How Anxiety May Affect Your Relationships

Are You Overly Dependent or Avoidant?

Young woman sitting on sofa, looking at distressed man at table

Noel Hendrickson / Digital Vision / Getty Images

Having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can negatively impact many aspects of your life, including your relationships.

Here are two specific ways in which your anxiety can lead to problems maintaining connections with others, as well as strategies you can implement (under the guidance of a mental health professional) to help you navigate these unhealthy attachment patterns.

Being Overly Dependent

Some people with GAD have an intense desire for closeness to their partners (or friend), depending on them constantly for support and reassurance.

Along with being overly dependent, people with GAD may find themselves prone to overthinking, planning for all worst-case scenarios, being indecisive, fearing rejection, and seeking out constant communication (and getting anxious if a partner or friend does not respond quickly).

People with GAD and overly dependent relationships may also struggle with anger toward those they feel dependent on, acting out in ways that are destructive to their relationships.

Combating Problematic Dependency

If you find yourself developing overly dependent attachments, developing ways to cope with your anxiety and relying more on yourself for feeling better can take the pressure off your partner or friend.

For instance, if you find yourself becoming angry or suspicious in these relationships, first remind yourself that this may be fueled by your anxiety. Then, take a few moments to think about any hard data (facts) that support your worry to try and regain some perspective.

A therapist who specializes in a type of talk therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you devise strategies on how to reassure yourself and take thoughtful action on your own, instead of needing your partner for comfort each time you are anxious.

Recognizing and Addressing Avoidance

On the other end of the spectrum, some people with GAD become avoidant of relationships as a way of dealing with their anxiety. They may avoid negative emotions (for example, disappointment or frustration) by not revealing their feelings, opening up, or being vulnerable.

A person who is avoidant of close relationships may be experienced as cold, emotionally unavailable, lacking empathy, or even stand-offish, even though they may long for closeness.  

If you find yourself being overly distant in your relationships, cognitive behavioral therapy, also with other types of therapy, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy, may be helpful. A mental health professional can help a person explore past and present relationships and the emotions surrounding those interpersonal connections.

Treating Anxiety and Relationship Problems

A therapist will also explore how GAD impacts your relationships. For instance, exploring your emotions more deeply may be a good strategy for someone who tends to be avoidant in relationships.

On the flip side, this strategy may backfire for people who are more dependent on others and emotionally reactive. It's important to note that medication is also often an essential part of treatment for people with GAD.

While the medications prescribed for anxiety, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are not curative, they can help decrease your symptoms and help you feel better as you rework your anxious thoughts and behaviors with your therapist. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with generalized anxiety disorder, 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.

A Word From Verywell

While anxiety can be healthy (it can motivate people and/or help them sense danger within their environment), for people with GAD, their anxiety is overwhelming and debilitating, which can be extremely detrimental to relationships. 

But rest assured, with proper treatment, you can develop healthy, long-lasting, and fulfilling connections with others.

Was this page helpful?
3 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. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. doi:10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

  2. Newman MG, Castonguay LG, Jacobson NC, Moore GA. Adult Attachment as a Moderator of Treatment Outcome for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Comparison Between Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Plus Supportive Listening and CBT Plus Interpersonal Emotional Processing Therapy. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2015;83(5):915-925. doi:10.1037/a0039359

  3. Newman MG, Castonguay LG, Borkovec TD, et al. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder With Integrated Techniques From Emotion-Focused and Interpersonal Therapies. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2011;79(2):171-181. doi:10.1037/a0022489