Tips for Dating Someone With Anxiety

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If you are dating someone with anxiety—or, more specifically, someone who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—it's helpful to know that this can create challenges in that person's relationships. This includes not only relationships with relatives and friends, but also with romantic partners.

Learning how your partner's anxiousness might impact your relationship helps you know what to expect. We also provide a few tips, whether you're loving someone with anxiety or you're the one with GAD and want to improve your relationship.

Common Relationship Issues for People With Anxiety

When someone worries a lot, they may use unhealthy strategies to cope with the anxiety they feel. Over time, this can erode their relationships with the people they love, and who love them.

If you are dating someone with anxiety, you may notice that they:

  • Frequently express anger, resentment, or bitterness toward you
  • Have regular disruptions in taking care of everyday responsibilities, such as getting groceries or paying bills
  • Often avoid engaging in social activities
  • Regularly seem sad, depressed, or scared

Research on GAD and Relationships

Research has explored various aspects of GAD as it relates to relationships. Here's what it has revealed.

No Two Partners With GAD Are the Same

While it would be easy to say, "If you are dating someone with anxiety, this is what that person will be like," this type of response isn't possible. The reason is that people with GAD can experience a variety of behaviors that may not support a healthy relationship.

Some people with GAD are overly-nurturant or overaccommodating in their relationships, for instance, whereas others can be somewhat hostile. So, while one partner with GAD may be warm and caring, another might be more cold and distant. Or they may alternate back and forth between the two.

GAD May Be More Severe In Non-Heterosexual Relationships

One study analyzed 5,929 participants. Some of the participants were attracted to the opposite sex, others to the same sex, and still others to both. Those who said they were attracted to the same sex or both sexes had more anxiety symptoms than subjects indicating that they were attracted to the opposite sex.

This suggests that GAD may be more common, or involve more severe anxiety, in non-heterosexual relationships. It should be noted that all subjects were from countries with different policies about the rights of sexual minorities, such as whether or not they are allowed to marry, so this should not have had an impact on the results.

GAD May Affect Relationship Satisfaction

Loving someone with anxiety also means that you may be more prone to relationship distress. This distress can appear in the form of intimacy issues, affairs, or doubts about whether you should stay in the relationship.

In fact, it is common for people with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders to experience distress in their relationships. The more distress that occurs, the greater the likelihood that each party will be less satisfied with the partnership.

Sexual Dysfunction is Common With GAD

Sex is often an important part of relationships. However, research has found that sexual dysfunction is common for females with anxiety, appearing in 85.15% of those with GAD compared to 38% of subjects serving as a control.

The sexual dysfunctions most common for women are those associated with desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm satisfaction, and pain.

Men with anxiety disorders have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction. After analyzing 12 different studies on this subject, researchers determined that roughly 20% of males with anxiety experience this disorder and it can be mild to moderate in severity.

Some Types of Therapy May Help

Psychotherapy hasn't always provided the best outcomes for people with GAD, and the greater the person's interpersonal dysfunction, the worse their outcome tends to be. However, some studies suggest that there are therapeutic options that might provide better results.

In one small-scale study, three young adults with GAD showed improvements in their couple-related worries after engaging in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). ACT is a form of psychotherapy that helps people better deal with negative emotions and thoughts.

Another piece of research, this one a case study involving a couple in which one of the partners had GAD, reported a positive outcome after engaging in integrative behavioral couples therapy online. This approach involves building closeness through developing empathy toward and being accepting of a partner's differences.

While larger studies are needed, studies such as these provide promise that therapy-based help is available, both for people with GAD and those they are in relationships with.

Tips for Dating Someone With GAD

If you are dating someone with anxiety, you may be wondering what you can do to foster a healthy relationship. Here are a few options to consider.

  • Do your homework: The more you know about anxiety and GAD, the easier it becomes to understand your partner. Learn everything you can about GAD, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.
  • Keep communication clear and positive: This one is especially important if you are dating someone with anxiety who also lives far away (such as if you met them online). Engaging in constructive communication can help decrease anxiety—for you both.
  • Practice patience: Someone with GAD can't just turn their anxiety off. Therefore, being in a relationship with a person who has this disorder requires that you have a bit of patience.
  • Provide positive reinforcement: When loving someone with anxiety, you may be tempted to criticize their thoughts or actions. Yet, positive reinforcement of their healthy behaviors is more effective.
  • Understand and respect their boundaries: If you are dating someone with anxiety, it is important to know and respect their boundaries. Pushing them too hard can backfire and create more conflict in your relationship.

There are also a few things to avoid when dating someone with anxiety. They include telling your partner not to worry, trying to solve their problems for them, or taking on their treatment yourself.

Tips for Dating If You Have GAD

What if you are the one with anxiety? You can help avoid problems caused by GAD and improve your relationships. Aside from seeking treatment for your anxiety, try these strategies:

  • Acknowledge your discomfort: Allow yourself to be uncomfortable when you know anxiety is stopping you from spending time with friends, relatives, or romantic partners. The uncomfortable feelings will lessen the more you face these situations.
  • Be empathetic: Go easy on other people when you feel anxiety is controlling your behavior. Take the perspective of your friends, relatives, and significant other and try to understand their point of view.
  • Be mindful: Research involving married women with GAD found that mindfulness helped decrease their anxiety. Practice living in the moment by taking a course in mindfulness. Also, take a mindfulness break before voicing an anxious thought.
  • Communicate: Talk about problems instead of remaining silent and letting your anxiety spiral out of control. Tell others about your diagnosis of GAD if your behavior has had an effect on them. Ask those around you for their support. Build your communication skills by taking courses or reading self-help books.
  • Have fun: Do something with others that makes you laugh to help relieve your anxiety. If you're going to be someone you don't know well, such as on a first date, do activities that help keep you busy to help calm your anxiety. This might include going to a driving range or visiting a local zoo.

A Word From Verywell

Generalized anxiety disorder can affect relationships in different ways. If you are experiencing distress in your relationship with a significant other, know that it's normal.

If the anxiety is impairing your daily functioning, seek the help of your healthcare provider or a mental health professional to determine the best course of action. Learning how to cope positively will benefit both you and your relationships in the long run.

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does dating someone with social anxiety affect you?

    Your partner may not want to attend many social functions if they have social anxiety. This can cause you to be less social yourself if you don't go on your own. A partner with social anxiety may also feel guilty for holding you back, causing them to appear angry with you when they are really just mad at themself.

  • How can you help if the person you're dating has anxiety?

    Paying attention to signs that your partner may be anxious and working with them to create an anxiety reduction plan can both help when you're dating someone with anxiety. Setting limitations and knowing what isn't helpful is beneficial as well.

  • Are anxious people good partners?

    Just because someone has anxiety doesn't mean that they will be a "bad" partner. It simply means that they may worry more, and they may have physical effects because of it. If you have anxiety too, they may be an even better partner for you because you understand how each other feels.

11 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.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."