to people.  When I take a step back I can see that I become more controlling and less flexible.  I tend to speak in a more condescending tone and I sound more demanding than polite.  This means I usually hurt other people’s feelings in the middle of dealing with my anxiety.  I don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I’m usually very empathetic and don’t like when other people are mad or upset.  However, when I’m worried about something my empathy tends to fly out the window.

For example, bugs make me anxious.  I don’t like them at all.  They creep me out.  I remember when I was first dating my husband.  I took a plant out of a planter because it was dead.  When I pulled it out to put it in a lawn bag it was full of bugs.  I barely was able to put it in the bag, roll the top of the bag down and put it at the end of my driveway.  When Steve came over later he noticed the bag at the end of the driveway and because it was going to rain thought it would be helpful to put it in the garage over night.  Needless to say, when he told me of his kindness I didn’t say thank you.  I totally freaked out and yelled at him that there were lots of bugs in that bag.  My mind was now thinking they were all over the garage, in my car and around other stuff I had stored in there.  I can see now how irrational I was being, but at the time my fear was stronger than my intellect.  I ran out to put the bag back outside because I didn’t care whether it was going to rain.  Steve was upset that I yelled at him even though he was trying to help.  After I calmed down I realized how crazy I sounded.  Just because I was scared didn’t give me the right to treat him like he was an idiot.

People with anxiety do worry about things that other people don’t usually worry about.  They become upset over things that other people don’t necessarily become upset over.  This is confusing to people who are close to them.  A person with anxiety may apologize afterwards, but sometimes the damage has already been done.  I do my best to work on my anxious thoughts.  I am much better now than I used to be.  However, from the above example you can see that it is a work in progress.  It is never ending.  When I was single, I didn’t have to worry as much.  I had control over my environment and not living with other people was helpful because my bad moods weren’t always caught by others.

In college, most people live on top of one another.  It is a luxury to have your own space.  This can make people with anxiety feel even more anxious at times.  I work with students who have roommate issues because they or one of their roommates has anxiety.  You could also be dating someone who is like me.  Your partner may overreact at times and take their frustration out on you.   My best advice if you are dating someone who suffers from anxiety is to not feed into it.  Try to take a step back and remember that they aren’t attacking you.  They are feeling scared and are trying to regain control.  Trying to reassure them isn’t always going to help.  It can make it worse.  Give them a little space if possible.  There anxious moment will pass.  If they do apologize, try to be forgiving, but be honest about how they made you feel.  I realize how selfish my anxiety makes me at times.  That is why I continually work on it.  Hopefully your partner is aware of their anxiety and is working on it as well.  You may be tempted to call them crazy or irrational.  However, it isn’t helpful to throw their anxiety in their face.  Asking them in a sarcastic way if they took their medication that day because they are acting crazy or suggest they get on medication will only make their anxiety worse, not better.  Try to remember that they are suffering from something they can’t always control or even understand themselves.

If you date anyone who suffers from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder it is going to be frustrating at times.  If you are dating someone who isn’t taking care of themselves and doesn’t care about how they affect you, then you may want to rethink your decision to be in the relationship.  You can’t save them and you can’t make them be better out of your own sheer will power.  They need to take responsibility for themselves.  If they are trying to take care of themselves and apologize when they do mess up, please try to be patient with them.  Be supportive and try not to take some of their outbursts personally if possible.  It isn’t easy, but if you love the person, it will be worth the effort you put in.  Fighting anxiety isn’t easy and some days it isn’t even possible.  I’m very grateful to be with someone who goes through some of my ups and downs with me.  I know I frustrate him some days but he never throws my anxiety in my face.  I really appreciate that.  No one is perfect, but it easier to be with someone when you know they are trying.  If you have anxiety, try to continue to fight the battle against it.  It isn’t only hard on you, it’s also hard on others.  The more you can do to fight it, the better your relationships with others will be.

Here are a few quick tips to help you reduce anxiety.  The first thing is to distract yourself if possible.  This helps to get your mind off of what you are worried about.  Also, take deep breaths.  You need the extra oxygen because your muscles tense up and suck a lot of energy from your brain.  Shake out your hands, and if you can, take a brisk walk or jump up and down to release some of that tension that is built up.  If you are suffering from extreme anxiety, I suggest seeing a counselor who can help you first.  If you still can’t get it under control then I suggest seeing a doctor for medication as a last resort.  Anti-anxiety medication like Zoloft, Paxil or Lexipro is not habit forming and some people are only on it temporarily to get their symptoms under control.  They then learn how to control it better through cognitive behavior techniques and are able to live medication free.  If you suffer from extreme panic attacks or obsessive compulsive disorder, medication may be life long to keep symptoms under control.  For more information please see the website below.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

2 comments on “In a Relationship with Anxiety

  1. Pingback: Am I impossible to love ? | gorzylak – diary of an anxious woman

  2. Pingback: Questions Answered On Beat Anxiety With Exercise | How To Beat Anxiety

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