Is Your Relationship Making Your Anxiety Worse?
Experts share the signs and how to remove forward.
If your most frequent text to the group chat is “omg, my partner is stressing me out,” it might be one of many signs your relationship is making your anxiety worse. And the sooner you can spot these signs — and hopefully make a change — the better you’ll both feel.
“It is really important to understand what is happening with your anxiety and whether it is due your relationship, something else altogether, or perhaps a bit of both,” Briony Leo, a psychologist and head of coaching at the self-care app Relish, tells Bustle. “That said, our relationships are often responsible for at least some of the anxiety that we're feeling — particularly if there are issues between you and your partner, or your relationship is going through a period of adjustment.”
If you think your relationship may be affecting your well-being in a negative way, take a look at the signs your relationship might be adding to your anxiety, as well as some suggestions for moving forward.
1. You Feel On Edge Around Your Partner
If you constantly feel on edge around your partner, take note. “This is a sign that your anxiety is related to the relationship,” Leo says, and that something is definitely off in terms of the way you interact with each other.
To see if it’s fixable, let your partner know exactly how you feel. Tell them that you’ve been on edge and want to make a few changes — whether it’s by having clearer communication, spending more time together, etc. — to see if it helps you feel better.
2. You Think About The Relationship 24/7
It’s one thing to be so in love you can’t stop thinking about your relationship and how happy it makes you. But it’s something else entirely if you catch yourself mulling over every conversation and interaction.
“It means your emotions and thoughts are being overtaken by concerns about the relationship,” Leo says, which will only make your anxiety worse. The thing is, overthinking is a major symptom of anxiety whether there are actual problems or not. So start by seeing if you can soothe yourself.
“Focus instead on self-care and meeting your own needs, whether this is spending time with friends, exercising, or catching up on sleep or your favorite TV shows,” Leo says. “This means your mood and mental health will be boosted — and you can escape the trap of overthinking.”
3. You Have A Hard Time Being On Your Own
Ever heard of attachment styles when it comes to relationships? If you have an “anxious attachment,” you might experience trouble being on your own, an intense need for validation, and ongoing worry and concern about being abandoned.
According to Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, a psychologist and dating expert, if you end up in the wrong type of relationship — aka, one that triggers your attachment style — you might find it extra difficult to function. Instead of helping you feel loved and supported, your partner might accidentally play into these fears and make your anxiety worse.
To make a change, let them know how you feel and see if they can find ways to better support you. Then seek out the support of a therapist, if possible. By examining your attachment style, and becoming more aware of how it impacts you, you may be able to feel less tense in your relationship.
4. You’re Often Emotional
Anxiety can make the most mundane things seem overwhelming, which is why big emotional reactions don’t automatically mean your partner is doing something wrong or that your relationship is necessarily unhealthy. But it is something that requires a closer look. If you always cry during arguments with your partner, or feel deeply sad or angry, Leo says it may indicate your relationship is triggering anxiety.
5. You’re Never Sure If They Like You
If you’re constantly worried about whether your partner is really into you, Dr. Dan Auerbach, B.Com, MCACPA, MPACFA, a psychotherapist and relationship counselor, tells Bustle it’s time to have a conversation about where you stand as a couple. So go ahead and ask questions about commitment levels, the future — or whatever else weighs heavy on your mind.
“It's time for an open talk where you bring yourself vulnerably to your partner and openly ask them,” Auerbach says. “Sometimes that can lead to defensiveness in which case the relationship might need some outside help. If you feel the relationship is worth working for it's time to bring in a relationship therapist.”
6. You’re Always Waiting For Something Bad To Happen
If an ex cheated on you, Auerbach says it’s possible you’re carrying that bad experience into your current relationship, where you now expect the same thing to happen again. Your partner’s action might lead you believe the same scenario will happen again. So guess what you need to do? Talk.
“Be specific and calm and give them a chance to repair the bond with you,” he says. “Often fears about cheating are grounded in worries about your partner's commitment to you, so make sure to address that directly.”
7. You Don't Look Forward To Spending Time Together
According to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, you might notice that you get anxious around the time you’d normally see your partner, like when you both get home from work. You also might feel immensely relieved — or even excited — when they leave the house or go out of town. And these can all be signs your relationship is triggering your anxiety.
While it’s great to spend time away from each other, and to be down with the solo hobbies, it’s clear your partner is making your anxiety worse if you’re always a million times happier — and calmer — whenever they’re away.
8. They’re Critical Of Your Every Move
If your partner is critical and demeaning, it’s definitely going to impact your mental health, Dr. Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author, tells Bustle. "Anxiety is often rooted in low self-esteem, so criticism makes it worse," she says. Look for red flags like name-calling, controlling behavior — whatever leaves you feeling bad or uncomfortable.
9. You’re Afraid To Talk About Your Concerns
When you’re anxious, it makes it difficult to approach your partner and talk about difficult things. But that’s precisely what you need to do, not only for your own well-being, but for the well-being of your relationship.
“Poor communication amongst partners forces us to ‘fill in the blanks’ with information that is not always accurate,” Jason Phillips, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. “For example, if your partner is distant, you may internalize their distance and believe it is a sign you are doing something wrong.”
How To Move Forward When Your Relationship Is Making Your Anxiety Worse
Once you’ve reflected and pinpointed which habits and problems may be exacerbating your anxiety, talk to your partner about how you can better support each other. “It might be that you want to discuss 'defining' your relationship and moving to the next level,” Leo says, “or perhaps it is an issue with intimacy and trust, and you need them to provide you with some reassurance and security.”
If, however, your partner is stressing you out to the point your well-being is at stake, it may be time to look at other options, such as couples therapy, taking a break — or even breaking up.
Briony Leo, psychologist
Dr. Jennifer Rhodes, psychologist and dating expert
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, clinical psychologist
Dr. Dan Auerbach, B.Com, MCACPA, MPACFA, psychotherapist and relationship counselor
Dr. Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author
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