All couples go through ups and downs in their relationships. It is not only expected, but it is even considered normal. That is because there is no feasible way for two individuals in a relationship to dodge negativity of any kind, whether it be caused by one another or external factors. The strongest of couples often develop ways to weather the storms together and grow from what they experience, regardless of if it is good or bad. But when your partner has something as pervasive as an anxiety disorder, the challenges ahead of both of you can be extremely difficult to navigate. That is why understanding your partner’s anxiety is absolutely critical to sustaining a healthy, functioning relationship.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
There are several different types of anxiety disorders, ranging from social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder to phobias and generalized anxiety disorder. Regardless of which type of anxiety disorder your partner has, they will experience symptoms that may compromise their overall wellbeing and potentially even yours. By understanding your partner’s anxiety from a mental health standpoint, you are more likely to have the appropriate expectations, know how to cope with stress related to the anxiety disorder, and avoid resentments towards your partner that can start pushing cracks through the foundation of your relationship.
So, what is an anxiety disorder? An anxiety disorder is a condition where a person feels like they are spiraling out of control. They often display symptoms such as extreme worry, feeling tense, having problems concentrating, and a sense of impending doom. These symptoms can lead to increased heart and respiratory rates, trembling, and gastrointestinal complications. From the outside looking in, it may appear that a person with an anxiety disorder is overreacting or detached from reality. However, that is not the case. The reason for these symptoms developing is not because a person just wants to overreact, but because there are chemical imbalances occurring in the brain.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that anxiety disorders are “thought to result in part from disruption in the balance of activity in the emotional centers of the brain rather than in the higher cognitive centers”. In particular, studies have shown that those with anxiety disorders experience dysfunction in the GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that works to help slow down anxiety signals that get sent off throughout the brain, allowing for individuals to experience a manageable amount of anxiety. But those with anxiety disorders often experience dysfunction with the GABA in their brains, as these neurotransmitters do not work fast enough to slow down signals related to anxiety. This leaves individuals with heightened symptoms of anxiety that are not easy to manage.
Understanding your partner’s anxiety is absolutely key in maintaining a healthy relationship. This information, plus additional information regarding the science behind anxiety disorders, can help eliminate the frustrations and resentments that can occur when your partner is actively experiencing anxiety.
Understanding Your Partner’s Sobriety by Supporting Them
If your partner has an anxiety disorder, the most valuable gift you can give to them and yourself is your support. Individuals with mental health conditions like anxiety thrive in environments where they are supported rather than enabled or ignored. There are many ways that you can offer your effective support so that you not only learn first-hand about understanding your partner’s anxiety, but also what types of mitigation measures you can take. Consider the following:
- Encourage treatment – Seeking professional treatment is absolutely vital for those who struggle with an anxiety disorder, as well as those around them. Speaking with a therapist, meeting with a prescribing professional, etc. can help your partner get on top of their anxiety disorder for good. Champion getting treatment. Encourage your partner to reach out of help. Let them know that you are there to support them the entire way.
- Ask what they need – Ask your partner what they need. Attempting to determine what they need simply by guessing is not effective and can make the situation worse. By asking them up front, you can get a clear answer and are able to offer support more effectively.
- Recognize that you cannot fully relate – One major mistake a partner makes is trying to relate to their partner’s anxiety disorder when they do not have one. Of course, everyone can experience anxiety at times, but having a disorder is different. Remaining humble and understanding that you cannot fully relate to their situation leaves room for empathy and education.
- Acknowledge successes – If your partner is doing things to help improve their situation, make sure that you acknowledge all of their successes, both big and small. Anxiety disorders can be difficult to live with, so even the smallest of successes is often viewed as a big deal to the individual with the disorder. Encouragement and acknowledgment can make a world of difference for both you and your partner.
As you continue to educate yourself about anxiety disorders while supporting your partner, keep in mind that you and your partner can set reasonable goals for yourselves, you can attend therapy with your partner, and you can work on your patience so that they have room to grow without feeling like a burden.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment in St. Augustine, FL
If you or your partner are dealing with an untreated anxiety disorder, contact us right now to learn more about how we can help. Living with anxiety does not have to be difficult or painful. Allow us to help you develop new ways to cope with the common mental health condition so that you can live cohesively in peace. Call us today. We can help.