Dealing with anxiety on your own can be challenging. And often, having a supportive partner around to help you through it can be a real source of strength. But occasionally, you might find that your new love is amazingly rad, thinks you're cool, too, and also seems not to know very much about anxiety at all — or, worse, has some beliefs about mental health that aren't based in fact, or are even stigmatizing. Many people simply don't have a vocabulary around mental health, thanks to decades of stigma, and unfortunately, sometimes it's up to those of us with mental illness to help people who don't understand, well, get it. If you aren't sure about how to start a discussion about mental health, it can help to ask your partner questions to help them understand your anxiety through some serious empathy.
Anxiety disorders come in many forms, from generalized anxiety to PTSD and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and there are many preconceptions about each — preconceptions that can be broken down with a little bit of empathy. And of course, if your partner isn't willing to try to empathize with you about your mental health, then, heck, that's a sign they probably won't empathize about much else, either (and yes, that's a red flag). You're in this as a team, after all.
If you're in need of a general framework to start the conversation, counselor Heidi McBain suggests these three questions as ways to help your partner get a bigger, more accurate picture of anxiety and how it impacts your life. Here are three things to ask your partner if you want them to better understand your mental health.