Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Dating Someone With Anxiety? 8 Ways To Support Your Partner
Published Apr 13th, 2021 & updated on Apr 13th, 2021
Anxiety is the pits! Your brain feels like it’s on fire, your chest feels heavy and tight, and there is an overwhelming fear that you can’t shake no matter how hard you try. The worst part is that no amount of logical thinking, or reasoning with yourself and your brain, can make it subside! But what if it’s not you going through it? Dating someone with anxiety, and seeing the person you love hurting, can be almost as hard as having anxiety yourself.
It’s hard to understand what anxiety feels like when you don’t have it, and it’s even harder to know how to help when you yourself haven’t experienced it. And, even if you have experienced anxiety, everyone’s anxiety needs are different.
Dating someone with anxiety can be a major challenge. You don’t want to over-step, you might be afraid of making things worse, or you just don’t know where to start. But don’t worry! That’s why we’re here to help you walk through some ways that you can be a strong support to your partner with anxiety!
Listen to what your partner needs. This might sound like really simple advice but it’s really, REALLY necessary if you want to support your partner. Listening to their needs, their anxieties, their feelings, their emotions, their triggers, their fears…it’s all part of loving someone who has that anxious gremlin in their brain!
2. Don’t Try To Fix Them
If you don’t have anxiety yourself, you might see your partner’s anxiety as something to fix, solve, or end. Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t something that ever really goes away. People who have anxiety just become really good at coping with it.
Wanting to fix someone’s anxiety is a sweet and beautiful thought. You just want to take away your partner’s pain! But anxiety isn’t something to try and get rid of. That’s not the goal! The goal is to manage it. Sometimes, just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean that it has to be fixed.
3. Don’t Ask If They’re Okay, Ask How They’re Doing
Are you confused yet? Don’t worry, we’ll explain!
Don’t ask your partner if they’re okay. Ask them “Hey, how are you doing?” Asking if they’re okay won’t get you very far in conversation because they’re definitely not okay! If you ask how they are, it’s more of an open invitation to express their feelings.
4. Ask How You Can Support Them
Ask them what they need. Make sure that you ask them this both during and after panic attacks. When they’re not in the midst of a panic attack, they can then give you clear and informed answers as to what grounding/breathing/anxiety-reducing techniques work for them.
If you ask this question to your partner when they’re experiencing a panic attack, they might not be able to articulate, or even think about, strategies that can help them in that moment. So, talk to your partner about how you can help support them when their brain and body aren’t preoccupied with anxiety. You’ll be able to enter other situations with a tool belt full of grounding techniques to assist them when they’re taking a quick trip to panic attack city!
5. Help Them Find Treatment
If your partner needs an extra hand with their mental health, help them find a mental health professional that they could receive therapy from.
They might be too anxious to know where, or how, to start this process. So, that’s where you come in! Help them learn about the different types of therapists available for them to see, help them learn about the different types of therapeutic modalities, and even help find a therapist that they can book a possible consult with.
Chances are that a task like finding a therapist feels suuuper overwhelming and completely impossible, so they’re going to need your help! Type questions into that fancy Google-machine on their behalf and watch the therapists roll in!
6. Look After Your Own Mental Health
It’s important to care for your own mental health as well! Anxiety can affect both people in the relationship — not just the person who has it. So, make sure that you’re looking after your own mental health. This might mean going to therapy yourself, going to couples therapy with your partner, or just making sure that you practice regular self-care.
It can be hard to do, but caring for your own mental health means establishing and maintaining boundaries with your partner. You can still support and love your partner, but don’t tolerate, or accept, negative or abusive behaviour — even if your partner is having an anxiety or panic attack that causes them to lash out. This negative behaviour can include:
- Physical or verbal abuse
7. Help Them Feel Safe
When dating someone with anxiety, it’s important to understand that they can experience fight, flight, or freeze when they’re having an anxiety or panic attack. This means that their mind and body think that they’re in immediate physical danger when they might actually be totally safe. Ugh, brains…they’re confusing shit!
Help them get out of this fight, flight, or freeze mode by helping them feel safe. Practice grounding techniques with your partner, wrap them in a blanket to soothe their nervous system, or put on a soothing movie that they love. Be someone they can trust and rely on to feel safe when everything in their body and mind is telling them that they aren’t.
8. Learn About Anxiety
Google that shit! If you don’t know a lot about anxiety, what it is, and how it affects the mind and body, do some research! There are about one trillion-bazillion-million (Yes, that’s a number. No we won’t be taking arguments) videos that you can watch about it on YouTube. Online you can also find countless studies that have been published, as well as entire mental health organizations dedicated to anxiety and anxiety education.
When you perform your own research, it shows that you want to learn how to best care for your loved one and that you want to empathize with their experience. To someone with anxiety, the words “I did some research about it so that I can better understand what you’re going through,” are the most beautiful words we could ever hear!
If you’re dating someone with anxiety, your partner will appreciate you taking the time to help make their life — and their experiences with anxiety — a little bit easier. It’s some heavy shit to carry around on your own, so helping your S.O. carry some of that weight will mean the world to them!