Does Your Partner Have Anxiety? Here’s How to Support Them (Including What Doesn’t Work)
I’ve had anxiety since I was a teenager. All of my most meaningful romantic relationships have been impacted by it in some way. Most of my partners have been well-intentioned, but all, never having experienced anxiety themselves, struggled to support me the way I needed. Now, 5 years into a healthy relationship, I’ve learned a lot about what can be truly helpful when you’re spiralling into the depths of your own panic-ridden despair — and of course also what does not help.
If your partner is having anxiety-related struggles, here are some tips on how you can support them. I’m not saying every one of these tips will meet your partner’s needs perfectly. Think of this as a list of ideas on what might help, based on what has helped me.
Let Them Speak
When I’m in an anxious state, I talk a mile a minute. I know not everything I’m saying is in line with reality. But when you’re in that mindset, being cut-off only feels like a further loss of control. When your partner is feeling this way, let them say what they need to say, even if it doesn’t make perfect sense, or you worry that by verbalizing their thoughts it will make the situation worse. Expressing those thoughts, strange as they may be, is really important.
Help Them Breathe
The brain-body connection is so powerful, and it can be used as a tool when working through anxiety or a panic attack. Breathing techniques not only give your partner something to focus on, but it also works to “trick” the body into thinking they are in a state of relaxation. If you can get your partner to participate in any kind of breathing technique, or even just work with them to slow their breathing, it could help.
Comfort comes in so many different forms, and each person will have their own preferred method. If your partner feels crushed under the weight of anxiety, they might want a hug, or a weighted blanket, or to hold a pillow close. You might already see your person practice this on their own when they’re trying to cope. Facilitate by being the person on the other side of the hug, or wrapping them in said blanket, or bringing the pillow to them…