How Anxiety Affects Love

How Anxiety Affects Love
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 26 December, 2022

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem. However, not everyone seeks professional help or applies adequate strategies to handle their excessive thoughts and anxious minds that live on alert. This condition not only limits their potential and well-being but can also alter their ability to love in a healthy way.

If you suffer from anxiety or live with a partner with this problem, you’ll undoubtedly have been through and witnessed many of their ups and downs. It’s often those who suffer from social anxiety who have serious difficulties in maintaining meaningful emotional relationships.

Prisoners of insecure and obsessive minds find it difficult to feel confident and satisfied. In the same way, it’s hard to build and maintain a solid and happy commitment with someone suffering from a mental health issue. Anxiety is the most common of these. Phobias, generalized anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder present suffering that often prevents bonding.

Couple worried about how anxiety affects love
The partner of one who suffers from anxiety is forced to be their support. However, they can’t always help them as they need.

How anxiety affects love

Science has spent years addressing the question of how anxiety affects love. An investigation conducted by Temple University, (US), suggests that this psychological condition interferes with a relationship, producing anguish.

Moreover, anxiety not only interferes with the quality of a relationship, but it can also negatively affect the chances of maintaining it. Research published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, warns that anxiety doesn’t usually occur alone. In fact, in many cases, there are usually other underlying problems, such as major depression.

For people who journey through these silent black holes, all essential areas of their lives are affected, from work, finances, socializing, leisure, family relationships, and, of course, love. Here’s how anxiety usually manifests in this particular area:

1. Excessive worry

The anxiety-driven mind lives in a state of constant alert. Any problem, no matter how small, becomes an insurmountable threat. What’s more, living with a persistent fear of ‘something happening’ means we see catastrophes that don’t exist and threats that aren’t there. This jeopardizes any relationship by feeding it with mistrust and susceptibilities.

Likewise, anxious people overanalyze each word, gesture, or behavior of their loved ones. They ruminate over conversations, over what’s been said and what hasn’t. This generates great relational exhaustion.

2. Feeling guilty

Guilt feelings are like torturous thumbscrews in the anxious brain. In the dynamic of excessive thoughts, the individual usually concludes that everything that happens is their own fault. Their negative self-perception fuels a harmful dialogue in which ideas such as the following appear: “I’m no good for my partner. They’re going to leave me because I’m too overwhelming. It’s all my fault”.

This exhausting and dangerous vision brings the individual ever closer to the brink of depression.

3. Anxious or avoidant attachment

The way in which anxiety affects love is also expressed in the way in which we bond with our partners. Some of us do it through anxious attachment, the kind marked by the fear of abandonment and the need for constant displays of affection. In this case, bonds are created based on dependency and on an obsession with constant validation to nurture our self-esteem.

On the other hand, anxiety can also manifest itself through avoidant attachment. With this style, it’s difficult to create lasting intimacy as there’s excessive mistrust as well as a desire for independence. In this case, the individual doesn’t want to admit their vulnerability and builds walls and palisades to protect themselves.

4. Anxiety prevents us from seeing what’s important

Anxiety is a mental demon that occupies excessive space in the brain. Anxious people’s minds are filled with fears, obsessions, uncertainty, and false threats. It’s a condition that absorbs and drains everything, preventing those who suffer from it from being able to focus attention on what’s important: the people who love them.

People with anxiety disorder tend to suffer greater failures in their emotional relationships. They also have a harder time finding partners.

Patient in therapy talking about how anxiety affects love
Anxiety can be treated. Indeed, there are extremely effective psychological approaches to help the sufferer regain control of their life and improve their relationships.

How to improve your relationships if you suffer from anxiety

The way in which anxiety affects love is complex and self-defeating. However, anxiety disorders not only affect the quality of your relationships but have an impact on your entire life. In these cases, it’s important to request specialized help to obtain an adequate diagnosis and a therapeutic approach tailored to your own needs.

Anxiety manifests itself in many ways and has different origins. A social phobia isn’t the same as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sometimes, anxiety is the product of trauma or insecurities from childhood that must be addressed. Here are some strategies that can be useful:

Psychological and pharmacological therapy

There are various approaches that are useful in treating anxiety. For instance, a cognitive-behavioral approach or exposure therapy can be of great help in the case of phobias. Learning problem-solving, emotional regulation and relaxation techniques can also be useful.

Cognitive restructuring, consisting of eliminating or deactivating negative thought patterns to replace them with healthier ones, is a necessary step in any therapeutic process. On the other hand, in some cases, doctors can recommend a pharmacological treatment, such as anxiolytics.

Work on the pattern of your attachment style

Anxiety can cause you to develop a dependent or avoidant attachment style. Working on these styles will help improve your relationships. Above all, you need to bond with those you love in a safer and more mature way, without fear and deficiencies, and with good emotional regulation.

Finally, the quality of all relationships can be improved. Therefore, you need to prevent anxiety from being a third person in your relationship and let love flourish in a healthy and enriching way.

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  • Doyle, Frances & Baillie, Andrew & Crome, Erica. (2021). Examining Whether Social Anxiety Influences Satisfaction in Romantic Relationships. Behaviour Change. 38. 1-13. 10.1017/bec.2021.18.
  • Zaider TI, Heimberg RG, Iida M. Anxiety disorders and intimate relationships: a study of daily processes in couples. J Abnorm Psychol. 2010 Feb;119(1):163-73. doi: 10.1037/a0018473. PMID: 20141253; PMCID: PMC5177451.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.