For most people, dating can be a source of both joy and confusion.
This is especially true in our tech-driven, hook-up-centric dating culture. It’s hard to really get to know someone through a screen, and it’s challenging to determine where you stand with a partner when dating apps and social media are involved.
And for those of us with anxiety disorder, those nuances of confusion multiply infinitely as we second-guess and overthink every word and action, creating a potentially major source of stress and doubt.
To add a further layer of emotional chaos, there’s still a stigma regarding mental illness. Anxiety can be perceived as insecurity or emotional sensitivity; in reality, it’s not a personality flaw. It’s actually a chemical reaction in the brain that causes negative thought patterns filled with doubt and worry. It takes practice (and sometimes therapy or medicine) to learn how to escape those stressful thought patterns.
Because of that stigma, an anxious person might keep her worries and doubts hidden from her partner to avoid being perceived as needy and sensitive. This is ultimately a horrible idea, because if someone with anxiety isn’t forthcoming about her condition, then her partner won’t understand the source of her insecurities and stress. Her anxiety may instead seem like an unwarranted overreaction.
So, fellow anxious people, I encourage you to be honest. If your condition freaks out your partner, move on. You deserve someone who will take the time to learn how to help you and accept you for who you are.
On the flip side of that coin, if your partner has bravely told you about his or her anxiety, here are some tips to learn how to put your partner at ease.
- Do not ever, under ANY circumstances, tell your partner to relax
If your partner is having an anxious day or an anxiety attack, it means her stress and negative thought patterns have physically manifested. It doesn’t mean that she’s sensitive and emotional; it means she needs help. Telling her to relax or take deep breaths is pretty much like trying to put out a fire with whiskey – it will most definitely make shit worse 150% of the time. Instead, ask her how you can help. She knows best what helps her relax, and will appreciate the care.
- Don’t make her wonder where she stands with you
Much of the time, anxious people are considered overthinkers, which is partly true; we’ll question and incessantly worry about things we aren’t certain of. To make things easier on your partner, make sure she knows your intentions. If you want a casual relationship, tell her. If you want more than that, tell her too. The important thing is being straightforward and honest. Anxious people would rather know the truth than be unsure and second-guess everything you say and do.
- She won’t want to seem needy
Because of the stigma surrounding anxiety, your partner is probably concerned about seeming too emotional or needy. That may make it hard for her to ask for help to clear up worries and doubts. So, to unravel that bundle of stress, show her you’re receptive to her concerns and want to help. If you ask your partner what will make her feel less anxious, she’ll have suggestions for you. It’s all about making your partner feel secure and wanted.
- If you care about her, tell her frequently
If you care about your partner, make those feelings crystal clear. Your affection may seem obvious to you, but to an anxious partner, it isn’t obvious unless explicitly stated and shown. She will be constantly worrying if she’s good enough for you or if you like her. To help, send her a text throughout the day to tell her you’re thinking of her, compliment her, or buy her something small, like candy or flowers. It may seem unnecessary or frivolous, but again, making your partner feel wanted will have a huge positive effect. Sometimes the little things that prove you care are all it takes to put them at ease.
- She’s not weak
Another reason anxious people may not be forthcoming about their worries and stress is because they don’t want to seem insecure or emotionally weak. They need to remember that anxiety doesn’t take away from their independence, sense of self, or strength. Your anxious partner may just need an extra reminder that she’s wanted, awesome and beautiful. Anxiety is an imperfection that makes her human, not weak.