Dating Someone With Anxiety

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If you find yourself dating someone who has anxiety, it’s understandable that you might have some concerns. Watching someone experience anxiety can be upsetting, and can even make you anxious or uneasy, whether or not you are prone to anxiety yourself.

You might also have concerns about the future of your relationship. How will your partner’s anxiety affect your day-to-day life together? What can you do for them if they begin to experience an anxiety spiral or a panic attack? Will you be able to cope with it all?

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of dating someone with anxiety—what to know about anxiety disorders, how anxiety affects intimate relationships, and how you can be a supportive partner to someone with anxiety.

Take Some Time to Learn About Anxiety Disorders

One of the simplest, most supportive things you can do if you are dating someone with anxiety is to learn a bit about anxiety and about anxiety disorders.

Many of us have an idea of what it means to have anxiety that may not be in line with what it’s actually like, so it can be helpful to get some clarity. Understanding anxiety will also help make you more empathetic

Prevalence

First, it can be helpful to know that anxiety is quite common, and almost all of us will experience an anxiety disorder at one point or another in our lives.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in the past year, 19% of adults experienced an anxiety disorder and that 31% of adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Additionally, anxiety disorders are more likely to affect women than men.

Having an anxiety disorder is not a weakness, nor is it something caused by poor choices. Anxiety is not “all in your head,” either.

People who experience anxiety often have a genetic propensity toward the disorder, and anxiety disorders often run in families. Environmental factors and chemical imbalances may also play a role.

Symptoms

Anxiety manifests in different ways for different people. Not everyone who has anxiety comes across as a “nervous” person. Some people who experience anxiety may even appear calm on the outside but experience their symptoms more internally.

Although having anxiety can make it very difficult to function on a daily basis for some people, others may live with more high-functioning types of anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety can be physical, mental, and emotional. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Labored breathing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle tension
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feelings of panic or impending doom
  • Flashbacks of a traumatic or difficult experience
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Inability to stay still
  • Obsessive thoughts or behaviors

Types of Anxiety

It can also be helpful to understand that there are several different types of anxiety disorders. Not everyone with anxiety experiences panic attacks, for example. And while some people with anxiety have trouble socializing, others do not. It all depends on what anxiety disorder you have and how you experience it.

The most common anxiety disorders are:

How to Support Your Partner With Anxiety

When you are around someone with an anxiety disorder, you may feel at a loss for how to help them. Often, you know that what they are experiencing is irrational and that their perception of reality at the moment may not be entirely accurate. Do you tell them this? How do you make them feel better without minimizing their emotional experience?

There are some tangible things you can do to create a “safe space” for a person who is experiencing anxiety. Below are a few tips.

Realize They Are Not Their Disorder

In your own mind, and as you are interacting with your partner, try to think of their anxiety disorder as something separate from them. Yes, it’s something that colors their life, but it’s a disorder, not a state of being.

People who experience anxiety are so much more than their anxiety, and treating them as a whole person who also happens to have an anxiety disorder is the more compassionate way to approach things.

Drop the Blame Game

Remember, anxiety has genetic, biochemical, and environmental components, so your partner did not choose to feel this way. Anxiety also isn’t something that they are adopting to be manipulative or to ruin plans.

People who experience anxiety wish it to be gone as much as you do, but having an anxiety disorder is not something that is within someone’s control.

Understand That They Have Certain Triggers

Getting a handle on your partner’s anxiety means understanding their triggers. Usually, someone with anxiety knows the kind of things that set them off into an anxiety spiral.

It’s not your responsibility to shield them from every single trigger, but helping them navigate their lives more sensitively around those triggers can be helpful. It can also help you to understand why your partner’s anxiety is heightened at different times.

Be an Open Minded Listener

One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone who experiences anxiety is a kind, listening ear. Managing an anxiety disorder can be isolating and humiliating.

Having someone who you can talk to honestly about what you are experiencing and your feelings can be really positive and soothing, especially if that person is able to listen without judgment and with empathy.

As a listener, remember that it's important simply to be there for them, and not to offer suggestions, advice, or try to "solve" or "fix" anything for them.

What to Say When Your Partner Is Having Anxiety

When you are in the moment, helping your partner manage an anxiety episode, you may be unsure of what to say. You don’t want to say anything that will make your partner more anxious, after all.

Here are some ideas of what to say in these moments:

  • “I’m here and I’m listening.” 
  • “I know you are feeling overwhelmed.”
  • “It’s going to be OK.”
  • “That’s a lot for you to deal with right now.”
  • “I know how strong you are.”
  • “Would you like me to sit with you?”
  • “I am here, and you are not alone.”
  • “Is there anything I can do to help?”

What Not to Say

At the same time, there are some things you might feel tempted to say which aren’t helpful at all, and might even add to your partner’s anxiety.

Here are the types of things to avoid saying:

  • “Don’t be so scared of everything.”
  • “That makes no sense.”
  • “Calm down!”
  • “You’re freaking out for no reason.”
  • “Here’s what I would do if I were you …”
  • “What you’re feeling isn’t rational.”
  • “This is all in your head.”

How to Cope

Research reveals a connection between anxiety disorders and heightened relationship stress. But the research also shows that addressing anxiety with communication and support can help considerably.

It’s also important to understand that helping your partner manage their anxiety is not something you can do alone: getting mental health support for both your partner and yourself can be extremely beneficial. 

Encourage Your Partner to Seek Help

If your partner’s anxiety is impacting their lives, as well as your relationship, you may want to consider encouraging them to get help. You want to frame this as kindly and empathetic as possible.

Your partner doesn’t need to be “fixed,” but rather, you want to communicate that getting help will be an empowering and positive thing so that they can feel better.

The two most effective treatments for anxiety are therapy and medication. Some people benefit from therapy alone; but often, therapy combined with medication is most helpful.

The most common types of therapy used to treat anxiety are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy. Medications used to treat anxiety include anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants (SSRIs), and beta-blockers.

Address Your Own Feelings About Your Partner’s Anxiety

Dating someone with an anxiety disorder can be difficult, and you may find yourself having intense reactions to what is going on with your partner. This is normal and understandable. Taking some moments to practice some self-care and empathy for yourself is vital.

If it feels difficult for you to cope, or if you find yourself reacting in unhelpful ways to your partner’s anxiety, you might want to consider entering counseling or therapy.

Consider Group Therapy

Communication is key when you are in a relationship with someone who is struggling with an anxiety disorder. Sometimes you might need a little outside help to work out the kinks in your communication.

Group therapy or counseling is a great choice for this. It can help you and the person you are dating learn to be more open and understanding and learn more effective communication techniques.

A Word From Verywell

Some of the most creative, sensitive, and loving people also have anxiety disorders, and it’s likely that you will find yourself dating someone with anxiety at some point in your life. While it can be difficult at times to navigate a relationship with someone who has anxiety, putting in the effort to do so has many rewards.

In fact, learning how to understand and more effectively communicate with someone with anxiety can deepen your bond, and make for a more fulfilling and more intimate relationship. Don’t let an anxiety disorder stop you from pursuing a promising relationship.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute for Public Health. Any Anxiety Disorder. Updated January 10, 2018. 

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Anxiety Disorders. Updated December 17, 2020.

  3. National Alliance on Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Reviewed December 2017.

  4. Zaider TI, Heimberg RG, Iida M. Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 2010;119(1):163-173. doi:10.1037/a0018473