Living with anxiety can be tough ̵
"We often find that your anxiety disorder may contribute to marital dissatisfaction. that our patients' … partners are somehow intertwined in their anxiety, "says Sandy Capaldi, associate director at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.
Anxiety is experienced at many different levels and in different forms – from moderate to debilitating, from generalized anxiety to phobias – and its impacts may vary. But psychiatrists and therapists say there are ways to help your partner navigate challenges while you are taking care of yourself
Start by addressing the symptoms.
Because anxiety disorder can be consuming, it can be best to start talking to your partner about ways anxiety affects daily life, like sleeplessness, says Jeffrey Borenstein, president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in New York. Something as simple as using the word "stress" instead of clinical labels can help too. "Often people may feel a little more comfortable talking about stress as opposed to … anxiety [disorders]," Borenstein says.
Do not minimize feelings
"Even if the perspective of the other the person absolutely makes no sense to you logically, you should validate it, "says Carolyn Daitch, a licensed psychologist and director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Farmington Hills, Mich. Try to understand your partner's fears and worries, or at least acknowledge that these fears and worries are real to your partner, before addressing why such things might be irrational
Anxiety does not have a easy solution, but helping someone starts with compassion. "Too many partners, especially male partners, want to fix it right away," says Daitch. "
Help your partner seek treatment – and participate" "You have to start with empathy and understanding. You can move to logic, but not before the person feels like they are not judged and misunderstood. when you can.
If your partner is overwhelmed by anxiety, encourage your partner to seek therapy. You can even suggest names of therapists or offices, but do not call therapist and set up the appointment yourself, Borenstein says. You want the person to have a certain level of agency over treatment.
Capaldi says she often brings a patient's partner to participate in the therapy and to bolster the patient's support system at home. "The three of us – the patient, the partner, the therapist – have a team, and that team is opposed to anxiety disorder," she says.
But do not talk to your partner at home the way a therapist might. For example, do not suggest your partner to try medication or ways of modifying behavior. "Let the recommendations about the treatment come from the professional" even if you are in the mental health care field, Borenstein says. "I personally am a professional, and I would not [prescribe anything] a loved one."
It may also be helpful to do some research on whatever form of anxiety your partner might be living with, Capaldi says Alliance on Mental Illness is a great starting point. "Many times, people with anxiety feel as if they're misunderstood," she says. "If the partner takes the time to research it a bit, that can go a long way."
Encourage – do not push
For tips on how to help your partner choose the right type of therapy, check out this guide from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
When your partner suffers from debilitating anxiety and you do not, your partner's behavior can be frustrating, says Cory Newman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. But you should never patronize or diminish your partner's fears. Comments like "Why can not you do this? What's your problem?" will probably be ineffective.
Instead, try to encourage your partner to overcome the anxiety. "Channel your encouragement in a positive direction," says Newman. "Say something like 'Here's how it will benefit you if you can face [this] discomfort.' "
Daitch cites the example of someone with an immense fear of flying:" Start off saying, 'I really understand how scared you are of flying. if you have a panic attack, [you’re] afraid you might embarrass yourself … or it feels like you're out of control when there's turbulence. ' See things from their perspective. "
Then you can try to gently push your partner to overcome those fears.
To maintain your own mental health, it's important to cultivate habits and relationships that are for you alone, such as a regular exercise regimen or weekly hangouts with [friendsHaveyourownsupportnetworklikeabestfriendoratherapist(orboth)forwhenyourpartner'sanxietyoverwhelmsyou
Partners definitely need support of their own, Capaldi says, "whether that means their own relationship or friends, family [and] other interests or activities that set them apart from the world of anxiety they might be living in."
And do not let your partner's anxiety run your family's life. For example, someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is closely related to anxiety disorders, may want family members to keep everything very clean or organized in arbitrary ways. Newman says it's important to limit how much you organize your household around your partner's anxiety – and not to indulge every request or mandate.
"Try to be respectful, but also set limits,"
Help your partner remember that the goal is to manage anxiety – not to get rid of it.
"A lot of people with anxiety disorders understandably view anxiety as the enemy," Newman says. "Anxiety causes [people] to avoid things – like applying to schools, flying to a wedding cousin's – [that can lead to] an enriched life." And that causes depression. "
] It can also reduce the number of life experiences you and your partner share.
"You can have an anxious life, but if you do things – you are doing that job interview, you say yes to social invitations, you are getting in that car and driving to the ocean even though .. "You do not want to drive 10 miles – you're doing those things still," says Newman. "Oh, you might need [medication] or therapy, but you're still living."
Susie Neilson is an intern on NPR's Science Desk.