According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), roughly 40 million adults in the US (~18% of the adult population) suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder. While those numbers are staggering all by themselves, the number of people who share a life with someone who has anxiety balloons to millions more.
Specifically for people in a relationship, navigating the obstacles brought on by anxiety can be difficult, overwhelming, and in some cases, damaging. Not having the ability to (or not choosing to) address anxiety in healthy or productive ways can cause massive struggles over the course of the relationship.
If you or your partner struggle with anxiety and are looking for healthy ways to support and connect with each other, here are four quick ways you can improve the quality of relationship and shrink the pains brought on by anxiety together as a team.
For people with anxiety, it's far too easy to get stuck on our past failures, dwell on future worries, or entertain baseless hypotheticals over and over again. Of course it's nat
ural to feel worried or anxious at certain times in our lives, but when done excessively, such behavior can distort your reality about what is relevant and true, and can cause unnecessary strain on you and your partner.
As often as possible, take a step back and meditate. Think only about what you can do today. If you traditionally feel like your life is outside your control, remind yourself that that is the opposite; you are in control of your goals and what you can do about them. If you want to make improvements to your life, your situation, or your relationship, it begins with what you can do to improve them today.
Communicate and Listen
Not keeping communication channels open is a common problem in many relationships. When anxiety causes a person to wall off their feelings or emotions, it can often intensify the issue or let problems fester, as the other person cannot easily learn about what their partner is going through or provide support.
It is also important to remember that people (generally) do not mean to hurt our feelings or cause us pain. Even when you and your partner engage in conflict, trust that the issue at hand can be worked through in a healthy and productive way.
The next time you encounter an obstacle in your relationship, listen to what your partner is trying to express, communicate as thoughtfully and as respectfully as possible, and practice empathy. By listening rather than reacting when tensions are high, you are much more likely to find a quicker resolution to the problem and avoid conflicts down the road.
Recognize Your Patterns
In general, people are particularly bad at learning from past mistakes and often make them over and over again. Especially for people who struggle with anxiety, we are often driven by emotional reactions and instincts rather than logical ones, even when our efforts to fix the issue in the past did not produce positive or effective results.
To improve this, think hard about a recurring anxiety in your or your partner’s life and consider the way that issue was dealt with in the past. Do you/your partner ever find a good, sustainable solution to this problem? If not, it might help to think objectively about the issue and make a plan about how to overcome it in the future.
By building a blueprint for how to deal with the problem, you or your partner have a much stronger chance of grappling with the issue in healthier, more efficient ways. If it helps, write down the specific steps in a journal or on the computer for your reference, as it may help you/your partner remember what to do in the heat of the moment.
Last but certainly not least, people with anxiety should know it is always OK to rely on the healthy support systems available to them. In most cities across the country, there are mental health professionals who can help couples and individuals process their anxieties and give them the tools needed to deescalate their worries or tense situations on their own when support isn't available.
Couples counseling is also a completely viable option if you and your partner are open and available to the idea. Couples counseling will give you the tools needed to productively and respectfully navigate the issues brought on by the anxiety so the two of you can work on improving the relationship together as a team.
Pathways Counseling Services is a Scottsdale counseling and therapy center based in Arizona. Our counselors are experts in helping individuals and couples overcome the various issues brought on by anxiety through specialized one-on-one or group counseling sessions. We know how challenging it can be to foster healthy relationships while also struggling with an anxiety disorder or an anxious situation at the same time, so our ultimate goal is to give those individuals the tools they need to work through those anxieties themselves and deepen their connections with their partner.
If you or your loved one is struggling with anxiety and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, please fill out the form here or give us a call at (480) 235-1682 and we will be in touch.