Anxiety is a very common and often debilitating mental condition. It’s estimated that about one in 20 people will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). For those who do develop anxiety, it can be debilitating—and sometimes even life-threatening.
What Is Anxiety?
While there are many different types of anxiety disorders, all involve excessive worry or fear. These worries and fears can be focused on any number of things, such as relationships, money, health, or anything else that makes you feel anxious. People with anxiety tend to see problems where others don’t. They’re more likely than most to obsess over things that go wrong, while ignoring what goes right.
Anxious people also tend to ruminate about things they should or shouldn’t do. The problem with this sort of thinking is that it tends to make matters worse. When people with anxiety think too much about everything, they end up feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and unable to enjoy themselves.
It’s important not to confuse anxiety with normal everyday stressors like job changes or moving. While these can certainly add pressure to your life, they’re generally temporary, whereas anxiety is a chronic condition that lasts longer than a few weeks. That means that if you have anxiety, you might find yourself worrying about the same issues repeatedly throughout your life.
People with anxiety often try to control their feelings by doing things like avoiding anxiety-provoking situations, spending less time alone, or trying to avoid certain thoughts. This approach usually doesn’t work because it only leads to further feelings of isolation and helplessness. Instead, it’s better to accept that anxiety exists and learn how best to manage it.
The good news is that there are ways to address anxiety, including medication and therapy. But here are four tips for dating someone with anxiety that may help you get through the tough times together.
- Don’t Expect Perfection
One way to get anxious people into therapy is to avoid putting unrealistic expectations on them. If you want to date someone with anxiety, you need to realize that perfection is impossible. In fact, you’ll probably have more success dating someone with anxiety if you set aside your own expectations and focus instead on just being present with each other.
When you’re dating someone with anxiety, it’s important to remember that they aren’t a robot. You don’t need to put every little thing under a microscope. Instead, accept that you both may struggle from time to time, but that you’re both working toward improving yourselves. A person with anxiety needs to know that you understand that they’re imperfect, just like you are. This helps them feel more comfortable with you.
- Be Patient With Your Partner
Another tip for dating someone with anxiety is to be patient. Anxiety can take a serious toll on your relationship, especially if you’re dating someone who has an intense form of social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and panic disorder. All three are characterized by extreme fear of public speaking, crowds, and interacting with strangers. Because anxiety disorders are so common, many people with social anxiety are afraid even to ask out a potential partner.
In fact, people with social anxiety are almost four times more likely to suffer from depression and twice as likely to have a substance abuse disorder compared to the general population. So, if you date someone with anxiety, expect that they won’t be able to talk to new people without getting nervous. Also, if they start talking too much about their anxiety, you need to let them know that you’re there to listen. Just listening can make a huge difference. And if you really want to show them that you care, you could suggest going somewhere quiet or having a private conversation.
- Understand Their Work Habits
Many people with anxiety are introverts who prefer to keep their distance from others when it comes to social interactions. If you date someone with this type of anxiety, you need to respect that it’s hard for them to connect with others. This isn’t something you can force them to change; rather, it’s something that they need to work on.
If your partner has trouble meeting people or making friends, they may feel awkward around you. But don’t get discouraged. You can still build a strong bond with them. Try to spend more time in activities that don’t require as much interaction with others. For example, you could invite them to hang out at home after dinner instead of going to a restaurant. Or, you could simply talk to them while they work on their computer instead of distracting them.
- Help Them Feel Valued
As we mentioned above, dating someone with anxiety can be difficult. One of the best ways to help them feel valued is to treat them well. For example, you could always surprise them with flowers, call them regularly, or send them a text message to say “I love you.” Doing nice things for them shows that you care.
But you can also use technology to help them feel loved. Consider setting up a weekly video chat schedule, using apps like Skype, or inviting your partner to join your family game night. These simple gestures show that you value your relationship and are willing to do whatever it takes to make it stronger.
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