Five Tips to Help You Support Your Partner With Anxiety

If your partner has anxiety, listen to them and don't minimize their feelings. They need your support and understanding, don't pressure them.
Five Tips to Help You Support Your Partner With Anxiety

Last update: 23 November, 2021

In order to support a partner with anxiety, you first need to know what anxiety is and how it manifests itself. As a matter of fact, you might have some idea of what it is from your own experiences. However, when it comes to helping, you need to possess more than a little knowledge.

The DSM-5 defines anxiety as an anticipatory response to a future threat. This response involves muscle tension, vigilance in relation to future danger, and cautious or avoidant behaviors. These are used as a coping strategy in the face of an anxious situation. Anxiety is also associated with other symptoms, such as nervousness, agitation, tremors, worry, and difficulty concentrating, among others.

People with anxiety disorders often experience intrusive thoughts that turn into worries about probable future events and consequences. Alternatively, they take the form of catastrophic interpretations of past events, where the negative aspects are emphasized, especially the mistakes that the individual may have made (Sarason and Sarason, 2006).

1. Don’t minimize your partner’s feelings

Although the anxiety your partner is experiencing may not make sense from your own perspective, don’t invalidate their feelings. Try to understand their emotions and thoughts. You must understand that all these cognitive, emotional, and physiological manifestations are very real for them.

Pathological anxiety isn’t easy to cope with and its solution isn’t simple either. However, you can support your partner compassionately with acceptance and empathy. Don’t judge their feelings. On the contrary, try and understand them, so that they don’t feel misunderstood.

Woman supporting her partner with anxiety

2. Listen to them and ask them about their feelings

A good way to help your partner with anxiety is to listen to them and be interested in their feelings. This means they won’t feel so alone and they’ll be able to describe what they’re going through.

By listening to them, you’ll also learn more about their anxiety and how it works. Helping them to talk about their experience will allow you to better understand their inner world. In this way, you’ll have a deeper and more precise idea about what they’re going through.

3. Help them seek treatment and participate when you can

Encourage your partner to see a specialist. Remember, you’re not their therapist, so don’t try to perform any interventions that require training and experience. However, what you can do is go along with them to therapy.

4. Encourage, but don’t push them

Understandably, your partner’s anxious behavior might be frustrating for you. However, try not to force them to make changes. That’s because any decisions regarding their behavior should only be taken by them.

On the other hand, by encouraging them, you not only make them realize they’re not alone, but you also make them see that you envisage a better future for them and that you believe they can achieve it. Encourage and motivate them with love and commitment.

5. Make them feel like you’re their safe place

Make sure that you show your partner unconditional love. That’s because it’s common for anxious people to feel even more anxious when they feel like they don’t deserve to be loved by anyone.  They tell themselves they’re making things hard for those around them and just don’t deserve their love. For this reason, you should reassure them from time to time how much they mean to you and how you want them by your side.

At the same time, encourage them to keep their independence. Give them space to do whatever they can. Don’t make it difficult for them, but at the same time try not to increase their dependence on you.

Boy hugging his partner

Take care of yourself

You must always take care of yourself at the same time as supporting your partner with anxiety. Therefore, bear the following points in mind:

  • Try to maintain your routines.
  • Don’t lose sight of your boundaries. For instance, make sure that by helping your partner you don’t create another problem.
  • Make time for activities that help you relax and distract you.
  • Try relaxation techniques. They can be really helpful.
  • Get some exercise, even if it’s just a short walk a few times a week.
  • If you experience emotional problems due to guilt, fear, or anger, consider seeing a therapist.

The challenge of living with and caring for a partner with anxiety often isn’t easy. In fact, you need a good dose of affection, but also patience and tolerance to deal with your own frustration.

Remember that you’re not a therapist. Therefore, your first mission should be to encourage your partner to go to a therapist. The second should be to go along with them so that they feel that you want to help. Finally, keep reminding them that you want to be by their side.

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  • American Psychiatric Association (2014). Manual diagnóstico y estadístico de los trastornos mentales (5a. ed). Editorial médica panamericana.
  • Sarason, I. y Sarason, B. (2006).Psicopatología. Psicología anormal: el problema de la conducta inadaptada (11ª ed.). Pearson Educación.
  • Sue, D., Sue, D. W., y Sue, S. (2010). Psicopatología. Comprendiendo la conducta anormal(9ª ed.). Cengage Learning.