Dating Someone With Anxiety: What You Need To Know
Being in a romantic relationship can be a wonderful thing, but it can also be a lot of work depending on how you and your partner handle stressful situations. When one or both people in a relationship have a mental health diagnosis like anxiety or depression, it can be difficult to navigate. Understanding what anxiety is, how it is treated and how you can best support yourself and your loved one with anxiety can benefit your relationship.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental health diagnosis characterized by feelings of unease, uncertainty, fear or worry. Anxiety can occur due to specific situations, such as job- or family-related stress, or it can be more of a constant state for some people.
Constant anxiety is called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder involves feelings of persistent dread and often interferes with someone’s daily life and responsibilities.
Anxiety occurs in both men and women of all ages and races, and it can be caused by a variety of different genetic and environmental factors. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available to those who are suffering from anxiety.
Types of Anxiety
There are several different types of anxiety, and each type has varying symptoms that are managed in different ways. It is important to know what kind of anxiety your partner has so you can best help support them. The four types of anxiety include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: GAD occurs when someone has excessive worry on most days for at least six months. Generalized anxiety disorder can also create physical symptoms like heart palpitations, exhaustion, agitation and muscle fatigue.
- Social anxiety disorder: Someone who has social anxiety experiences extreme anxiety in social situations and a fear of being judged by others. It can also occur when someone has to speak in front of others or perform, which is commonly known as stage fright. For some people, social anxiety may impact going to work or school or doing everyday things.
- Phobias: A phobia is a fear or aversion to specific things or situations. A phobia creates a fear that is not proportional to the actual danger that may be caused by the situation or object. Common phobias include animals and insects.
- Panic disorder: Panic disorder causes frequent, unexpected panic attacks. These are episodes of intense fear or feelings of losing control without reason. During a panic attack, someone can experience physical symptoms like:
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Feelings of doom
Signs Someone May Have Anxiety
Anxiety symptoms can show up differently depending on the person, and the signs of anxiety can include both physical and emotional symptoms. Knowing what signs to look for can help you determine if your partner may be suffering from anxiety. Signs of anxiety can include:
- Inability to relax
- Extreme worry
- Trouble sleeping
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Feelings of dread
- Fainting or dizziness
- Feeling detached
- Thoughts of death
How Can Anxiety Impact a Relationship?
Being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety can be difficult due to the thoughts and behaviors that occur with anxiety. Understanding how someone with anxiety may behave and interact in a relationship can help you best navigate your situation.
Someone who suffers from anxiety can be very dependent on their partner. Dependent behavior can look like:
- Constant overthinking
- Being afraid of rejection
- Anxiety when their partner does not respond immediately
- Thinking the worst of the relationship
- Needing constant validation or reassurance from their partner
Someone with anxiety may feel like they are constantly on edge, but worrying about things all the time may put strain on the partner who does not suffer from anxiety. It is important to have good communication with your partner to understand where their anxiety or fear is coming from and how it is affecting you.
Isolation or avoidance can also be a symptom of anxiety, and a person who has anxiety may pull back from their partner if they are feeling anxious. It can be hard to differentiate when your partner is isolating due to their anxiety or for another reason. Communication from both partners is important to help manage anxiety and misunderstandings in a relationship.
One study found that when one person experienced anxiety, their partner did not necessarily feel unhappy in the relationship. However, they felt less supported and engaged by their partner with anxiety. When both partners felt supported and had good communication, their overall relationship satisfaction was positive.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating Someone With Anxiety
When dating someone with anxiety, there are certain behaviors and interactions that can either help support your partner or make your relationship more difficult. These tips can help you to better navigate your relationship when dating someone with anxiety.
DO: Control Your Reactions to the Anxiety
If your partner is displaying symptoms of anxiety, it can be very helpful to think through how you react to their anxiety. If you are understanding and supportive when they are anxious, it can potentially help them overcome episodes of anxiety more quickly and help you grow as a couple.
DO: Practice Good Communication With Your Partner
Communication is important when you’re in a relationship with someone who has anxiety. By communicating openly and honestly with your partner — and letting them do the same — there will be fewer misunderstandings. Assuming things or not having clarity can be a large source of anxiety, so being on the same page can make your partner with anxiety feel safe.
DO: Try To Understand Their Triggers
A person can have certain triggers that set off their anxiety. Knowing the triggers of a partner with anxiety can be a great way to help them understand why they may be feeling anxious. Knowing your partner’s triggers can also help you be aware of things you do that may cause them additional anxiety.
DO: Practice Active Listening Skills
Listening to your partner who is experiencing anxiety is a great way to make them feel safe and understood. Active listening involves being fully dialed in to what your partner is saying and responding to specifics of what they told you. By showing your partner you care and are invested in what they are saying, you can help ease symptoms their anxiety may cause.
DO: Encourage Your Partner To Go to Therapy
If you see your partner struggling with their anxiety, you can help them by letting them know there is professional help for anxiety. If they are willing and seem engaged in the idea, you can help your partner find a therapist who helps them manage their anxiety.
DON’T: Criticize Your Partner
Criticizing someone who has anxiety can cause them to avoid sharing with you how they are feeling. It can also make them feel unsupported and embarrassed about their anxiety. It is best to avoid criticizing your partner when they are anxious.
DON’T: Take Everything Personally
When someone is anxious, it often does not have anything to do with you. Anxiety causes thoughts and feelings to consume the person who is anxious. It can feel like your partner is taking their anxiety out on you, but communication can help to determine the source of your partner’s anxiety.
DON’T: Dismiss Their Anxiety
Acknowledging your partner’s anxiety is important when supporting them. Dismissing someone’s anxiety can be a signal that you are not supportive of them or do not think what they’re feeling is legitimate.
DON’T: Attempt to “Fix” Your Partner
Anxiety is not something that you can “fix” as a partner. It is important for you to support your partner and let them know you are there for them, without telling them how to handle or deal with their anxiety. A trained professional should be used to help someone manage their anxiety.
How To Take Care of Yourself When Dating Someone With Anxiety
In any relationship, having ways to maintain your mental health is crucial. This is especially true when you’re in a relationship with someone who has a mental health diagnosis like anxiety. Finding ways to manage your own stress and having set boundaries can help you stay grounded and be supportive toward yourself and your partner.
Find Ways To Manage Your Own Stress
It’s important for your partner to work toward easing their anxiety, but it’s also vital for you to find ways to manage your own stress. Having coping mechanisms like exercise, talking to a friend or journaling can help you deal with stressful times in your life, and they are all healthy ways to take time for yourself and recharge.
Setting boundaries means that you create rules about certain situations or people to protect yourself emotionally. You and your partner can work to set healthy boundaries regarding their anxiety that will help keep you both feeling safe.
Go to Therapy for Yourself or Consider Couples Therapy
If your partner is struggling with anxiety and needs help, or you both feel that therapy could be beneficial to your relationship, finding a therapist could be the right decision. Free resources like the Nobu App can provide exercises, lessons and mindfulness practices to help ease anxiety and stress within a relationship. For an additional fee, the Nobu App can also connect you or your partner to a therapist for professional mental health support. Sign up for Nobu and download the app today, available for free on Apple and Android devices.
Edited by – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor’s in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. He has written, edited and published content for health care professionals, educators, real estate agents, lawyers and high-level university faculty… Read more.
Written by – Danielle Boland
Danielle is a licensed clinical social worker, currently living and practicing in central Connecticut. Danielle graduated from Columbia University in 2012 with a Masters of Social Work, and always had the goal of opening her own private practice. She specializes in women’s issues, maternal health and postpartum mental health. Danielle is passionate about empowering people of all ages and hopes to use her writing skills to provide more resources for those looking to improve their mental health… Read more.
Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips
Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.
- Lawson, Karen. “What Is Anxiety?” University of Montana, 2016. Accessed May 4, 2022.
- National Institute of Mental Health. “Anxiety Disorders.” April 2022. Accessed May 4, 2022.
- Coltrera, Francesca. “Anxiety: What it is, what to do.” Harvard Health, June 1, 2018. Accessed May 4, 2022.
- University of Michigan. “Anxiety Disorders and Panic Attacks.” Accessed May 5, 2022.
- Zaider, T.I., et al “Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples.” Journal of abnormal psychology, December 21, 2016. Accessed May 5, 2022.