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.
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.