Support an anxious partner
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
25th September, 20150 Comments
Those who have seen anxiety up close agree it’s a disabling, powerful and wearing condition that can attack both the sufferer and their relationships. If you live with an anxious partner, it can be a struggle. You may find it frustrating or find yourself angry with your partner, at the same time as wanting to be there for them to soothe their anxiety and help tackle their problems. You may find that your partner has rituals, journeys or things that they avoid which places extra work or responsibility on you and again that can be hard to understand and accept. Yet, if you are trying to support your partner and want their treatment to work, often you find yourself in a quandary as to how to best support them. What are the key things you can do to support a partner with anxiety?
They say knowledge is power, and this is particularly true of anxiety. There are many sources of information on anxiety in its various forms, the NHS website might be a good place to start, but you will find a range of books, websites, organisations and blogs offering information and support. Knowing what you are dealing with can help a great deal in supporting your partner.
It’s important not to lose sight of the person, your partner has anxiety but they are still the person that you fell in love with. Remember to keep doing things you would do as a couple, even if that is restricted. Listening and communicating with each other, being able to relax in each other’s company.
Sometime the sufferer will hit out (not physically) at their partner, expressing their frustration, try to remember that often this is because you are a safe person in their life, someone that they feel they can talk with. It can be difficult but hold on to the love underneath. While you want to help in this way giving your partner space to express themself it is equally important to make sure that you don’t collude with their behaviour. You should consider setting boundaries, limits to the type of behaviour that you will tolerate and firmly keep to those boundaries.
You can help your partner, by lowering their anxiety in helping them to challenge their anxious thoughts. Perhaps you can help them create a plan B in case they become anxious while out. Help them remember their breathing if you or they spot an anxiety attack starting, break the cycle.
Finally, ensure that you are taking care of yourself. You will be able to support no-one if you become unwell or upset. You need to have a self-care routine that helps you repair and refresh yourself. These might be talking to friends or family or walking, or perhaps a hobby or an interest, something that means something to you and you can truly do for yourself.
Of course you or your partner may wish to consider counselling which can make a big difference in treating anxiety and in supporting carers. However, there is much that you can do for yourself by following these simple guidelines.
About the author
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.
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