How to Cope When your Partner has an Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Disorder, Panic, Trauma and Post Traumatic Fears can Easily take over your Emotional Health and Mental Balance
Sadly effecting Relationships causing Breakdowns, Breakups & Isolation. There are Not too Many People who Do Not Have to Work through Anxiety, Panic and Fear Issues.
“It Said the Secret to a Happy Marriage is comes about by not both of you falling apart at the same time.” And probably more importantly admitting and recognizing that when you are being unreasonable, feeling angry, unable to cope with simple every day events that you normally would be fine, that this isn’t NORMAL and to take some time out so to speak. So, How do you Cope when Your Partner is Going through these Times.
Facing Past & Present Challenging, Difficult Experiences
During the Course of a Lifetime you will Faced with many Interesting, Challenging and Difficult Experiences, if you haven’t already gone through some of these.
These interesting and difficult experiences can sometimes be more difficult when sharing your life with someone else. As you have to come to a compromise coming to a happy agreement that is beneficial for both of you.
Then to put into place positive and constructive ways to cope with these experiences together.
Experiences of Challenging & Difficult Experiences
Financial hurdles, disputes over child rearing, differing priorities, intimacy issues, loss of employment, loss of loved ones and many other situations that will have an impact on you, your relationships and your Life.
However, when one half of a couple has an anxiety disorder, partners face a whole new set of challenges, as well as exacerbating many of the normal challenges that couples often face.
One partner may not know how to help his or her significant other, and might feel frustrated, angry, resentful, guilty, sad or hopeless about his or her situation.
Here I share with you: How as Part of a Relationship you can help one another: — Help Yourself — When the Anxiety surpasses what is Acceptable and is Damaging the Relationship and Life of the person going through this at the time.
What is an anxiety disorder?
Anxiety disorders are a unique group of illnesses that fill people’s lives with persistent, excessive and unreasonable anxiety, worry and fear.
They include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and specific phobias. Although anxiety disorders are serious medical conditions, they are treatable.
How an Anxiety Disorder affects a Couple’s Relationship?
An anxiety disorder can take a major toll on a couple, as illustrated by a 2004 ADAA study examining the impact of GAD on personal relationships (including spouses/significant others, children, friends and co-workers). Not surprisingly, the study found that a couple’s relationship suffers the most compared to other personal relationships (i.e., friendships, co-workers) when one partner has GAD.
Specifically, GAD sufferers were significantly less likely to consider themselves in a “healthy and supportive” relationship with their partner or spouse than people without GAD; two times more likely to experience at least one relationship problem (i.e., getting into arguments on a regular basis, or avoiding going places, participating in social activities and/or communicating with their spouse); and three times more likely to avoid being intimate with their partner.
Moreover, 75 percent of GAD sufferers said they felt their disorder impaired their ability to perform normal activities with their spouse/partner, and the majority felt their relationship would improve if they were not suffering from the disorder. Although the study looked specifically at GAD, many of these findings would likely be replicated for the other anxiety disorders as well.
What difficulties a person’s Anxiety Disorder places on his or her Partner/Family?
While having an anxiety disorder is associated with a great deal of personal distress, it can be equally as hard for significant others. The reality of living with a partner with an anxiety disorder is not how most significant others imagined their lives would turn out. Partners of those suffering with anxiety problems often have to take on much more than the normal share of domestic, economic, parenting and other responsibilities.
Every Area of Life Affected
- Normal Family Activities — Anxiety disorders can be as disruptive as physical ailments, and sometimes more so. Household routines are often disturbed, and special plans or allowances often need to be made for the anxiety sufferer. A partner often must take on the full burden of handling responsibilities such as bills, shopping, driving the kids to their activities, etc. for reasons that vary based on the individual and his or her specific disorder.
- Partners may feel understandably overwhelmed and burned out from bearing most of the burden for family activities that often come so easily to other couples and families.
- Finances and Employment — for some people with an anxiety disorder, their symptoms make it difficult to get or keep a job. This may have serious financial repercussions and create major hardships in the family. The spouse or partner of someone with an anxiety disorder may become the sole bread winner at times —often a stressful role and one the partner does not wish to have.
- Social Life — People with anxiety disorders often avoid taking part in routine social activities. Unfortunately, a by product of this can be that the partner’s social life suffers as well. After all, couples often spend their time with other couples. Therefore, partners of anxiety sufferers may feel isolated.
- Emotional Well-Being — with the family upheaval and economic hardship that an anxiety disorder can have in some cases, a partner’s emotional state might begin to suffer as well. Spouses and partners may feel sad, depressed or scared (for themselves or for their husband/wife), or angry, resentful and bitter toward their loved one. If angry or resentful, they may also feel guilty for feeling this way. However, most of these feelings are quite normal for people in this situation. As described in more detail later in this piece, there are ways partners can help deal with these emotions. Sometimes, it may be necessary to seek professional help individually or as a couple. If your partner has an anxiety disorder, you can facilitate his or her improvement and recovery by providing support, encouragement and creating an environment that promotes healing. Below are some everyday tips that might help:
How can you support a partner with an anxiety disorder?
While the challenges described above can be daunting, it is important to note that with treatment, people with anxiety disorders can go on to lead-
Normal, productive lives that include successful careers, thriving social lives and busy schedules.
Thus, appropriate treatment can often help alleviate many of those issues that contribute to the stress on the significant other.
You can find out more about treatment for anxiety disorders later in this piece.
Learn about anxiety disorders by coming to understand that the outbreaks aren’t personal, but not to accept them as normal and encourage counselling and cognitive therapy.
What role does a partner play in treatment for an anxiety disorder? What specific treatment options are available?
- Aim for positive reinforcement of healthy behavior, rather than only criticizing irrational fear, avoidance, or rituals (“catch ‘em doing something right”).
- Measure progress on the basis of individual improvement, not against some absolute standard.
- Help set specific goals that are realistic and that can be approached one step at a time.
- Don’t assume you know what is needed. Ask how you can help. Listen carefully to the response.
- Acknowledge that you don’t understand if you’re never personally experienced a panic attack or other form of irrational anxiety.
- Understand that knowing when to be patient and when to push can be challenging. It’s a fine line. Achieving a proper balance often requires trial and error.
Recovery Requires Diligence, Emotional Resilience and Hard Work
- Remember, recovery requires hard work on the part of the individual, and patience on the part of the partner and family. It may seem like a slow process, but the rewards are well worth it.
- Although ultimate responsibility lies with the patient, a significant other can play an active role in the treatment of a partner’s anxiety disorder (note that the precise nature of the assistance will vary depending on the disorder and other individual circumstances).
- Mental health professionals are increasingly recommending couple-based and family-based treatment programs. In one common approach to family therapy, a mental health professional enlists the partner as a “co-therapist.”
- In this role and with training, the spouse or other partner can assist the patient with “homework” assigned by the therapist to further the progress that is made in therapy sessions. This might involve accompanying the patient into anxiety-producing situations and encouraging him/her to stay in the situation using pre-developed anxiety reduction techniques (this type of homework is usually a supplement to “exposure” sessions with a therapist in which patients are gradually brought into contact with feared objects/situations to show them that they can face them without harm). Or, it might include helping a partner stick to his or her “behavior contract,” sometimes developed with the therapist to control a patient’s anxiety responses in “real life” and when the therapist isn’t there.
- For someone with OCD who responds to anxiety by performing rituals or routines, a behavior contact might limit how often the patient may indulge in ritual behavior, and a partner can assist by discouraging the patient from repeatedly performing the ritual and positively reinforcing ritual-free periods of time
Specific Treatment options for Anxiety Disorders
Being proactive and supportive with your spouse or partner’s treatment options where possible in a non-judgemental but to show interest offering support where possible.
- Behavior Therapy — the goal of behavior therapy is to modify and gain control over unwanted behavior. The individual learns to cope with difficult situations, often through controlled exposure to them.
- Cognitive Therapy — the goal of cognitive therapy is to identify, challenge, and change unwanted, unproductive thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The individual learns to separate unrealistic thoughts and feelings from realistic ones. As with behavior therapy, the individual is actively involved in his or her own recovery.
- Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) — many therapists use a combination of cognitive and behavior therapies. This is often referred to as CBT. With CBT, the patient learns recovery skills that are useful for a lifetime.
- Medication — Medication can be very useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and it is often used in conjunction with one or more of the therapies mentioned above. Sometimes antidepressants or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) are used to alleviate severe symptoms so that other forms of therapy can go forward. Medication can be either a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on the individual. The choice of medication should be discussed carefully between doctor and patient and will always depend on individual circumstances.
- Relaxation Techniques — Relaxation techniques can help people in developing the ability to cope more effectively with the stresses that contribute to anxiety and mood, as well as with some of the physical symptoms associated with them. The techniques taught include breathing re-training, progressive muscle relaxation and exercise.
- Self- Care – No matter what the situation is within a relationship, it is extremely important (and not selfish) for you partners to make self-care a priority. This will help you to cope and be there for the long run.
Self Help for Coping with your Partner is Suffering from a Anxiety Disorder?
- Don’t give up your own life and interests — Engaging in outside interests and hobbies can provide a much-needed break from the stress of your daily life, as well as leave you energized, happier, healthier and better prepared to face challenges. It is important to take this time for yourself and not become completely consumed with your partner’s disorder.
- Maintain a support system — having friends and family to confide in — as well as assist you emotionally, financially and in other ways when your spouse/significant other cannot — is vital for an individual whose partner has an anxiety disorder.
- Set boundaries — Decide where your limits lie and inform your partner of those. These might be emotional, financial, physical, etc. For instance, if your partner is not working and is not doing anything to try to become well (i.e., seeking treatment, participating in support groups, etc.), you may need to have a serious discussion about your expectations and how to move forward to improve the situation. Couples therapy can often help with this.
- Seek out professional help for yourself if necessary — the recovery process can be stressful for partners of anxiety sufferers. Your well-being is just as important as your spouse’s/significant other’s. If you need someone to talk to, or if you think you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression, you should talk to your doctor or consider visiting a mental health professional yourself. You can find a searchable listing of mental health professionals in your area
Read Next: How to Build a Relationship that Lasts a Lifetime
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