Here’s a fun, not-so-fun fact for you: 18.1% of adults in the U.S. have anxiety. That’s about 40 million people. I have it. You might have it. And you definitely, definitely know someone who has it.
You might even be dating someone with anxiety. Which isn’t always the easiest relationship. Like any mental illness, it can have very detrimental side effects if it’s not being acknowledged or treated in some manner. But that doesn’t mean that people with anxiety can’t have fulfilling relationships. There’s a lot of stigma about mental illness, so let’s break down what it does and doesn’t mean to be dating someone with anxiety.
It’s a totally normal relationship.
Dating someone with anxiety doesn’t necessarily make your relationship any harder than any other relationship. All relationships have their own challenges and maybe this will be one of yours. You may have to learn to be with a person with anxiety because they may have needs that differ from your previous partners. Or maybe you won’t. It’ll all depends on you and your partner. Because, and this is incredibly important to drive home, you’re dating a person, not an illness.
It’s not always the same for every person with anxiety.
You’re dating a person, not an illness, and that means that one person with anxiety doesn’t act like or have the same needs as the next person with anxiety. Listen to your partner. Don’t brush aside their needs because you think it’s just their anxiety flaring up. Your partner is a person, not their disorder.
It’s not the same as having a stressed out partner.
Maybe you’ve been with partners who have been up for a big promotion and have been working 14 hour days. Or maybe you’ve been with someone whose child has just entered the terrible twos. Dating someone who has anxiety is not the same as dating someone who is stressed out. Yes, stress can make anxiety way worse, but people with an anxiety disorder often feel anxious even when they can’t pinpoint why they’re anxious. Trying to tell someone with an anxiety disorder how to handle their stress level isn’t really going to help. In fact, it’s probably just going to hurt.
Unfortunately, only 36.9% of anxiety sufferers seek help and treatment. But anxiety is highly treatable, and there are many different methods. They can take medication. They can see a therapist. They can join a support group for anxiety sufferers. They can try all of these methods or one of them and they can work to find the ones that fit their needs best. It may be a long battle but they can do it. There is help and hope.
It’s not your job to fix their disorder, nor can you force them to get help.
Unless you’re a licensed psychotherapist or psychiatrist, the most you can do for your partner is encourage them to get help and offer your support while they do. And if you’re a licensed psychotherapist or psychiatrist, you shouldn’t be practicing on your partner anyway. If your partner refuses to get help, you need to understand that it’s okay to say goodbye. It’s not about you not being able to “handle” it. It’s not about you leaving them in their time of need. Relationships are a two way street. If their anxiety is severe enough that it’s taking its toll on your life, then your partner is not being a good partner and they should be trying to get help for both themselves and for you. You should be happy in a relationship, not feeling like you constantly have to take care of your partner’s needs.
It can be just as beautiful and successful as any relationship.
It’s not written in the stars that relationships with people who have anxiety are doomed to fail. As long as both partners are doing their part and loving and supporting each other, anxiety is no match for them.