But when one half of a couple has an Anxiety Disorder, partners face a whole new set of challenges. And the issues associated with Anxiety Disorders may exacerbate many of the normal issues that couples face.
One partner may not know how to help his or her significant other and becomes frustrated, angry, resentful or feel guilty, sad or hopeless about the situation. Over time, this will severely hamper your ability to care for your partner with a Anxiety Disorder.
It is important that you understand that you need to take care of yourself. Immersing yourself in your partner’s Anxiety Disorder can be debilitating, and you are not being selfish to want to have a break.
How can an Anxiety Disorder affect a couple’s relationship?
An Anxiety Disorder can take a major toll on a couple. A study done by the Anxiety Disorders Association America in 2004 reveals in great detail how a couple’s relationship is affected. Although it only studied people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), it likely holds true for people with other Anxiety Disorders.
The study found that a couple’s relationship suffered the most compared to other personal relationships, such as friends and family. People with GAD were twice as likely to have at least one relationship problem, and three times more likely to avoid being intimate with their partner. In addition, 75 percent said that they felt their disorder impaired their ability to perform normal activities with their partner, such as going out and social activities.
How can you help yourself if your partner has an Anxiety Disorder?
Living with an Anxiety Disorder is associated with a great deal of personal distress. But it can be equally hard for a partner. The reality of living with a partner with an anxiety disorder is not how most people imagined their lives would turn out.
It is extremely important — and not selfish — for the partners of individuals with an Anxiety Disorder to take care of themselves as well as for their partner. Here are some tips to help you cope:
- Don’t give up your own life and interests. Engaging in outside interests and hobbies can provide a much-needed break from the stress of your daily life. You will be more energized, happier, healthier and better prepared to face challenges. It is important to take this time for yourself and not become completely consumed with your partner’s disorder.
- Have your own social life. Whether it’s going out to eat with a friend, singing in the church choir, or going to club meetings, it is essential that you get out and away from your partner from time to time.
- Keep active and exercise. Regular exercise can help you feel more positive, and gives you energy and stamina. It will help you get out of the house and get your mind off your stressful situation.
- Eat healthy. Having a balanced diet will not only help the way you feel, but will help the way you think.
- Maintain a support system. Having friends and family to confide in and count on — as well as assist you emotionally, financially and in other ways when your partner cannot — is vital for an individual whose partner has an Anxiety Disorder. You can feel isolated and overwhelmed by problems sometimes, and having someone to talk to helps greatly. There are support groups for caregivers in many communities.
- Relax. Take the time to relax just for yourself. You may have a favorite activity such as reading, gardening or listening to music. Or you may just enjoy sitting and enjoying the scent of a candle. The important thing is that you regularly take time for yourself.
- Express yourself. Our creativity often goes unnoticed, even by ourselves, much less given a regular outlet. Find a way to express your emotions and needs on a regular basis, such as journaling, blogging, painting, writing or some other method.
- Set boundaries. Decide where your limits lie and inform your partner of those. These might be emotional, financial, physical, etc. For example, if your partner is not working and is not doing anything to try to become well such as seeking treatment, you may need to have a serious discussion about your expectations and how to move forward to improve the situation. Couples therapy can often help with this.
- Seek out professional help for yourself if necessary. The recovery process can be stressful for partners of people with Anxiety Disorders. Your well-being is just as important as your partner’s. If you need someone to talk to, or you think you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression yourself, you should talk to your doctor or consider visiting a mental health care professional yourself.
What do you think?
If you are the partner of someone with Anxiety Disorder, you know how hard it can be sometimes. You should not feel guilty or selfish for regularly taking the time and energy to take care of yourself!
- Are you the partner of someone with Anxiety Disorder or another mental disorder?
- What have you learned about taking care of yourself?
- Have you experienced emotions such as frustration, guilt or anger? How have you overcome them?
What can you do now?
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Resources used in this post:
Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2004). New Survey Reveals How Generalized Anxiety Disorder Interferes with Ability to Maintain “Healthy” Relationships. Retrieved April 29, 2005 from Anxiety Disorders Association of America Web site: http://www.adaa.org/aboutADAA/newsletter/newsurvey04.htm
Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (2008). When Your Partner Has an Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved July 16, 2008 from Anxiety Disorders Association of America Web site: http://www.adaa.org/gettinghelp/MFarchives/MonthlyFeatures(june07).asp
Framingham, Jane. (2007, October 23). 10 Tips to Help Yourself. Retrieved June 27, 2008 from Psych Central Web site: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/10-tips-to-help-yourself/