While everyone’s flaked out on plans, worried about the future, or avoided stressful situations, these things can also be a
sign your partner has anxiety. Their mental health is their business, and it’ll be up to them to decide how and when they’d like to seek treatment. But since letting these issues go unaddressed can rock a relationship, it’s also important to recognize symptoms of anxiety and talk about them as a couple ASAP.
“If you are unaware of your partner's anxiety, it can make it difficult to understand certain behaviors they have,”
Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety, tells Bustle. It’s all too easy, for example, to take these things personally or to believe a partner is uncaring when in reality, their anxiety is the root cause. These symptoms might even lead to arguments, Jackson says, due to ongoing tension.
Again, you won’t want to push a partner to
talk about their anxiety before they’re ready, but you can offer support and understanding and let them know you’re always down to talk. “Communication helps you discuss what your partner needs,” Jackson says. Do they need a hug? Space? Encouragement? You won’t know until you ask.
Once it’s all out in the open, that’s when you can
chat about therapy or other kinds of support your partner might need to feel less anxious. Want to know what this can look like from an outside perspective, including how it can impact a relationship? Here are 20 signs your partner has anxiety, according to experts. They Have Trouble Sleeping
While your partner might be a night owl who simply loves staying up late, this habit is also a very
common sign of anxiety, Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with Therapy Group of NYC, tells Bustle. Same goes for tossing and turning in bed, waking up in the middle of the night, and complaining about feeling tired all the time. They Seem Forgetful
“A lot of people also notice that their partner who is experiencing anxiety may
be than usual or seem more preoccupied” Witmer says, which may explain why they constantly leave the door open, lose their keys, etc. more forgetful They’re Super Distracted
Witmer adds an anxious partner might also appear to be distracted in general. Like when you’re having a conversation, it’ll seem as if their mind is elsewhere or they aren’t really listening. And that’s because checking out, Witmer says, is a way for anxious folks to
cope with difficult thoughts and emotions. They’re Always On Edge
Does your partner startle easily, pace around, or tap their foot? If so, they’ve might have had one too many coffees. Or they might have anxiety, Witmer says, which can make people
appear jumpy and uneasy. Your Conversations Never Go As Planned
If you constantly struggle to see eye-to-eye, take note. “You may be speaking based off of logic [while] an anxious partner is speaking from a place of emotion,”
Dr. Holly Schiff, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.
The best thing to do when convos go awry? Remain calm and compassionate. “Empathizing is also helpful,” she says, “so if you can tap into your own experience of a time when you were anxious about something, you can listen and connect and open up all the communication with your partner.”
They’re Always Saying Negative Things
If your partner can’t stop talking about
worst case scenarios, consider it another potential sign of anxiety, Jackson says. This particular symptom will make it seem like they worry about everything or that they almost enjoy zeroing in on the negatives in life — even though that totally isn’t the case. They Aren’t As Interested In Sex
If your partner has an anxiety disorder, “their sex drive will likely decrease,”
Morgan Goulet, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “This is because their body is under stress and the high cortisol suppresses the sex hormones that impact [desire].”
Of course, if they aren’t interested, they aren’t interested. But you might want to ask if a hug, or some other form of contact, would be comforting. “Touch is so incredibly healing and sometimes just being held can do wonders for anxiety,” Goulet says. “Physical touch
increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, which helps to regulate our mood and relieve stress.” They Can’t Handle Tense Moments
It’s never fun when things go wrong — like if your car breaks down or you’re running late to work — but for folks with anxiety, these moments can be positively unbearable. Instead of “handling it like an adult,” your partner might start crying or shut down due to overwhelming emotions.
If you can’t figure out what to do, go ahead and ask. “Everyone has different things they find helpful when they're feeling anxious,” Goulet says. “Don't make assumptions about what will work and instead ask them how you can help.”
They Get Overwhelmed Easily
Anxiety can also
cause a sense of overwhelm in far less tense situations. As Jackson says, it’s possible your partner might start to shut down whenever they need to “initiate action,” which can put a lot of strain on your life together as a couple. Think along the lines of not being able to choose a movie decide where to go for lunch, or complete a chore around the house. You’re Always Confused
You might also notice that your partner seems to experience “rapid and
intrusive thoughts,” Jackson says. This is a hallmark symptom of anxiety that can make it seem like your partner is always worrying about the weirdest things, or like they’re constantly changing the subject while they talk.
Their thoughts are running a mile a minute, and it can leave you feeling confused or at a loss for how to help them stay on track. So the next time it happens, let your partner know that you aren’t following, and encourage them to slow down.
One way to do so? “Incorporate things like deep breathing,” Goulet says. “If you notice your partner appears anxious, take a few moments to breathe together. This slows down the nervous system and helps you regulate.”
They Feel Sick All The Time They Can’t Handle Change
People with anxiety tend to have a tough time
coping with change, Aimee Daramus, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle, which may explain why your partner holds back from taking the next step in your relationship, moving away, leaving on from an unfulfilling job — the list of things they’ll try to avoid goes on and on. They Don’t Like Going Out
Jackson says anxiety — particularly
social anxiety — can make it hard for your partner to want to go out in public, which is why they may seem wary about stepping outside their comfort zone, traveling, meeting up for a double date, etc. If you want to go somewhere new, or introduce them to friends, they may even refuse to go.
The thing is, it’ll be up to your partner to decide how and when they’re willing to push past anxiety. So if you’re craving excitement and new experiences, “you might need friends or family who are willing to have the adventures that your partner isn‘t,” Daramus says. “You‘ll need to strike a balance between helping your partner manage the anxiety and still having a life of your own.”
While there are lots of reasons why someone might be irritable — and you certainly can’t chalk
every bad mood up to anxiety — Klapow says irritability and lack of patience fall under the umbrella of anxiety. They’ll seem cranky and might even start to pick little fights.
“Anxiety causes you to experience more negative thoughts and over time this decreases your ability to tolerate everyday stress,” Goulet adds. “This can lead to your partner snapping at you over something you deem to be small — or just appearing to be in a bad mood.”
They Don’t Seem Like Themselves
Just like an other mental health issue, anxiety can overshadow your partner’s personality and make them seem completely different. “Your partner may not seem like ‘themselves’ and may no longer want to participate in activities you used to enjoy doing together out of fear,” Goulet says. “They may also appear to be in a persistent state of unhappiness, which can of course also have an impact on your mood.”
You Walk On Eggshells
While every relationship requires give and take,
dating someone with anxiety may feel stressful, Daramus says, because you’re constantly taking care not to trigger them. You carefully choose what you say or what you ask for, as a way of avoiding stressing your partner out.
It’s a loving and kind way to be, but since it can also put strain on you and the relationship, it’s something you’ll want to talk about sooner rather than later.
Their Appetite Has Changed
Anxiety might even cause your partner to change how they eat. “Chronic anxiety sufferers may
lose their appetite or, conversely, find that they eat too much in order to self-soothe,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear , tells Bustle. “When anxiety is not well-managed, the anxiety sufferer loses touch with self-regulation and healthy coping strategies that keep the body and mind well-balanced.” They’re Always On Guard
“Anxiety heightens a person’s fight-or-flight response and this leads to an often chronic state of
hypervigilance,” Manly says, which you might pick up on as tension.
Cue your partner checking their phone, over-preparing for trips, being on edge as you walk down the street — whatever they do, it’ll seem like they’re always “on” and thinking ahead to what might go wrong.
They Seem Distrustful
General anxiety can also reveal itself as anxiety within a relationship, typically as it relates to trust. “If one person has made a mistake or betrayed a partner in the past, there can be a lot of anxiety over whether they can be trusted again,”
Dr. Laura Louis, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. This is why they might worry about your whereabouts or want to check in constantly. And it definitely warrants a conversation, Louis says, and possibly even therapy. They Avoid Stressful Situations
Being in a relationship means navigating life’s ups and downs as a duo. But when things get difficult, does it always seem like your partner is nowhere to be found?
“Anxiety almost always
leads to avoidance, so you might notice your partner avoiding stressful situations,” Billy Roberts, LISW-S, a therapist who helps adults with anxiety, tells Bustle. These might include avoiding big conversations and shutting down during arguments, which can make it difficult to progress your relationship forward.
As their partner you’ll want to figure out ways to help, which you can do by asking them how they’re doing, listening to their concerns, and coming up with a plan to offer support, Goulet says.
“Fight the urge to tell them their worries are irrational (even if they are!) as this can feel invalidating in the moment,” she adds. “Instead try validating their feelings by saying things like, ‘That sounds really hard, is there anything I can do to help?’”
Anxiety can be a source of strain on a relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to cope with it together.
Sources: Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, licensed therapist Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Holly Schiff, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist Morgan Goulet, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist Josh Klapow PhD, clinical psychologist Aimee Daramus, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Louis, licensed psychologist Billy Roberts, LISW-S, therapist