7 Tips for Dating Someone With Anxiety, From People With Anxiety

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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*Answers have been edited and shortened.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

 

 

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When I Stopped Letting My Anxiety Boss Me Around

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Before going to residential treatment for my mental illness, I was absolutely miserable. I let my obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression rule every decision I made.

If something made me anxious, like going to a crowded mall, I wouldn’t go. If touching a shopping cart in the grocery store made my OCD flare, I’d carry all my groceries with my two hands instead of using the cart. I wouldn’t go to school for months on end because school made me Earth shatteringly anxious. I was in and out of school since sixth grade, only went for a couple hours and had completed a bare minimum of the courses needed.

Anything that made me anxious I would avoid.

Every time my depression hit just a little harder, I’d let it hit me to the ground. I’d isolate and not get back up. The day came when I was tired of feeling like this, letting my illness rule me, letting my illness drive me down a deep dark hole I felt I couldn’t get out of. I decided to stop making excuses.

With residential treatment, I learned not to avoid. If something made me anxious, like that crowded mall, I was going to go “expose” myself to that anxiety until it got better. That meant going to a crowded mall every other day and just walking around it until my anxiety eventually went down. That shopping with all the germs covering it — I touched and I used every time I went grocery shopping. If I felt depressed, I would go call a friend, go for a walk, something other than sleep and isolate myself in my room. I was going to do what I wanted; anxiety wasn’t going to get in the way of that. I told myself my mental illness can’t tell me what to do or when to do it or where to do it. If I wanted to go to the mall, I was going to go to the mall. If I wanted to go out with my friends, I wasn’t going to let my depression tell me otherwise. I knew I would be anxious while doing it, and it was going to be a overwhelming, but the more I went to the mall or used that “germy” shopping the easier it would be.

I’m no longer going by the phrase, “I can’t because it makes me anxious.” My new motto is: “I will do this because I want to do this. It will be hard and I will be uncomfortable, but it’ll get easier and it is worth it.” 

I know better than anyone standing up to your anxiety is easier said then done. It takes small steps. Treatment helps. So do support groups. Any small step is getting you closer to a you who’s in control of anxiety — not the other way around. Recovery is an option, I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is so worth it in the end.

Editor’s note: The following is based on one person’s experience and should not be taken as medical advice.

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26 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Significant Others to Know

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When you love someone who has anxiety, often times it’s a package-deal. And while love can conquer a lot, it isn’t always enough to defeat the dragon that is an anxiety disorder.

But anxiety doesn’t make someone impossible to love, or even hard to love. And partners who learn how help reduce their loved ones’ anxiety can a make a huge difference in their significant others’ lives. To find out more, we asked people with anxiety tell us what they want their significant others to know.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “You’re the only person I can share the racing thoughts with; the bombardment of traumatic scenarios and all consuming panic that follows. You remind me of the good in my life, which includes you.” — Tricia Bruno Derrick

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2. “Going out is really hard for me. I do it because I don’t want my anxiety to ruin my life and because I still want to do nice things with you. But please don’t be mad if going shopping in a shopping mall triggers my anxiety, or going by a bus triggers a panic attack.” — Borderline Heart

3. “Please forgive me when my moods shift rapidly. I don’t mean to hurt or confuse you. It is beyond my control. I love you, and I am so grateful you love me flaws and all.” — Tamesha Scott

4. “Sometimes, you’re the only person who can stop me from descending into complete fear over my symptoms. Please don’t make me feel stupid or get mad at me — I’m already so discombobulated I can’t handle it. Just be there for me, and when I’m a little more calm, help me think logically.” — Ashley David Stevens

5. “You are my sun and moon. I could survive without you, but I would not thrive. In all of our years together, I’m so grateful you share this journey with me. When I’m overwhelmed, you reach back and take my hand. Thank you.” — Becky Nelson

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6. “Just because I know, logically, I’m stressing out over something minor, it doesn’t mean my anxiety knows that. My anxiety doesn’t care about logic; it just wants to panic about everything.” — Darcy Krieger

7. “I’m not using it as an excuse; if I say I’m too anxious to do something, it’s a real problem. Please believe me.” — Holly Cooper McNeal

8. “When I take it out on you, please don’t take it personal. You are the only one I know will still be there in there morning no matter how ugly I get. I really don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have that assurance.” — Paige Lenox George

9. “I love the way his face changes when he knows ‘it’s’ coming, and I am and will always be grateful for his hugs when it arrives.” — Jade Jd Dempsey

10. “I don’t need space from you; I need space for myself.” — Tera Marie Major

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11. “Something I’ve done 100 times can still bring about anxiety, so if on the 101st time I can’t bring myself to do something, please don’t judge or force me to do anything I know I can’t do.” — Marissa Levi

12. “I’m sorry if there are times when I can’t communicate to you what I’m feeling. I usually don’t understand it either.” — Emily Waryck

13. “I know it sounds irrational, but to me, the fear is real. Just sit in that and know I will return from it.” — Alana Reid

14. “I’m not asking you to understand my anxiety, I’m asking you to respect it.” — April Schneeman

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15. “Your physical presence is enough to assure me I can get through this.” — Ninny Mundt Ryan

16. “Even though I trust you completely, I still need the reassurance you aren’t going anywhere!” — Ashley Nicole

17. “I worry all the time. A simple hug from you gives me so much comfort and reassurance. You have no idea.” — Kara Cardoza

18. “It doesn’t make sense, but a small grain of sand to you is an enormous, perilous mountain to me: covered in sharp jagged rocks, slippery slimy trails, hidden threatening holes and adrenaline pumping ravines. And I have to traverse this obstacle untrained, unprepared and alone every day.” — Elisa Fraser

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19.Thanks for never making me guilty for when I have to close myself off in our room because I’m tired from the hurricane of anxiety going on in my head. I appreciate that you always ask me how you can help and that you order/cook food when I have no energy to make dinner.” — Nicole Campbell

20. “Thank you for telling me not to worry every time I ask an anxiety-induced question. It makes me feel loved instead of annoying and that’s all I could ever ask for.” — Rachel Silton

21. “When I’m having a full blown anxiety attack, what I need more than anything is someone who can just be present with me. I don’t need you to solve my problem, because you can’t. I don’t need you to validate my feelings, because they are real to me. And I don’t need you to fix anything because I’m not broken.” — Kristine Burch McCourt

22. “I appreciate all the things you do, from comforting me during an anxiety attack to the little things like fixing a cup of tea and cuddling. Knowing that someone is there for me and loves me unconditionally helps me more than you’ll ever know.” — Christy Kira Miller

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23. “If you’re away on business and I seem to be worrying about you too much, please do not be annoyed. Please know I worry because I love you, because you mean the world to me. Please try to be understanding, rather than telling me to get a handle on my anxiety.” — Natali Wind

24. “Sometimes you can’t touch or hold me. It’s not personal, it’s not your fault. It’s my anxiety in a really, really bad place. I will come to you as soon as I’m ready, no doubt about it…you’re the one that I want.” — Victoria Churchill

25. “When I don’t get things done around the house, it’s not because I’m lazy or don’t want to do them; being overwhelmed causes anxiety, and that can be brought on by even the simplest tasks.” — Amy Dale Aranda

26. “Sometimes I just need a hug and to know I’m loved. Sometimes there’s nothing more you can do than that. Some days I might be overly emotional and scared about things that seem like nothing to you, but when I feel broken, I just need a rock to stand by my side.” — Lyddie Leanne Wargo

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*Answers have been edited and shortened.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

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When Managing Anxiety Starts With Your Hands

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I learned how to knit when I was 12 years old. A family friend brought over a ball of yarn and some needles as a gift, and I went wild. I learned knitting and purling in alternate rows made the stockinette stitch. I even learned how to rib. Eventually, I moved on from “flat projects” and taught myself to make hats. At that point, I hadn’t yet labeled my constant need for control over the shifting elements in my life as anxiety. But regardless, knitting provided me with a productive way to relax. I would sit back, churn out stitch after stitch and somehow make it to the next day. 

When I moved across the country for college, I was unprepared for the transition. Thrust into a group of strangers in uncharted territory, I began to view the world around me as hostile. I felt stifled, in the sense that no amount of crying or rationalizing could take away the pain of this unwelcome adjustment. I blamed this onset of depression on my parents’ divorce, but really I just felt out of control in the new environment that college presented. I couldn’t mold myself into the simple, happy version of my personality I felt would be desirable to others. I couldn’t force others to understand my condition as anything different than self-centered, dramatic behavior. My anxiety welled up as the winter months of my freshman year approached.

Knitting was the only defense I had. 

When I knit, my main objective is to indulge in the repetitive motions, knowing they will eventually produce something complete and beautiful. It’s a simple interaction between my hands, the knitting needles and the yarn, and this allows my mind to tune out. Knitting becomes more and more therapeutic over time. When you’re first learning, it takes a lot of patience and perseverance until your muscles memorize the motions and everything clicks. Whether I’m watching television, on the train or talking to a friend, I can knit and know the anxious tension in my hands will be accounted for.

I’ve taught many people to knit over the years and now that my company AK Kerani is formally holding workshops for this purpose, I’m excited for the challenge. Teaching someone to navigate the first few loops can be a struggle, but my favorite part is to step back and watch as their rows progress. Even if it’s shaky, watching a new knitter set out on their first journey reminds me how flexible the human brain is and how it yearns for creative ways to implement energy. 

I grew up a serious musician and runner, turning to both activities every day for solace. I still use songwriting and running as ways to release my anxious tension into something productive. However, knitting has that extra element of producing a tangible substance that can be felt and worn. I can remember the less than healthy state I might have been in when I made a given infinity scarf, but if I wear it with pride in the days that follow, I’m proudly representing my ability to overcome. 

My journey with knitting has been somewhat unexpected in terms of its importance in my daily life. I always thought I’d be a writer, a musician or even a business person generally involved with the media.  I never expected I would base my entrepreneurial dreams around knitting. But I’m glad I have. Knitting is a personal creative outlet for me and it’s the main activity I look forward to engaging in at the end of a long day. Moreover, it gives me a tangible way to advocate for my mental health and those of others. I’ve learned people are interested in their mental health and ways they can maintain it. Curiosity is the beginning of a universal fight against stigma that we can perpetuate by offering solutions to daily anxiety, as well as the negative energy that can overtake us during the rougher times.

I believe creative outlets in general are a large part of pursuing a healthy mindset. If you work on creating something every day, you may not always reach your ideal mental state, but you did accomplish something. The little victories towards our mental health we make each day serve to fight the overall feeling of hopelessness that depression and anxiety rely on to grow. I am not finished fighting to understand and defeat my anxiety. And as I struggle with being physically far from those I love, losing friends who are near and maintaining the high level of energy I need to stride through my day, I often do feel thoughts of helplessness beginning to well up.

But equipped with my knitting, I know I will continue to get closer to my goals and more aware of my limits, if I simply allow myself to progress one stitch at a time.

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17 Texts People With Social Anxiety Would Love to Get After Canceling Plans

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For people with social anxiety, getting invited to a party or even a simple get together isn’t as simple as, “Let me check my calendar.” Social anxiety is an extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others, and when someone with this kind of anxiety disorder “flakes” on a plan, it’s not because they don’t care about their friends — there’s probably something more going on.

We asked people in our community who live with social anxiety to tell us one text they’d love to receive after canceling plans — because the last thing someone with social anxiety needs is more guilt.

If you have friends with social anxiety, here’s what they might need to hear:

1.

"I understand, and I'm not angry. We'll try again if you're feeling up to it."

2.

No problem! Please let me know when you are able to hang out. Is it OK to keep inviting you to events? I want to make sure you're in the loop!

3.

Take all the time you need. 4. 

That's totally fine. If you think you need to talk things through, just text.

 

5. 

Would you like to do something one-on-one?

 

6. 

I understand and I don't hold it against you.

7.

We'll miss you! Don't feel bad about canceling. We will always keep inviting you.

8.  No problem! I'll take a rain check.

9.  I'm always here if you need me. Alright, talk to you soon!

10.

I may not understand your anxiety, but I do understand it's difficult for you, and I appreciate that you're taking care of yourself..

11.

Don't worry, we'll find something fun to do that works for you.

12.

It's OK. It's not your fault and I completely understand. Stay strong.

 

13.

I will miss you, but I totally understand. Take care of yourself.

 

14.

What can we do instead that won't be too overwhelming?

15.

I'm so glad you're doing what you need to do to take care of yourself!

16.

I'm here for you whenever to do whatever.

17. 

I could just come over and hang out if that makes you feel more comfortable. Please let me know how I can help.

Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

 

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21 Secrets of People Who Live With Social Anxiety

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When the 15 million American adults who live with social anxiety disorder face social situations, they’re overcoming more than shyness. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety is an extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others — a fear that can interfere significantly with a person’s life.

Just because someone has social anxiety doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. We asked people in our community who live with social anxiety to tell us one thing they want others to know.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “I can’t help it, nor do I want this. It’s not just a little nervousness here and there. It’s constant stress, worry and living in a world you don’t even recognize.”

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2. “I lack confidence in my ability to speak correctly. There are times when I want to say something, but I hold back because I’m afraid of sounding silly or not being understood. I tend to be afraid of making phone calls, approaching people, speaking in a group, being put on the spot, checking out at the store, ordering at a restaurant, job interviews and so on. This doesn’t make me childish or crazy. I have anxiety, and sometimes it gets the best of me. Please understand, and never laugh or make fun of me. It only makes things worse.”

3. “When I finally get the courage to speak, I’m terrified of your reaction. Please be kind.”

4. “My social anxiety is not a constant. One situation may cause me anxiety on a certain day, but won’t on the next. It’s a fluid thing.”

5. “I wish they could see the inner turmoil I’m actually going through at that time. Just because you don’t see physical symptoms doesn’t mean everything is OK. For families and friends of people with mental illness, please take the time to do as much research as possible, it can help you better understand what your loved one is going through.

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6. “I really love people. I always see the best in them. I wish when I was around people I didn’t feel like I was dying on the inside. There’s nothing more lonely in the world than anxiety and irrational fear preventing you from spending time with other people.”

7. “I’m aware how ridiculous I’m being, but I still can’t help it.”

8. “Social anxiety covers a lot of different fears and behaviors. It’s not always about being afraid of crowds or people. Sometimes it’s feeling alone in a room full of people. For me, it’s wanting to stay home because I fear going out and having people see me breakdown or be sad. I’m afraid to show them that imperfection and to me, staying home feels safe, and at the same time incredibly lonely.

9. “Don’t take my anxiety personally. Just accept it and help me out.”

10. “I’m not anti-social. I wish I had a social life, but my anxiety won’t let me.”

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11. “If it looks like I’m zoning out, that’s me breathing and practicing self-talk so I don’t go into a full on panic attack.”

12. “I want to talk to people, but the more pressure I’m under to interact, the worse the anxiety becomes.”

13. “I’m not trying to come across as rude, snobby or standoffish just because I don’t want to talk or to give hugs to a ton of people in succession. I get overwhelmed and overstimulated extremely easily. Please respect that.”

14. “I wish you would break the ice and talk to me first. I’m really a nice person, I just have this intense fear I cant control.”

15. “I wish people understood ‘I can’t come’ means it really feels impossible, not just ‘I don’t feel like it.’”

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16. “I don’t mean to cancel plans at the last minute. Sometimes I just can’t do it.”

17. “When I’m quiet, I probably have something I really want to say. It’s not that I’m stuck up, I’m just too nervous to say what’s on my mind. If you would talk to me first, it would be a lot easier.”

18. “When I leave an event early, I’m not being rude or disrespectful. I just need alone time so I don’t have a meltdown.”

19. “I’m not trying to be difficult. It’s not easy living in my brain.”

20. “Sometimes it literally feels like everyone else is using up all the air and I’m suffocating. Just ‘take a deep breath and relax’ isn’t always gonna cut it.”

21. “Saying social anxiety is just ‘shyness’ is like comparing a stab wound to a paper cut.”

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Editor’s note: Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way. These answers are based on individuals’ experiences.

Do you experience social anxiety? What do you wish others understood about your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

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