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How Anxiety Affects Relationships

Learn about the ways anxiety affects relationships and the effects of anxiety within relationships. It’s all on HealthyPlace.

Anxiety affects relationships in many ways. Sometimes, one or both partners already experience anxiety when their relationship begins. Other times, just being in a relationship can spark anxiety given all the uncertainties and risks involved. The idea of getting hurt is scary. In multiple ways, anxiety affects relationships. Understanding how can help you reduce anxiety in your relationships.

Anxiety within Relationships

Anxiety frequently manifests in relationships just like it does in people. Anxiety causes disruptive feelings of:

  • Worry about many different things
  • Repeated worry about one idea (also known as rumination)
  • Apprehension
  • A sense of impending doom

In relationships, these can involve worry about the other person (their health, safety, faithfulness, commitment, etc.), or they can be about the person with anxiety, such as a fear that they’re unworthy of the relationship. Anxiety can be about the nature of the relationship itself: will it last, is this right for me, what if we’re not compatible? What if I love them more than they love me—or the other way around.

Before we explore more about relationships and anxiety, it’s important to note that all people and all relationships experience some anxiety from time to time. A bit of anxiety is normal and healthy because it can help you know what you do and don’t want in your relationships. Anxiety also propels people to make positive changes when needed (Psychological Self-Help: Does It Work and Where to Find It).

Anxiety, including anxiety with relationships, becomes a problem when it interferes in daily life. A relationship dominated by anxiety and discomfort can quickly become negative and problematic for both parties—the person who experiences anxiety and their partner ("What Is an Anxiety Disorder?").

Anxiety and Relationships: No Small Problem

People are involved in multiple groups and interactions with others, and they can experience anxiety with any of their relationships: friends, family, classmates, coworkers, children, and romantic partners. Anxiety can begin at any stage of any relationship. Worries, fears, self-doubt, doubt regarding the other person, and other anxious thoughts and emotions can creep in at any time to erode bonds and create distance. To say that anxiety is a nuisance, an uninvited guest, is an understatement.

Anxiety affects each person individually and the relationship between them. One reason for this is that anxiety runs deep and is all-encompassing. For someone with anxiety, thoughts are clouded with anxious beliefs, worries, what-ifs, and worst-case scenarios. (He hasn’t looked up from his book in an hour. He’s not interested in me anymore. He’s going to leave me.) Emotions follow (I’m devastated and embarrassed that I am unlovable). Both distorted thoughts and anxious emotions impact behavior, how someone acts in a relationship (Feeling hurt and worried, she locks herself in the bedroom and won’t let her partner in. He sleeps on the couch, confused and angry.)

Anxiety within relationships steals positive thoughts, emotions, and actions and replaces them with stressful ones. As anxiety grows, there is less and less room for joy in the relationship. When people are distracted by worries and what-ifs, they’re too distracted to pay attention to each other. This results in further misunderstandings and more worry. A tragic way that anxiety affects relationships is that these relationships often have problems beyond what’s typical in relationships without anxiety.

Effects of Anxiety within Relationships

Anxiety creates problems between two people in relationships and anxiety can ruin some relationships. Some examples of the symptoms of relationship anxiety include:

  • Misunderstanding
  • Displeasure
  • Sorrow
  • Isolation from other people when anxiety prevents one partner from going out and socializing, making the other partner stay in as well
  • Isolation from each other as anxiety creates distance
  • Difficulty supporting each other’s needs
  • Worry and rumination about the other person and the relationship
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Resentment
  • Dependence, need for reassurance
  • Guilt

Anxiety can negatively affect relationships and the people in them, but that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to be forever single if you have anxiety. With an awareness of anxiety and relationships, you can work on decreasing anxiety and increasing joy with your partner.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2019, April 17). How Anxiety Affects Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/relationships/how-anxiety-affects-relationships

Last Updated: May 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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