man comforts girlfriend

Before you can understand what it’s like to date someone with anxiety, first you must understand anxiety itself. Anxiety is not a pretty disease. It’s not a beautiful and terrified damsel in distress or your friend who doesn’t want to ride a roller coaster because she’s scared of heights. Anxiety is uncontrollable shaking, constant hypersensitivity to your surroundings, and a complete lack of comfort in your own skin. It’s holding onto an apple core at lunch, watching and waiting for someone else to throw away their trash first so you know it’s OK. It’s suddenly becoming acutely aware you have no control over your unpredictable surroundings, and it’s the paralyzing terror of being around new people because you have no idea what to expect from them.

When it comes to dating someone with anxiety, you have to be willing to accept and accommodate these struggles. If a person with anxiety has opened up enough to date you, you must be important to them. As the relationship progresses and you grow closer to each other, you will become a vital part of their support system. If you continue to date, please understand first and foremost that anxiety is a very real illness and is caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals – it is not a reflection on that person’s courage or willpower. That being said, here are four things to keep in mind when dating someone with anxiety:

1. Be patient.  As people who struggle with anxiety, we are often not confident in ourselves and tend to second guess everything. If someone with anxiety asks you something akin to “Are you mad at me?” or “Do you hate me?” or they apologize multiple times even after you have accepted it, please understand this insecurity is caused by mental illness. Even if you’re not mad, our brains like to pick up on the smallest of details and make mountains out of molehills. As we get to know you better, we will most likely become more comfortable and confident around you, but patience is vital in the beginning.

2. Be understanding. We are almost never comfortable in our surroundings, especially in crowded places or around people we don’t know. This can make the beginning of a relationship difficult. Understand we may not want to stay in a public place or be around unfamiliar people long (or perhaps at all) due to anxiety and may back out on a date or social gathering for that reason. Please try to respect that.

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3. Ask. Ask. Ask. Often we don’t voice our opinions because we fear being rejected or angering you. Let us know early on you won’t be angered or put off by us speaking up. Ask us our opinions; it is rare we will tell you our thoughts outright until we know you really well. This will make communication easier and much less stressful for us and will strengthen the relationship.

4. Know that we appreciate you. Sometimes we get a little too caught up in our concern for everything going on in our lives and we forget to tell you how much we appreciate you. That is not your fault. We appreciate everything you do for us, and we love you for it. We are difficult people to deal with – trust us, we know. It’s the little things you do to put our minds at ease that mean the most. We thank you for all that you do to support us in the uphill battle that is anxiety.

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“You’re crazy!” he shouted at me. “You’re freaking out and nobody knows what you’re talking about.”

My stomach lurched, and my heart dropped. Pain welled in my throat, and the tears that now flowed like an uncontrollable fire hydrant washed down my face. My voice was so choked I couldn’t even muster a response. This is how the conversation went the first time my loved one witnessed one of my meltdowns — an all out uninhibited anxiety attack.

Ask anyone who struggles with anxiety and I think they will agree, those words — “you’re crazy” — hurt more than anyone could understand. What we already feel in the midst of an anxiety attack is a loss of control of our emotions, our thoughts, our being. Every word that wants to come out cyclones into a monstrous torrent of incoherent thoughts. Only a few words ring clear through that garbled mess, and for me, they’re not pretty. Dramatic, stupid, monster, b*itch. Those are the only words I can make out when an attack comes on me. Because those are the words I have been called.

Now add “crazy” to that list. It is not an understatement for me to say in those moments when my mind shuts down and my emotions break loose that I genuinely feel like I’d rather die than for the person on the receiving end of this meltdown to see me like this. If it is scary for me, I can only imagine what someone watching it must think. “God, she’s a mess,” you might would say.

Or would you?

The other element to my panic is imagining situations that aren’t real. I mean, that is usually what causes the outburst in the first place, am I right fellow anxious friends? For me it is an imagined situation where I have disappointed someone again, and I am getting ready to receive an onslaught of hateful speech from a loved one for how insignificant I am and how I just can’t get anything right. They don’t love me anymore so what the heck, just leave already.

But the thing is, this usually is not the case at all. Ironic, isn’t it? That what I fear someone else will do is what I end up doing, and by doing so, I elicit the feared response from that other someone? Right. Not crazy? Perhaps that is what you are thinking while reading this lovely story of mine. But I am not crazy. Neither is that person is your life who struggles with anxiety. Because the truth is, we did not ask to feel this way. I did not wake up asking the universe to flip on its axis and catapult an ocean of emotions down my throat. I too am trying to figure out how to understand what is happening. While you are watching this go down I am trying to think, “How did I get here? Why do I feel this way? Where did that come from?” I don’t know about anyone else, but my anxiety attacks usually happen at the end of a good day. I could be successful in all I have attempted that day, gotten compliments from friends or strangers, but by the time I have come home to the one I love, I break.

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So what do you say to your loved one with anxiety when they scream, “I can’t take this anymore!” A hug. The best thing you can do is hold them in a tight embrace and say, “Everything is going to be OK. I am here for you. We will get through this.” Because really, the reason all of this is happening is because your loved one is feeling immense pressure to measure up. Whether it be your standards or ones they have placed upon themselves (usually the latter), all they need to hear from you is that they do measure up, there is nothing to worry about, and things are going to be just fine.

If I have scared you with this post, I apologize. But chances are you have someone in your life who struggles with anxiety, perfectionism, depression, or any type of self-loathing temperament that makes them feel less than worthy. Remind them they are worthy, they are loved. Because for people like me, all it takes is an understanding word and genuine concern to ease fear. Unfortunately my loved one has learned this the hard way. But now when I start to freak out about my responsibilities or unforeseen plans or whatever else is stressing me, he smiles and says, “It’s all going to be OK. We’re in this together.” There are still things I have to deal with inside of me, but knowing he is standing beside me makes that job a little less painful.

Follow this journey on More Than Sparrows.


To the man who has loved me through everything,

Things happened so easily, so naturally. The first couple weeks of dating were light and easy. I wanted to keep it that way, even though I knew it couldn’t last forever. It didn’t take long until you asked what my pills were for. The question was innocent enough. You assumed they were for my knee or my blood sugar, something you already knew about.

I hesitated. I thought if I told you the truth, I would lose you. I should have given you more credit. I told you we would talk about it later. I beat around the bush. Then, with the sweetest tone in your voice, you said, “You know you that you can talk to me about it, right?” So I did.

I opened up to you in a way I had never opened up to anyone before. With all the trust I had in my heart, I told you about my “terrible trio,” anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You didn’t hang up. You didn’t run away. You didn’t cancel our plans to see each other that weekend. Instead, you lovingly listened to every word I said.

Best of all, you validated my struggles. You didn’t make me feel like I was crazy. You made me feel strong for facing everything. You made me feel exactly how I needed to that night.

Letting you in like that was terrifying for me. I thought it would send you away, but instead you snuggled in closer. As the months passed, you encouraged me to vocalize my thoughts. You held me in silence when I couldn’t find words.

Then, despite all that, you asked me to marry you. Our wedding was beautiful, everything I had ever dreamed of. You, you were the man I had never even dared to dream of for fear that he could not possibly exist. Unfortunately for both of us, even the euphoria of being in the honeymoon phase didn’t send the terrible trio away from me, but you were by my side every step of the way.

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You loved me when things got worse. You loved me even on the nights you came home and found me curled up in a ball. You loved me when I cancelled plans at the last minute because I couldn’t handle going out that night. You loved me when I let laundry and dishes pile up because just getting out of bed seemed like a chore. You even loved me on the days when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed.

You loved me when I was on top of things, even though we both knew it wouldn’t last long. You loved me when I broke down crying in the mall because I felt that nothing could make me feel pretty. You loved me when I aced all my exams. You loved me when my grades slipped because I wasn’t functioning.

You loved me when work was all I could talk about. You loved me when work left me drained and lifeless at the end of a tough day. You loved me when I needed to lean on you. You loved me when I felt the need to be independent.

I love you for forever and ever. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for saving me.


As the school year approaches (faster than we want it to), some students are experiencing an ample amount of anxiety. Everything from figuring out who will be their teacher, to seeing who’s in their class and everything in between. Being a special education teacher and having my own conditions allows me to view things from a different perspective. It allows me to tap into my experiences and provide some insight to the child who may have no other outlet.

Last year, I encountered a student who was having an anxiety attack. The student was distraught, debilitated by his thoughts. So we sat at the table and talked it out. He professed his worries about his home life, daily struggles and overall anxiety of the world around him. He was so consumed by his thoughts, he couldn’t function.

As the hyperventilating and tears progressed, I expressed to him he was safe, cared for and the things he was concerned about were out of his control. I clearly remember this interaction because it was one of the first times I told a student I had an anxiety disorder. He seemed shocked and taken aback because, I assume, he didn’t think teachers had anxiety or that a teacher would be able to relate to him.

Time progressed and he relocated for a few minutes to regain composure. That day, I felt like I provided a positive example of coping with anxiety for him. That day, I truly felt like I helped someone in the way many people have helped me.

Now, here’s what I want to tell any student who struggles with anxiety.

Dear (insert your name here),

These golden nuggets below are for the student with anxiety, depression or any other condition from the perspective of an anxiety-riddled teacher.

Golden Nugget #1: You are not alone.

Your mind likes to play mean tricks on you. It makes you think you’re losing control, but you’re actually stable. It makes you feel like you’re not safe, but know you are protected. Anxiety will cause you to overanalyze people’s intentions and make you feel like it’s you against the world.  Please, know you’re not alone.

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Golden Nugget #2: It’s OK to ask for help.

Please, ask for help. I’m not a mind reader. My goal is to help you. If there’s something you need, then ask. I know you’ll be stewing over whether people will think less of you. Trust me, I was that kid. Know it’s OK to ask. I would rather you ask and have the tools you need to complete the task rather than sit, anxiously hoping I walk by your desk.

Golden Nugget #3: Be honest.

Simple as that. Admit you’re having an issue and we will try our best to come up with a plan to diffuse the situation. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Golden Nugget #4: Express your emotions, appropriately.

I understand it’s easier said than done. Teachers understand every kid isn’t going to be “on point” every day. It’s OK. Tell your teachers when you feel anxious, if you’re having a bad day or ask for ideas of how to better express yourself. I’ve learned throughout the years writing is my outlet, but everyone is different. Your outlet may be drawing, singing or dancing. Find something to make you happy!

Golden Nugget #5: Everything will be OK.

As I said beforehand, your mind will be mean to you. Know that everyone around you isn’t a monster, making fun of you or out for you. You’re not alone. Try to go out and make friendships. I know that’ll be difficult, but you have to start from somewhere. Everything will be OK! Yes, you may have an anxiety attack and feel no one may understand, but you are stronger than your condition.

You may take these nuggets with a grain of salt, but you should know you are stronger than your condition. It’s an uphill battle that requires daily conquering, but you are absolutely capable. You are brighter than your darkest thoughts. You are more powerful than your negative thoughts and you will be successful this school year!

Sincerely,
The Anxiety-Riddled Teacher


Dear teacher(s),

I am here to write a letter offering advice on how to help students who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve been in the same position as they have. Trust me when I say it’s not easy to deal with. So many people are under the false assumption that anxiety is a cry for attention or a “fake” issue. Neither are usually the case. In fact, anxiety is a very scary condition and often times support is greatly needed and appreciated.

Please, take some time to read over these suggestions on how to help those who have anxiety and panic attacks. Thank you!

1. If you see someone who appears anxious, ask what’s wrong and what you can do to help.

Each individual struggles with anxiety in different ways and not every method has the same results. The best way to know how to help someone is to ask.

2. Don’t force someone to do something just because you think it will help.

Because everyone deals with anxiety in different ways, some methods may be helpful to some but not to others. Therefore, the best thing to do if someone says that something won’t help them is to find another way to help.

Here’s an example: I was once told over and over again to drink water to make myself feel better. I told the individual that it wouldn’t help, but they practically forced me to drink the water. This honestly just made me more anxious!

3. Be understanding, and don’t make us feel like we’re being a nuisance.

This also applies to school nurses. I can’t tell you how many times I was made to feel like I was a burden in high school because of my anxiety. The school nurse made it like I was faking it. Every time I went to see her, I felt her eyes rolling at me. Having anxiety is a legitimate issue. We don’t enjoy it. So please, don’t act like we do!

4. Talk to us!

Ask us how we’re doing. Check in. You don’t have to ask 24/7, but once in awhile, see how we’re doing. Sometimes getting our feelings of our chest makes us feel better and helps us know we are supported.

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5. Don’t talk down to us, patronize us or treat us like we’re silly.

It’s hard enough going through something that’s so misunderstood, let alone being treated like we’re insane or childish. In my opinion, it’s crucial that teachers try to understand what their students are going through. I had so many teachers who showed me a great deal of respect. It was these teacher who made a real difference in my life.

6. Share your own issues with us and help us feel less alone.

Be honest and if you have similar experiences with anxiety, share them with us. I had a teacher who told me about one of his fears and honestly, it helped. By sharing something he went through, he helped me realize I wasn’t alone and that it was possible to get through what I was going through. I also knew there were people who cared for me.

7. If a student has to leave school due to anxiety, then don’t make them feel guilty.

In high school, I left school several times due to my anxiety. I always felt awful. Additionally, there were times when school officials or the school nurse made me feel guilty about leaving because I wasn’t physically sick.

Anxiety is a very difficult issue to deal with. People who go to school and deal with anxiety have to try extremely hard to get through the day and sometimes, anxiety makes it seem like an impossible task. However, with the help and support from teachers and staff, students can feel supported and get through school with a sense of accomplishment.


Crippling.

If I’m being quite frank, it has the power to destroy my day. It has the power to send it reeling into the depths, with no hope for return and for no apparent reason at all. It will shut me down completely. The only option is to succumb to it, to get it over with and move on. I let my mind run rampant with fallacies, just long enough to mute it for a little while.

A nightmare.

I dread falling asleep because the night is dangerous. My day is done, and there’s time now to review what I’d done, who I interacted with and all I’ve said. There’s time now to consider all of the possible outcomes of my actions, primarily the negative ones. Perhaps, I upset my boss, and I’ll be fired tomorrow. Perhaps, I’ve disappointed my parents.

Burning Bridges.

I have always been close with my family. Now, I feel like I can no longer be. What if they don’t accept my anxiety? What if they call me weak or dramatic or tell me to suck it up? What if they cannot understand that I cannot control what goes on inside of my head? What if I upset them? What if it’s this way for the rest of my life?

Living.

Both in the past and the future, but never the present. I reminisce on days when I felt the utmost joy, no worries, no anxiety back when days like those existed. They are the most beautiful thing in my mind. They are also the most torturous. I can’t go back, no matter how hard I try. So, I try to look toward the future and imagine how wonderful things will be, and I can’t get there fast enough. That’s exactly the problem. I am not there. I am here, and I can’t be. I don’t want to be.

Illogical.

I am consistently fearing the worst in every situation, regardless of how nonsensical it may be. Even if I know the outcome will be positive, there is (at the very least) a sliver of me that worries the tables may turn. Some may call it protecting themselves, but not to this extent, not to this frequency.

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A gift.

My anxiety is a lesson. I am constantly learning things about myself and about others that amaze me. I’ve learned I am strong. I am more than strong. I am a warrior, and I am a survivor.

I’ve learned I can relentlessly fight every single day. I can wake up, fight again every morning and go to sleep knowing I survived another day. I’ve learned my relationships are stronger than my anxiety. I am hopeful to learn of my family’s support, despite the plaguing doubts. You cannot change your family, so you love them despite the differences.

I am able to decipher when I am being unreasonable, when my mind has carried me too far yet again. While I am still unable to stop it, I am able to recognize it. That is more than I could ask for from myself.

Real People. Real Stories.

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