7 Tips for Dating Someone With Anxiety, From People With Anxiety
When you love someone who has anxiety, sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when anxiety has him or her in its clutches. Especially at the beginning of a relationship, when you’re just learning the ins and outs of each other, an anxiety disorder might feel like a foreign concept.
To dispel some concerns, we asked people in our community who live with anxiety to tell us tips for dating someone with anxiety.
Here’s their advice:
1. Understand if they need space.
When situations get overwhelming, someone with anxiety might need their own space. If they head out of a social situation early — or need some time away from you — try to understand they just might need to recharge. And sometimes that involves being alone.
“Sometimes the world is just too much. Alone time is necessary to think.” — Janice Cox
2. It’s not always you (and most of the time, it’s probably not).
Chances are, a person with anxiety has had anxiety long before you came along. Their reasons for being anxious (which may not even seems like “reasons” at all) most likely have nothing to do with you. Don’t take anxiety personally.
“Anxiety and depression cause negative and irrational thinking. If I’m sad, moody, angry or tearful, it’s my illness, not me. It’s not directed to you, don’t take it personally.” — Diana Pell
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
No two people with anxiety are the same, and there are different types of anxiety disorders. If you’re unfamiliar with anxiety, or even if you know a bit about it, don’t be afraid to ask questions to better understand their experience. That way, when anxiety comes to visit, you’ll be more prepared and have a little more understanding. Also, it’ll show it’s not something you’re afraid to talk about.
“Ask questions. Ask us questions about how it feels, what triggers it and what you can do to help. Show us you’re interested in understanding what we go through.” — Kimberly Labine
4. If you can, stay calm during moments of high anxiety.
If the person you’re with is experiencing a moment of high anxiety or panic, try to keep calm. The less anxious energy in the room, the better.
“If I’m feeling anxious, I need you to stay calm. I know it’s probably difficult since I’m clearly struggling, and I know you’re probably worried, but if you can stay relaxed, it’ll help bring me back to reality and make me realize I’m not in danger.” — Emily Waryck
5. Be patient.
Being annoyed or angry with anxiety won’t make it go away either. Have patience, and don’t get frustrated if you can’t understand.
“Be patient with me. I know it sucks when my anxiety keeps us from making plans, seeing friends or going out. I hate it too. But I promise I’m trying my best, so try not to get overly frustrated with me.” — Hayley Lyvers
6. Don’t try to fix it.
If love could cure anxiety, the world would be a much less anxious place. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While support can mean everything to a loved one, you don’t have to be anyone’s therapist. Supporting someone isn’t the same thing as fixing them.
“You’re not supposed to fix it. Just be there!” — Wilma Peden
7. Believe them.
Just because you don’t understand why a certain place or event could evoke anxiety, that doesn’t mean the fear and feeling isn’t real. Respect that what they’re going through is real — even if you think it defies logic. Believe what they tell you. And then listen.
“Listen to the person when they tell you ways you can help or support them. Believe them when they tell you they aren’t OK.” — Kathleen Myre
*Answers have been edited and shortened.
Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.