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Is Your Anxiety Impacting Your Romantic Relationships?

March 31, 2020 Hannah O'Grady

What is the connection between anxiety and romantic relationships? How do you cope with relationship anxiety? After all, romantic relationships can be complicated; nearly everyone has a story from a relationship gone slightly (or incredibly) awry. Add on a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder, and these relationship complications can shift and take on entirely new forms. Here are some of the ways that anxiety has infiltrated into my relationships. 

The Connection Between My Relationships and Anxiety 

The people in my life who have known me the longest can confidently tell you that I began showing symptoms of mental illness before I could speak. I started going to therapy when I was probably around the age of six; I don't remember much from these years of my life. However, it wasn't until my first relationship in middle school that my symptoms of GAD and social anxiety became so severe that I was rushed to a psychiatrist and placed on a hefty dose of antidepressants.

During this middle school relationship, my tendency to ruminate and catastrophize increased exponentially. If my boyfriend glanced in my direction while he was with his friends, I convinced myself that he was verbally tearing me apart behind my back. If an hour went by without him messaging me back on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM; yes, I lived during the AIM era), I changed my away status to a crying face or some cryptic message about depression. Around this time, my hair-pulling (trichotillomania) began. 

Years later, my anxiety still impacts my romantic relationships, although in more subtle ways. When my ex-boyfriend from a couple of years ago would suddenly change his tone during a conversation, I wouldn't say anything; I would silently take note. However, I was waging war in my head between my rational thoughts and my anxious thoughts. Why did he change his tone? Is he mad? Did I do something wrong? Instead of asking him for reassurance, I would let my thoughts build up until I convinced myself I had done something wrong. In other romantic relationships, I have become so anxious to the point of shutting the person out of my life without a fair warning. 

How I Have Coped with My Relationship Anxiety 

To clarify, we should not always pathologize anxiety that arises in a relationship. Anxiety is a normal and valid human emotion that can be functional and effective at times. However, when this anxiety begins to interfere with your relationship, it may be time to incorporate some coping techniques.

When I start to feel that familiar tightness in my chest and heat in my face when ruminating, I engage in relaxation and mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Instead of pushing away this anxiety as soon as it crops up, I may sit with it, observe it, and perhaps even question it. Where is this coming from? Am I able to ride the wave of this anxiety without letting it take control of me? No emotion, whether it is negative or positive, lasts forever. Therefore, this anxiety, although seemingly unbearable at the moment, will pass with time. 

When I begin to notice irrational thoughts cropping up, I do something called checking the facts. What evidence do I have to support this silly thought? What evidence do I have against it? When I use this method, I frequently realize that these irrational thoughts are not supported by facts.

Our minds can be dark places, and in my opinion, it is human nature to accept our thoughts as facts; however, this can create unnecessary emotional turmoil. Instead, attempt to rewire your thinking in a more positive way. Rewiring the way you think takes time; however, over time, you may start to notice a shift towards more effective thinking. 

By doing that, hopefully, your relationship anxiety will decrease. 

What do you do when you start to feel anxiety creep into your relationship? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
O'Grady, H. (2020, March 31). Is Your Anxiety Impacting Your Romantic Relationships? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 14 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2020/3/is-your-anxiety-impacting-your-romantic-relationships



Author: Hannah O'Grady

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