Writer Hannah Wootton
Anxiety is really tough, and not just for the people who have it. It’s also difficult for the people who love them through it. It’s obviously hard to see someone you care about suffer. Sometimes, it is hard on you and your relationship too.
Any relationship is hard at times. Whether it is with a friend, family member, or significant other, caring for someone else and sharing your life with them can be difficult. If that person has anxiety, the struggle can be even worse.
What is important though, is to remember that person is worth loving even through their anxiety.
There are some situations most people who love someone with anxiety will face (especially if your relationship is of a romantic nature). This article hopes to shed light and understanding on these, and how to deal with them.
To start, someone with anxiety cannot help overthinking every situation. They can’t control that they read too much into every word you do or don’t say, and usually come to the worst conclusion.
They know rationally that what they’re thinking probably is not how you feel, that it is in their head, but they cannot help it.
They tell themselves their insecurities are irrational. Sometimes though, they cannot help asking for reassurance.
And if you don’t give it, they cannot stop themselves asking again and again. Then they become anxiety ridden about that, and apologising repeatedly for being so needy, and asking if that is okay too.
I know this because I’ve done it.
They know it makes dating them hard. They probably feel like they are burdening you, that loving them is a chore. They are paranoid that their anxiety may end up costing them you.
You need to tell them that that is not true.
You should reassure them of the little things. They need to know why you love them and what they add to your life. You also need to reassure them that you don’t mind, that they’re not overreacting, that it’s okay that they need you to have these conversations with them.
You also need to be okay with the fact that sometimes they just might not sleep. Maybe you can sleep through whatever podcast they put on to distract themselves. Maybe you don’t mind someone tossing and turning next to you.
Even if this doesn’t interrupt your sleep though, there will be things that do.
There will be panic attacks in the middle of the night that you need to hold them through. There will be nights where 3am comes, and they are still panicky and trying to talk through irrational thoughts with you.
If you love them enough to want to sleep next to them every night, you love them enough to get through this. Tell them that. They’ll be grateful. (And maybe move to the couch if you have an early meeting.)
If your friend or partner has social anxiety, that might impact your social life too. There will be certain situations they will need to avoid, and these may change daily depending on their emotional state.
There are practical ways around this. Perhaps you go to some events without them. Maybe you devise exit strategies in case something goes wrong before you start an activity.
Even if you implement methods like these though, that person will still probably feel bad they are not doing something with you. Reassure them that you like spending time with them more than you like going to certain events. Tell them that them not being able to manage certain situations in no way reflects badly on them as a person.
Some things will also just be more tiring, even if the activity itself is not anxiety inducing. When you have anxiety, you are often in a hyper-tense or mentally unsettled state. This is exhausting.
Factor this into your plans. Give their arm a squeeze or let them lean on you and just have a break from trying to talk and socialise.
None of these things will be easy all the time. They all take compromise and understanding. (There are also some things that you perhaps should not compromise on. If someone intentionally hurts or abuses you, you can call that out.)
The person you love may not seem appreciative at the time.
They might try and push you away. Hell, they will definitely try and push you away. With anxiety, insecurity and irrationality is a constant companion. They might be scared of you leaving them or that they’re burdening you, and try to end that before it can happen.
If you want to keep sharing your life with them though, you need to accept these difficulties and tell them you want to face the challenges together.
When they are feeling calm, they will absolutely remember what you did for them when they were too anxiety-ridden to realise at the time.
People with anxiety are more than just their mental illness. They are still the amazing, problematic, complex person they were without it. If you can see that, and remind them of that, it will make your relationship stronger than you can imagine.