Is Anxiety Poisoning Your Personal Relationships?

January 6, 2011 Kate White

Sometimes anxiety just sucks. Worst of all when it affects more than just me. Of course I try to limit that - how much of it leaks out, how much it affects the people I care about most. But there's really no preventing it affecting them.

Anxiety is a tide - relentless, and difficult to turn

Standing against it may seem like the courageous thing to do. It can feel like protecting those around us- if only you try hard enough. Whether that's the right thing to do or not the reality is that more often than not it just doesn't work. It can't. And if I'm honest, I'm probably protecting myself as much as those I love.

Anxiety affects your whole life

Some of the roughest waters are to be found in the area of intimacy. I've thought it isn't worth trying, contemplated giving up.

Anxiety and depression can suck the fun and meaning out of personal relationships. Even if you're a total match in the usual dating arenas (likes, dislikes, his/her willingness to vacuum the floor when you can't face getting out of bed), anxiety has a distinct tendency to overwhelm it.

Sense of futility aside, it is perfectly possible to have a thing, keep a thing, enjoy a thing. With someone. With an anxiety disorder (you, or them. possibly both.). For a very long time.

Why does anxiety gets in the way of intimacy?

If you're anxious you're pretty much just going to have a hard time adding any kind of vulnerability or loss of control to your life. But what else are relationships if not a certain willingness to let go, to trust, give and receive in new and potentially healing ways?

Relationships & anxiety: the essentials are even more essential

The usual story is that the basics, like trust, are based on communication. For anxious folks that means showing up, every single day, in as many ways as possible. If you don't, you get nervous. Suddenly there's more pressure.

Strange thoughts crop up - and maybe a few memories of none too pleasant Christmases past. You wonder how your partner could ever understand. No matter how understanding, caring, loving, compassionate they actually are.

Anxiety is a hole in your heart

Relationships can bridge the gap. They can also make you question everything you think you know about yourself, the world, your partner. All at the same time. So yeah, they're messy.

For the very same reasons that I'm searching for a particular kind of security in a relationship, relationships will trigger nerves, and panic. It's a hard thing to face.

It's also about a choice: A choice not to assume that you, and whomever you are with, are insane to even entertain the idea of an intimate partnership.

Even if I'm positive someone loves me, there'll be days that I'll wake up, shaken by fear. Rather than stirred, by love. Like I should be.

Maybe should isn't a useful word? It's just the way I, the way anxious people, think. Anxiety so easily sweeps away the better things in life, replacing them with chaos, and fear.

Yes, the tide will turn - but holding onto a feeling you can't always feel, even if you know it's there, takes a willingness to wade through a world of crap churned up in the meanwhile. Let's face it, relationships are a whole lot of "meanwhile".

It's hard to hold onto the feeling of being loved

It's hard to receive and accept and cherish each other, ourselves, the way we need, when we're anxious:

For all that love is a many splendid thing, relationships take a world of commitment. For anyone with an anxiety disorder to enter into a relationship, it means working harder than most.

A lot of us are willing to work that hard but that doesn't make it easy. And it certainly doesn't take away from the fact that anxiety complicates even the best times of our lives.

to be continued...

APA Reference
White, K. (2011, January 6). Is Anxiety Poisoning Your Personal Relationships?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Kate White

March, 5 2016 at 1:00 pm

What about when people who have anxiety stop being in love as a result to their anxiety? How do you come back from it when you get anxiety and can't feel happy and it makes you feel that you're not in love anymore, even though you are very much in love yet you can't feel it?

February, 13 2016 at 8:20 pm

I would like to add how difficult this break up is for me because I feel that it didn't follow the natural course of a relationship coming to an end. I still love him and know he loves me. We connect on so many levels, although in the end he believed that we aren't compatible which was his anxiety (causing him to feel 'pain' in the relationship - he projects and thinks that I am to blame). It doesn't feel, to me, that we should be 'over' - but he has convinced himself that it's necessary. Sad. So sad.

February, 13 2016 at 8:17 pm

I am waiting to see an expert's reply to Susan's question. I too, have the same million dollar question. My partner of 4 years, same, has broken up with me for the third (or fourth) time. I know I deserve more better, more commitment, etc. but see parallels to Susan's story about the break up being an attempt for him to gain some control in his life. I am extremely hurt but do believe he is not intentional in hurting me. Anxiety is a very selfish disorder, the person with anxiety only sees how they, themselves are affected by situations. I think I understand his anxiety better than he does, and want to help, but in many ways it is a futile situation because he has pushed me away (again). An interesting and resonating book to read is 'Monkey Mind' by Daniel Smith. I welcome responses.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 26 2017 at 10:30 am

I am in exactly the same situation and really would like to know whether it is actually me or my boyfriends anxiety that has caused this. He shuts down and becomes completely detached from the situation really quickly and is so adamant he would be better off on his own which I don't think is true.

February, 7 2015 at 4:30 am

Thanks Kate for the article and Dr. Ferrati for your comments. Im exasperated from 4 years in a relationship with my partner who has severe anxiety. I love her and have tried so hard. Empathy is easy for me because I have had quite a bit of anxiety all my life too. I had many years of therapy and manage it well. I understand, thanks to people like you, that she is trying too, but you can't tell because just existing is hard for her. I thought she might be a sociopath because she manipulates so well, but I think it's severe anxiety disorder instead. She shuts down for months at a time and cannot be affectionate. She breaks up with me but its just her need to appear strong and in control I think. Am I just an enabling co-dependent, or am I just compassionate and caring. That's my million dollar question.

Dr Musli Ferati
January, 18 2011 at 8:05 am

In general anxiety may be primary and secondary emotional disturb. Anyhow, it increases the concerns and struggles of mentally ill individual. In addition to this it decreases our personal and social capacity, with that redoubled our difficulty in family life as well as social life and professional performances. Alongside many consequences of somatic disturbances that causes the anxiety, it unravels our friendship through an inadequate and unprepossessing interrelationship. In a word person in charge of anxiety is not able to confess one's sins. With this the same person renders own emotional state as the foundation stone of mental and social well-being. This raises the need to solve a setting a question of anxiety in a more dedicated and serious, although anyone believes that anxiety will be automatically removed.

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