According to Anxiety UK, three million people in the UK are suffering from an anxiety disorder right now. That’s a huge number of people, so the likelihood of dating someone with anxiety is high.
You may think dating a person who is suffering from anxiety is a bad thing; an issue that you will have to deal with, or something that will affect your relationship. But you shouldn’t shy away from it. Yes, it is not ideal if your partner is having trouble with anxiety but it shouldn’t be a reason for you to not date someone or to break up. You just have to understand the signs of someone who is suffering and how to help your partner through it.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a condition that can make a person think things in their life are worse than it actually are and can cause the person to develop fears of things that they didn’t have before or that seem insignificant to be fearful of.
Sometimes anxiety can be wrongly thought of as stress but there are differences. Stress usually occurs when someone is under a lot of pressure and they can understand what is causing the stress and why. And when the situation that is causing the stress goes, the stress along with that will go. Anxiety is less straightforward than that. A person suffering from anxiety can feel similar symptoms to stress but is unable to explain exactly why they are feeling that way, and that’s where it can get complicated.
Urge your partner to get help
You can support your partner with every ounce of your being, but at the end of the day you are not a therapist (unless that is in fact your job). It is important that your partner is getting the correct help. After all, if they were suffering from the flu, you would make them go to their GP and it shouldn’t differ with a mental illness. A trip to a GP can help explore the options you have for making it easier to live with anxiety and making the first step in asking for help and getting some in place is a big weight off your shoulders, to know anxiety can be conquered. Anxiety sufferers do not have to suffer in silence and you should really push your partner to get the help they are entitled to.
Let them know they can count on you
Anxiety can make you feel like you are on your own. Some sufferers can doubt their own sanity as they can not explain to themselves why they are feeling the way they are, so it can be hard to even fathom opening up to the person they are closest to if they can’t make sense of it themselves. All you have to do as their partner is let them know you are there. You should listen to your partner to whatever they have to say with no judgement and you should try to come up with solutions to how they are feeling. Just knowing you have someone to talk to if needed can be a big calmer when you are feeling anxious.
Patience, patience, patience
You may find it hard to understand why your partner has developed fears and stress over things they never did before, but you must be patient. Anxiety is a mental illness that can’t be fixed overnight and it differs from person to person in length it takes to overcome. Be patient with your partner, believe they are trying to get better and support them through this time, no matter how long it takes.
Encouragement goes a long way
One of the most common behavioural symptom of anxiety is avoidance. Avoiding situations that causes the anxiety may make your partner think they have overcome their anxiety but it only abstains the anxiety until they are in the same situation again. Sometimes it really helps a person suffering with anxiety to have someone beside them who understands that they are going to be anxious in that particular situation and that they have the person there to get them through it.
Don’t blame your partner
No one asks to be a sufferer of anxiety. But if it’s happening in 3 million people’s heads, it is obviously a common illness. It is not your partner’s fault anxiety has them in it’s grip and it will only make it worse if you start to blame them for how they feel. It can be so frustrating to deal with, especially if it has developed during your relationship, but you have to understand they are still the same person you love and with help, they can only get better.
Don’t blame yourself
Granted you are a big part of your partner’s life, but try not to blame yourself for your partner’s problems. It is hard not to think you are the cause of the problem if you are unable to fix it, but it is likely that their anxiety hasn’t got anything to do with you. As I explained earlier, it is difficult for a sufferer of anxiety to pinpoint exactly why they are feeling these feelings. Blaming yourself will lead your partner to feel guilty that they are suffering with anxiety and it is affecting you and that will inevitably cause a divide between the two of you. So see it as something that one of you is dealing with and the other is watching from the side lines.
Anxiety can be resolved, whether it be with therapy or medication, so the most important thing to do is to get your partner help and stand by them as they tackle their anxiety. Going through anything serious in a relationship and coming out the other side can only make your relationship stronger in the long run. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and you and your partner can reach it together.
Need more information or help? Your own GP is a good place to start. Or the NHS run a self referred service called IAPT that helps with anxiety, OCD and depression. A quick Google search will give you a phone number to your local service.