Around 19% of US adults have an anxiety disorder. That’s about 40 million people. This means that — at one point or another — you may well find yourself dating someone with anxiety. So what should you expect, and how can you help?
Like any mental illness, anxiety can have challenging side effects if it’s not being acknowledged or treated in some manner. But, that certainly doesn’t mean that people with anxiety can’t have meaningful, good relationships. Let’s take a detailed dive into the topic of dating an anxious person including, how to date someone with anxiety, the different types to look out for, tips and advice, and much more.
First Things First: Learning About Anxiety Disorders
We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Whether it’s trying to cope with those first date nerves or the dreaded feeling of speaking in front of a big group of people, feeling anxious is a normal reaction to stressful situations.
But, anxiety disorders tend to differ from these normal feelings of nervousness. One of the best ways you can offer support when dating someone with anxiety is to ensure you have a good understanding of what anxiety disorders are and the common types to look out for.
What are anxiety disorders?
Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition, typically characterized by significant and overwhelming feelings of nervousness and fear that make it difficult to get through the day.
It’s important to keep in mind that anxiety disorders are pretty common — it’s estimated that 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Experiencing this doesn’t make you a less attractive dater, nor does it mean that you can’t form a real, meaningful relationship.
Types and symptoms of anxiety disorders
Anxiety presents itself in different ways for different people. This means that a big part of knowing how to date someone with anxiety is being aware of the common types and symptoms.
The most common types of anxiety disorders are:
• Generalized anxiety disorder
• Social anxiety disorder
• Panic order
• Separation anxiety disorder
Some of the common symptoms of anxiety disorders include:
• Rapid heart rate
• Trembling or shaking
• Feeling of shortness of breath
• Chest pains
• Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
• Numbness or tingling
• Chills or hot flashes
• Feeling detached
• Fear of losing
Anxiety disorders don’t have the same social stigma as they once did. This means that people are talking about them a lot more and there’s tons of information out there to help daters who’re feeling anxious.
You can find more in-depth information on the types and symptoms of anxiety disorders in the American Psychiatric Association’s detailed guide.
Knowing How to Date Someone With Anxiety: 7 Tips to Keep In Mind
Dating an anxious person can be challenging at times. But, there are plenty of great ways to support a partner and ensure that you both enjoy a lasting, meaningful relationship. Below, we’ve outlined seven tips for dating someone with anxiety.
1. Don’t treat it as anything other than a normal relationship
Dating someone with anxiety doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship will be harder than any other. All relationships have challenges and maybe this will be one of yours. It’s important to separate your partner from their disorder and remember that you’re dating a person, not an illness.
Always remembering that your partner is so much more than their anxiety will help to ensure that you approach things as caringly and compassionately as possible, in turn helping your partner to feel supported.
2. Remember it’s not always the same for everyone
It doesn’t make a difference if you’re dating a man with anxiety or dating a woman with anxiety – people are individuals. That means one person with anxiety won’t necessarily act like or have the same needs as the next.
Listen to your partner. Don’t brush aside their needs because you think it’s just their anxiety flaring up. Everybody is different, and these things can manifest themselves in different ways. For some people, symptoms can be physical. For others, it may be racing thoughts and feelings of disassociation.
3. Understand it’s different from having a stressed-out partner
Maybe your partner’s up for a big promotion and has been working 14-hour days? Or perhaps you’ve been dating a single parent whose child has just entered the terrible twos? These can be stressful situations, no doubt. But dating an anxious person is not the same as dating someone who’s 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 your partner how to handle their stress level isn’t really going to help. In fact, it’s probably just going to hurt.
4. Learn what makes their anxiety worse
Two individuals may react differently to the same stimulus. To help your partner, sit down together and talk about their experience with anxiety, including what sets it off, what makes it worse, and what helps.
This way, you’ll be better equipped to help them settle down when they experience a spike in their anxiety levels. It’s far better to prepare in advance than to learn on the fly.
5. Encourage them to seek help
The best way to treat any anxiety disorder is to seek professional help. Common, effective treatments include therapy and anxiety medications. Depending on the individual, undertaking one, or a combination of, these treatments is a great way to help them to cope with their situation.
6. Keep in mind that you can’t force them to get help if they don’t want it
Unless you’re a licensed psychiatrist, the most you can do for your partner is encourage them to get help and offer your support while they do. If your partner doesn’t want to seek help, it’s important to respect their decision – you can’t force them into it. The best thing to do is continue to be supportive and understanding of their situation.
7. Don’t forget to take care of yourself
Being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety can be a challenge at times. While it’s undoubtedly hardest for the individual suffering from anxiety, it’s not easy for their partner either. This means that taking the time to look after yourself and practice self-care and self-love is more important than ever.
Dating Someone With Anxiety: Do’s and Don’ts
When it comes to knowing how to date someone with anxiety, being able to handle potentially difficult situations is key. A big part of this is knowing what to say and what not to say. Below, we’ve outlined some examples of both.
Things to do and say
When it comes down to it, the things you do and say will play a big role in helping your partner to manage their anxiety. Here are some ideas and phrases that can work effectively.
• Always listen: “I’m here and I’m ready to listen to you.”
• Acknowledge their anxiety: “I know that things feel overwhelming for you.”
• Recognize what they’re dealing with: “I understand that’s a lot for you to handle right now.”
• Reassure them: “Everything’s going to be OK.”
• Comfort them: “I’m here for whatever you need.”
• Acknowledge their progress on anxiety issues: “I’m so proud of you for the strength you’ve shown.”
• Offer support: “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Things not to do and say
Since the things you do and say can have a big impact on how your partner manages their anxiety, it’s also worthwhile keeping in mind the things to avoid. We’ve laid out some of these below.
• Criticize them for feeling anxious: “Why are you always freaking out all the time?”
• Be dismissive of how they’re feeling: “That doesn’t make any sense.”
• Get angry or aggressive: “Just be quiet and calm down!”
• Take their behavior too personally: “Why are you always getting annoyed at me?”
• Try to be their therapist: “If I were you, I’d just do this…”
Dating Someone With Anxiety: Create a Real, Meaningful Relationship
Being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety can be genuinely special. Yes, it might come with a few extra challenges but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still form a meaningful connection with your partner. In fact, learning how to understand, support, and communicate effectively while dating an anxious person can help to create an even stronger and deeper bond.
When dating someone with anxiety, always remain supportive and understanding and encourage your partner to seek professional help when you feel it’s needed. With the right steps, the relationship will be truly joyful and long-lasting!