If you have an anxiety disorder, then you already know it can make life way more difficult than it needs to be. It likely impacts how you feel at work, while out with friends, and it may even keep you up at night. But anxiety can also affect your relationship by introducing stress, doubt, worry — and the mistakes and arguments that can come about as a result.
When you see the world through an anxiety-riddled lens, it can be tough to know what’s worth worrying about, and what isn’t. This might lead you to feel insecure in your relationship, to shut down during arguments, or to come off as passive aggressive when communicating with your partner. While it’s definitely not your fault, it’s always helpful to bear in mind how anxiety might be coloring the way you see things, so that you can start shifting in a healthier direction.
If it feels like anxiety is truly holding you back, you might even decide to treat it — both for your sake and the sake of your relationship. “If you have anxiety in a relationship, one of the best things you can do is see a counselor,” Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “Seeing a therapist will help you learn positive coping skills to deal with your anxiety in a constructive way.” And that can mean having a healthier relationship by avoiding certain anxiety-related mistakes, such as the ones listed below.
1. Not Being Present With Your Partner
One of the worst side effects of anxiety is that sense of being “checked out” or not fully present in your daily life. And while that sucks in and of itself, it can also have a negative impact on your relationship.
For one thing, it can make it “difficult for [your] partner to feel truly connected,” clinical psychologist Dr. Paul DePompo, tells Bustle. And as a result, you two might have a few arguments due to those feelings of neglect.
It is, however, a problem that can be fixed. If you have anxiety, you can make a conscious effort to remain present whenever you’re together, Dr. DePompo says. You can also get support from a loved one or a therapist, who will teach you ways to cope with your anxiety, and feel more grounded as a result.
2. Having Trust Issues
Since anxiety can cause you to feel like your life is spinning out of control, it only stands to reason that you won’t necessarily feel secure. And that can lead to trust issues in your relationship.
“An anxious partner can be more jealous [or] insecure than others so they may demand to know who [their partner is] calling, texting, [or] meeting throughout the day,” Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, a dating and relationship coach, tells Bustle. “They may call or text [their partner] too frequently asking about [their] activities and invading [their] privacy.”
Even though it’s stemming from anxiety, this habit can still impact your relationship, and cause your partner to second guess things. But that’s just one more reason to look for ways to control anxious feelings and thoughts, so they don’t become overwhelming.
3. Coming Off As Controlling
“People with anxiety frequently cope by trying to ‘control’ their lives,” Sedacca says. And that can start to leak into your relationship, making you seem controlling or even manipulative to your partner.
While that’s obviously not your goal, it can be difficult for you both to deal with — especially if you’re yet to go to therapy, to learn healthier ways to soothe yourself.
4. Overthinking Everything
Do you tend to overthink everything? This is a major sign of anxiety, and it can impact how comfortable you feel when it comes to opening up to others — including your partner.
“You may be concerned about the ‘consequences’ of what you say,” Dr. DePompo says. But if there’s one person on the planet you should be honest with, it’s going to be your partner.
While it can take some getting used to, and some major trust, try to stop “editing” yourself, Dr. DePompo says. It may be difficult at first, but with a supportive partner, you’ll see it’s definitely worth it.
5. Taking Things Super Personally
Another side effect of anxiety is that it becomes all-too-easy to jump to conclusions, assume the worst, and take things personally as a result.
But it’s important not to let it get out of hand with your partner. “If [they are] being distant, for example, a person with anxiety may take it personally, rather than try to have a conversation and figure out what may be going on,” clinical psychologist Dr. Helen Odessky, author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. “For example: work stress, physical illness, or depression are some other causes.”
It can help to train your brain — possibly with the help of a therapist — to look for these outside explanations first, before jumping to conclusions and picking fights with your partner.
6. Getting “Stuck” In Old Patterns
Relationships need to grow and change, in order to remain healthy. But this can be incredibly difficult for someone with anxiety.
“People with anxiety hold back trying new things, taking healthy risks, and letting go,” Dr. DePompo says. “This can make things stale overtime — you need a spark to ignite a fire. If this is you, make a point to try things regardless of the certainty you will like them — let it be about the experience and shaking it up over the perfectionism of ‘the right’ choices.”
7. Expecting Your Partner To Fix Your Anxiety
While your partner should definitely be aware of your anxiety, and be as supportive as possible, it doesn’t help to put the pressure on them to cure it.
“If we expect them to assuage every fear or constantly provide reassurance, we are putting them in a position that they are not meant to occupy: namely, taking responsibility for our anxiety,” therapist Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT, tells Bustle. “Not only is this not fair to your partner, it’s not fair to you because it’s impossible for your partner to cure your anxiety.”
That’s up to you. By taking great care of yourself, adopting a few soothing hobbies (like yoga or meditation), seeing a therapist, or even taking medication, you can cope for yourself.
8. Responding Passive Aggressively
Since anxiety can lead to feelings of irritability, you might find yourself lashing out at your partner or responding to them in passive aggressive ways, Williamson says. You might also notice that you can’t have a conversation with them without it quickly going downhill. But again, this can be improved upon by going to therapy, and addressing the underlying cause.
9. Venting To An Unhealthy Degree
If you aren’t coping with your anxiety in a healthy way, don’t be surprised if you keep making the mistake of venting to your partner. While it’s OK to let off some steam, and share a few annoying parts of your day, doing it too often can become a burden.
“When anxious, we can feel so overwhelmed we need to be heard right then and there,” Melissa Kester, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “However what we share is a very chaotic speech with everything plus the kitchen sink. While we are monologuing hoping desperately to be heard, our partner [might tune] us out.”
There are so many other ways to vent, that don’t always involve your partner’s ear. You could go to the gym, take up running, call a friend, or leave it all with a therapist — all of which will spare your relationship.
10. Doubting The Relationship
If you find yourself constantly doubting your partner’s commitment, or the health of your relationship, it can help to take a step back and see if your doubts are stemming from anxiety.
“People with anxiety have negative self-talk, which can cause them not to trust that they are loved,” Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today, tells Bustle. “This doubt can frustrate a partner, and eventually cause them to give up on the relationship.” So doing what you can to reel all that in will be key not only for your own peace of mind, but for your partner’s as well.
11. Getting Super Angry
Like most people with anxiety, you might find that you get irritable more often than not. But this can also snowball into anger, if you aren’t careful.
“Anger can come when we are feeling panicked, trapped, and unheard, which is the reality of the anxious person when fighting,” Kester says. “If we are sharing something important to us or trying to stop feeling bad, our brain flips, our primal self kicks in, and we can black out, lose control over ourself, and lose verbal skills.” Which is a habit that can harm your relationship over time.
There are so many healthier ways to get out those emotions — or to prevent them from happening in the first place. Therapy can be a great place to start, as well as those aforementioned lifestyle changes.
12. Catastrophizing Small Problems
If you have anxiety, you might catch yourself having meltdowns over small things that wouldn’t normally bother you. As Sedacca says, “Anxious partners […] tend to catastrophize situations, blowing things up to mean more or appear more threatening than they really are.” This is yet another side effect of anxiety, and one that can be treated with therapy.
13. Avoiding Conflict At All Costs
Shutting down is one of the most unproductive things a person can do in a relationship. And yet, that’s what tends to happen when you’re struggling with anxiety.
“People who tend to be more anxious […] tend to think disagreements are a bad thing,” Elizabeth Su, a life coach and relationship expert, tells Bustle. “We are often people-pleasers and worry that if we have a disagreement with our partner, it means our relationship is doomed.”
Anxiety makes it difficult to see that arguments are actually a good thing. “Usually what results is an important conversation about something that has been brewing between one of you, or both,” Su says. So try not to let your anxiety get in the way of a productive conversations.
While it’d be nice if you could snap your fingers and no longer have anxiety, it often requires a lot of effort to fix it. But by seeing a therapist, taking care of yourself, and maybe even taking medication, you can start to feel better — and avoid these common relationship mistakes, too.