Dealing with your own anxiety can be difficult, but it can be just as hard to watch anxiety affect someone you love. Anxiety is different for every person and managing it is not a “one size fits all.” The first thing to do when you love someone with anxiety is to do your best to understand their anxiety. No, you will not understand it to the fullest extent, but it is important to know what the anxiety looks for them. Your desire for deeper awareness and insight into their anxiety can illustrate how much you love and care for them.
When loving someone with anxiety, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
You do not have to try to fix anything. When your partner is having a tough time, it can leave you with a desire to step in and help. No one wants to see someone they love hurt. It is important to fight the urge to fix the situation. It can lead to feeling helpless, but trying to fix things can make the person feel worse.
You do not have to try to shield us from everything. It can be tempting to try to help your partner avoid things that might trigger the anxiety. Whether it is avoiding an argument or anything that might potentially upset them, shielding them from things will hurt them and your relationship in the long run.
Being present and listening helps. In the moments where you want to help, the best thing you can do is be present and listen. Your calming presence and listening ear is the best help you can provide. It can help your partner feel safe and validated when they are feeling anxious.
Ask them what they need or want from you. When you find yourself not knowing what to do, it can be helpful to ask your partner. You can ask them what they might want or need when they are in the middle of an anxiety attack. For some people, they want someone with them and to be held. For others, they might want to be alone and not be touched. Knowing what they want and need can be helpful.
Sometimes there will just be bad days. With anxiety, there are going to be tough days and even tough weeks. Many people learn how to deal with and manage their anxiety over time. However, sometimes there are days that are really hard and no matter what they do, the anxiety is overwhelming. It is important to understand that there will be tough days, but you can help by being there to support them when they need it. Living with chronic anxiety can be challenging. Loving someone with chronic anxiety can be painful because no wants to see their partner struggle. However, as a partner, you have stepped into the role of a support system. While you will not be able to take the anxiety away or fix every problem, you will often make things better just by being present and being supportive
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.