Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Living with anxiety and trying to be like everyone else is virtually impossible.
Situations that other people don't think twice about can make our heart race and beads of sweat pour down our face! Anything more might push us into a full-blown panic attack.
Anxiety, and its symptoms – both emotional and physical - can control our life. It can dictate everything from what we do to where we go. Sadly, this also includes those of us who are hoping to find love.
The National Institute of Mental Health[i] reports that up to 18% of adults in the U.S.A. Live with an anxiety disorder. Of those 18%, up to 23% of those cases are classified as severe.
This makes it one of the most common mental health problems around. However, it's also massively misunderstood and gets given a lot of stigma.
Hopefully, this article will help you (if you suffer from anxiety) relate to some of these issues. Even though we know how anxiety affects relationships, it’s good to be reminded so that we don’t feel so alone, as if we’re the only one who suffers!
Having an anxiety problem can negatively impact many aspects of our life, including our relationships.
When we have anxiety and are trying to find or maintain a relationship - or just have an active sex life – there’s many difficulties we’ve dealt with that people who don’t suffer really don’t even know exist.
Even though it can be frustrating, and even make you feel so angry, just remember that somewhere out there, there is someone who isn't just willing to tolerate our anxiety, but also help us through it.
Remember, you’re not alone.
The 7 Ways How Anxiety Affects Relationships
1.Being Overly Dependent
Some of us with anxiety have an intense desire for closeness to our partners.
We constantly depend on them for support and reassurance but this can turn into over dependence.
Along with being overly dependent, we may find ourselves prone to overthinking, ruminating, planning for the worst, unable to make decisions, fear rejection and/or abandonment, and seeking out constant communication.
Anxiety can lead to inappropriate paranoia or suspiciousness. Paranoia about a partner not being faithful or thinking they don’t love or care for us as much as we do them.
Excessive anger and acting out in ways that are destructive to our relationships may happen. This is disruptive and it can weaken their ability to trust us.
2. The End Of A Relationship Makes You Believe That You're Un-Dateable
Being single isn't bad by any means, but there's a big difference in being single because we want to and feeling like nobody will ever want to touch us for the rest of our life.
Anxiety can manipulate the situations around us, which makes breakups even harder than they already are.
Even if the relationship ends amicably, anxiety can make us feel like the real reason it ended was because of how horrible we think we are.
If it was a bad breakup, or worse, if the other person simply ghosted, it will be extremely hard to enter into the next relationship.
Which way round is it? Is it depression that's is hurting your relationship? Or is it your relationship that's making you depressed? This article explores it all...
3. It's Difficult To Have A Healthy Fight
When someone might have said “Hey, can you remember to turn off the kitchen light from now on if you come to bed after me?”
We probably heard “you’ve left the light on time and time again. Your incredible selfishness is going to cause our electric bill to increase and put us into debt. How useless are you?”
Anxiety attack at the ready!
What was just supposed to be a simple request and perhaps a minor argument has turned us into a sobbing wreck. Maybe our partner is trying to figure out exactly what they said to trigger it. The intensity of arguments can feel like life and death.
Knowing how to argue healthily is critical to maintaining a happy relationship. But, when we have anxiety, we can sometimes never manage to keep it together enough to allow our tricky discussions to be constructive.
4. Many Ideas For Dates Are Off-Limits
No one’s going to think badly of us if we turn down our potential partner’s suggestion of going scuba diving on the first date. There are many situations that are no big deal to most people but can cause a serious rush of adrenaline for someone with anxiety.
Trying out that interesting new Chinese restaurant in town? For some of us, putting ourselves in a situation where the waiter could laugh at us for mispronouncing the name of the food is not worth it.
Even going out to the movies on a Friday night where the claustrophobia or anxiety about meeting people we may know is too much to take on.
5. We’re Constantly Wondering When our Relationship Is Going To Crash and Burn
You know that sense of trepidation you have when you're watching a horror movie and all the main characters are happy and not being murdered? It's not great because everything seems so great.
We want it to stay being great, but we know that it's only a matter of time before everything’s starts to go horribly wrong. For those of us with anxiety, that's what it's like being in a happy relationship.
It's almost more comforting when things do start to fall apart. Our minds have spent so much time getting ready for disaster; it’s a relief to know we're not crazy and the end of our relationship has been waiting just around the corner.
Our worries can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as we allow our anxiety to affect our relationship for the worse. It’s as if there's nothing we can do to stop it.
The feeling we get when there's conflict in our relationship is a more alive, energetic anxiety that bursts into life and feels intense. However, that anxiety we get when everything appears to be just fine? It’s a slow-burn that sits in the back of our minds wreaking a very understated kind of havoc on our psyche.
6. We Believe they – Our Partner - Would Be Happier With Someone Normal
There’s always that voice of doubt that makes us question exactly when they're going to realize the mistake they’ve made by dating us.
Despite the fact that our partner has happily stayed with us so far, and tried to help us through our anxiety and it’s symptoms, we start to wonder if they're really as content in this relationship as they say they are.
Maybe they're just sticking around because they feel sorry for us or it's convenient. Maybe we’ve inadvertently manipulated them into thinking that everyone freaks out as often as we do.
The rational side of us knows that our partner is well aware of what they signed up for and has made a choice when they decide to love us and not someone else.
We must remember that we aren’t a freak of nature and almost one fifth of the population has some sort of anxiety disorder.
The relationship with a narcissist is, at best entertaining and, at worst, a juggernaut that destroys everything in its path.
7. Avoiding Intimacy
Some of us with an anxiety disorder become overly detached from others and our emotions. We may avoid negative emotions - anger, shame, and sadness - by not talking about our feelings. We may not become vulnerable for fear of the onset of anxiety symptoms.
We may then be seen as someone who’s described as being cold, emotionally unavailable, lacking empathy, or even stand-offish.
Along with being distant, we may notice how uncomfortable we are with intimacy in romantic relationships. We may be mistrustful of our partner's intentions. When problems arise in relationships, we may hold back which, in turn, stops us from recovering from anxiety.
How Anxiety Affects Relationships And How We Can Treat It
There’s two ways to treat anxiety: medication and talking therapies.
Medication can be taken as a part of a treatment for people with anxiety. While the medications prescribed for anxiety, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, are not cures, they may help soothe our anxiety.
2. Talking Therapies
Talking may help us feel better as we rework our anxious thoughts and behaviors with our therapist.
How anxiety impacts on our relationships will help our therapist tailor our treatment sessions for the best results.
For example, by exploring our emotions more deeply may be a good strategy for those of us who tend to be avoidant in relationships. This strategy is the longer road to recovery but, essentially, can help us beat anxiety for good.
Please be assured that, with proper treatment, we can develop healthy, long-lasting, romantic and fulfilling relationships with others.