Symptoms of Relationship Anxiety and How to Cope with Them
Symptoms of relationship anxiety are signs, sometimes subtle and sometimes glaringly obvious, that anxiety is causing stress, discomfort, and unhappiness in a relationship. Whether it’s one or both partners who have anxiety, relationship anxiety seems to take on a life of its own and causes damage. Recognizing symptoms of relationship anxiety can help you cope with them and prevent anxiety from ruining your relationship.
In general, symptoms involve partners’ worry about themselves as well as about each other. Additionally, relationship anxiety symptoms involve worrying about the nature of the relationship itself.
Before we explore these in more detail, it’s important to note that there isn’t a set of symptoms that serves as a checklist for the presence of anxiety in a relationship. Each person experiences anxiety differently, and when two people become a couple, new worries come into the mix. Personalities, traits, and styles differ. Each relationship also takes on a life and personality of its own. The symptoms that follow are those that researchers and practitioners have found to be common in relationship anxiety. No one will experience all the symptoms. As you read, identify those that match you and your relationship.
Symptoms of Relationship Anxiety: Traits and Styles
People with relationship anxiety have similar worries (that they’re not good enough, that their partner will leave, or that something terrible will happen to their partner, for example). Not everyone handles those worries in the same way, however. Research conducted at Case Western Reserve University (2011) identified four primary interaction styles found in anxious relationships:
Relationship anxiety symptoms reveal these traits in an anxious partner. Someone who is intrusive has a pattern of interaction like a helicopter, hovering over their partner, excessively checking in to make sure they’re okay or that they want to be in the relationship. A person who tends to be cold is highly critical, expressing worry though negative judgment. Nonassertion leads to avoidance out of fear of rocking the boat. Similarly, anxiety can make someone exploitable. They act warm, loving, and submissive, always giving in to keep their partner happy.
When a person with anxiety exhibits one of these traits, it could be a symptom of relationship anxiety. These behavior patterns, while unhealthy and ineffective in the long run, are an attempt to express concern for a partner and preserve the relationship.
Relationship Anxiety Symptoms: Thoughts and Behaviors
The four traits mentioned above cause specific thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors. The presence of any of these behaviors might indicate that you or your partner is experiencing relationship anxiety.
- Fear of opening up and showing vulnerability
- Fear of intimacy, including sexual
- Fear of conflict leading to avoidance of conversations
- Worry about your partner ending the relationship
- Anger when worries are confirmed
- Controlling behavior ("How Abusive Relationships Cause Anxiety")
- Low self-esteem/self-doubt
- Overthinking your partner’s words, silence, gestures, expressions
- Projecting worries and fears onto partner and relationship
- Pushing your partner away
- Testing: What can I do wrong and still preserve the relationship
- Over-nurturing, smothering
These worries, fears, and behaviors are symptoms of relationship anxiety and signs that anxiety is coming between you and your partner. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with them and maintain your relationship.
How to Cope with Symptoms of Anxiety in Relationships
Relationship anxiety has a lot of traits and symptoms. To try to address them all at once is overwhelming. The most effective way to cope and manage symptoms is to start with something that is among the most bothersome.
Because these symptoms impact the person with anxiety and their partner, selecting the starting point together is ideal. Despite the discomfort, communicate with each other openly and honestly. Perhaps make a date and set the mood with a favorite meal and background music. Talk about the anxiety and issues in the relationship. What changes are most important to you both? Commit to working on them, and create a plan of action to move forward.
Some other ways to cope with relationship anxiety and move forward:
- Practice self-care. It’s healing and helps you value yourself
- Develop interests and involvement with others so you and your partner aren’t over-reliant on each other
- When you catch yourself avoiding anxiety-provoking situations, acknowledge your discomfort and then face the situation anyway
- Seek professional help for your anxiety
- Go to couples counseling for help coping with relationship anxiety together
When anxiety consumes you, your partner, and the relationship between you, it doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship. Know your symptoms of relationship anxiety, target them, and reconnect with each other as you work to cope with and overcome these symptoms.
Peterson, T. (2019, April 17). Symptoms of Relationship Anxiety and How to Cope with Them, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, March 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/relationships/symptoms-of-relationship-anxiety-and-how-to-cope-with-them