Experts Say These 11 Relationship Problems Are Common Among People Who Have Anxiety
When you have anxiety, it can take a pretty big toll on your life as a whole, as well as your relationship. It's a tough disorder that takes time and effort to work through, so it's important not to blame yourself if or when things go awry. But being aware of how anxiety might impact your relationship can help you to spot problems as they arise.
"Anxiety can cause strain on a relationship, and often will if it is not treated properly," Alana Barlia, LMHC, a psychotherapist who specializes in mood disorders, tells Bustle. "One major tip to sustaining a relationship when one or both partners have anxiety is communication. Communication is key to any relationship, but especially when one person is experiencing mental health concerns."
With anxiety thrown into the mix, it isn't going to be easy 100 percent of the time. But that doesn't mean the relationship is doomed. Communication can make it all so much easier, as can seeking treatment, as a way of bringing a healthier self to the table.
While it can take time, you can start to work through anxiety by going to therapy, making healthy lifestyle changes — such as meditating, doing yoga, etc. — and possibly even taking medication. Once your anxiety is treated, you'll likely feel better. And your relationship will likely improve as well.
Read on below for some relationship problems folks with anxiety tend to have in common, according to experts.
1. You Might Jump To Conclusions
It's really easy for folks with anxiety to jump to conclusions and assume the worst. This is also known as "catastrophizing," and it can lead to problems in a relationship.
"Often when people are experiencing panic-ridden thinking, they focus this panic onto their relationship, [and begin] to question the current status or longevity of their relationship," Barlia says. "This can be destabilizing for the relationship and cause distress for the couple."
It can also lead to arguments and frustrating situations. But since it's stemming from anxiety, it will be possible to move past. By going to therapy, and taking the time to reshape your own thought processes, anxiety doesn't have to drive you apart.
2. Your Partner Might Feel Neglected
Anxiety can cause you to feel isolated, and can be difficult to bond with friends. But it can affect your connection with your partner, too.
"Significant others to those with anxiety may find that they are either not receiving the time and energy [...] they deem necessary for a conducive relationship," Barlia says, "or they find that the social burden is primarily placed in their lap, potentially causing resentment."
It's up to you to find ways to help your anxiety by making lifestyle changes, seeing a therapist, and so on. But your partner can do their part, too. By continuing to communicate, you can both learn how to strike a better balance, be more understanding, and find ways to meet each other's needs.
3. Trust Issues Can Develop
If you have anxiety, it can be difficult to fully trust your partner; even one who's incredibly open and honest.
"A person could have the purest intentions in the relationship, but the anxious partner will still manage to find suspicion in their words and actions," Mackenzie Riel, a sex and wellness educator for TooTimid, tells Bustle.
While it's always important to continue working on helping your anxiety, your partner can try to be more understanding in these instances, too. As you do your part, they can focus on creating a secure relationship, possibly by setting boundaries.
4. Jealousy Can Take Over
In a similar vein, it's not uncommon for anxious folks to struggle with feelings of jealousy, even with partners who give them zero reason to feel insecure.
"Every act that seems even remotely suspicious, may be met with a panicked reaction from an anxious partner," Riel says. "Anxiety is a state of worry and panic; jealousy is the worry that there is someone else involved that could take your partner away."
If you aren't taking care of your anxiety, and your partner isn't willing to offer their support, this can lead to a whole host of problems.
5. You May Not Speak Your Mind
Due to the worry anxiety can cause, you might realize that you do whatever you can to avoid arguments with your partner, therapist Patrice N. Douglas, LMFT, tells Bustle, often at the expense of sharing really important info with them.
When you don't communicate what's on your mind, it can cause a divide over time, so this is one habit that's important to work on. It's not always easy to confront a partner, and especially so when you have anxiety. But once you learn how, it can lead to an even stronger relationship.
6. You Might Be Too Attached
"Many times, people with anxiety tend to believe that if their partner needs space or they are upset with them, they are breaking up," Douglas says. "They tend to need constant reassurance when in a conflict, or if their partner is requesting space, that it does not mean they are breaking up."
While totally understandable, remember it's important to maintain individuality in your relationship, and allow each other space. While anxiety may cause you to assume the worst, focus on how healthy it is to spend time apart, and gather reassurance from that.
7. You Might Become Controlling Or Demanding
Without even realizing it, anxiety may cause you to become controlling and demanding. And that can definitely take a toll on a relationship.
"Usually when challenges arise, the anxiety stems from uncertainty and not being able to predict or manage the outcome," relationship and couples counselor Orly Katz, tells Bustle. "In their attempt to take charge and reduce the uncertainty and anxiety, the [person with anxiety is] perceived as controlling, imposing, and demanding." And conflict escalates from there.
In order to keep this anxious habit from sabotaging a relationship, therapy may be your best bet. There, you can learn how to communicate your needs in a healthier way.
8. You Might Struggle With Intimacy
"Many anxious people find strong feelings (positive or negative) to be difficult to handle and therefore avoid them at all cost," therapist Charlene Rymsha, tells Bustle. It can be difficult for a non-anxious partner to understand why your not opening up, sharing feelings, or feeling connected.
"Since vulnerability is one of the rawest of human emotions, sharing in intimacy is highly anxiety-provoking," Rymsha says. But the good news is, once your begin working on your anxiety, it can become easier to open up. And that will do wonders for your relationship.
9. Your Partner Might Feel Misunderstood
"One of the debilitating effects of anxiety is a difficulty staying present and attentive," sex and relationship therapist Cyndi Darnell, tells Bustle. "Anxiety by its very nature takes us out of the present and into imaginary situations or situations that are very self-involved. When in this head space, it is often difficult to hear anything besides the narrative in our heads."
And as a result, it can make it seem as if you don't care about your partner, aren't listening, or aren't fully committed — even when that couldn't be further from the truth.
10. There May Be A Lack Of Empathy
"The reality is, a lot of people do not know how to appropriately support and empathize with someone who experiences anxiety," Darnell says. And all sorts of issues can arise, as a result.
"It isn't with bad intention that your partner doesn't know how to support you," she says, "but if someone in a relationship genuinely doesn't understand anxiety, believe in anxiety, or know how to support it, the partner who has the anxiety can feel very alone, misunderstood, or isolated within a relationship."
Reading up on anxiety, going to therapy together, listening, and simply attempting to be more patient and understanding, can all be a big help.
11. It Can Hinder Communication
"When someone experiences anxiety, it can increase overthinking, 'what if' scenarios, and trigger personal insecurities," Darnell says. "All of these symptoms of anxiety can prevent healthy, direct communication that a relationship needs to thrive."
Of course, no one with anxiety does this on purpose. Your anxiety may affect you, but it isn't who you are as a person. It may impact your relationship, but it doesn't mean you can't have one, or that you and your partner won't be healthier in the future.
By continuing to do the work to overcome anxiety, and also communicating with your partner, being honest, and practicing opening up, it's possible to avoid many of these relationship issues, and form a healthier connection.