Tips that these anxiety sufferers want their partners to know about...
Dating in this day and age is hard enough, add an anxiety disorder and a susceptibility to panic attacks to the mix and it’s borderline impossible.
The complex condition is hard enough for the sufferers to understand, let alone their bewildered other halves, but as one anxiety sufferer put it, ‘You don’t need to understand it, you just need to be aware’.
Here, 15 men and women suffering from anxiety get very real, sharing what they wish their partners knew…
1. Don’t avoid talking about it.
‘Always feel free to ask questions and talk to me about my anxiety if you want to – it’s not a taboo subject and I won’t break if you mention it. The more informed you are, the better. Plus – I can tell when you’re avoiding it and it makes me (and probably you) feel very awkward.’
2. Do your research.
‘If we’re in a serious relationship, the chances are that you will definitely see me anxious or having a full-blown panic attack at some point. Know what to do and what not to do in advance because that is a make or break situation.’
3. Don’t tell me I’m overreacting.
‘Yes I probably am being irrational but you need to be very careful about phrasing it. In the moment of panic I can lose control of my body and genuinely think that I’m dying. You can of course remind me that it’s a panic attack and that it will pass but telling me that I’m overreacting is not going to help me…or our relationship.’
4. Stay calm.
‘When I inevitably have a panic attack in front of you, your first instinct will be to panic too – it’s scary seeing someone you care about in that state and freaking out is a natural reaction. Please remember to stay calm, or at least give an appearance of calm – it will help me. A lot.’
5. Don’t push me too hard.
‘As an anxious person, I don’t like change, I find meeting new people very scary (especially your friends and family) and I take a long time to get used to new things. Pushing me into any of those things will seriously backfire, I have had boyfriends try the tough love tactic in the past and it doesn’t work on me. Introduce ideas slowly and give me the chance to say yes or no and accept my answer.’
6. Be available.
‘I’m not expecting you to be at my side 24/7, but if you want to date me you’re going to have to be dependable. I want to know you’ll be there if I have a panic attack at 2am.’
7. Routine is important to me.
‘Having a set routine is how I cope with my anxiety, and it works for me. Don’t try to change it or poke holes in it, instead learn it and fit in around it.’
8. Don’t play mind games with me.
‘I overthink everything, literally everything, so playing hard to get is just going to freak me out.’
9. Don’t make me feel guilty.
‘I know that my anxiety can be a burden, I probably know it more than you do and I feel very guilty about it. Accepting it and not making me feel guilty will never get taken for granted, I am very aware of it and appreciate it hugely.’
10. Avoid making assumptions on what I need.
‘This is a rule for anyone dealing with an anxious person really. If I’m panicking, let me make the decisions so that I’m in control. Don’t just pick me up and take me outside for some fresh air, ask me if I would like to go outside and then listen to my answer.’
11. Don’t take my behaviour personally.
‘I know that I’ll sometimes behave irrationally and my mood swings will annoy you, but it’s really nothing personal so please don’t be offended. Equally when I need space (which I will), it’s not about you, I just need time alone to process my thoughts.’
12. Don’t judge my choice of self-medication.
‘One person may relax with a long bath, others by going for a walk and some might have been forced to resort to prescription drugs. If it works for me I’m happy, so don’t judge it, criticize it or mock it. Support me.’
13. Please don’t try to fix me.
‘Don’t treat me like I’m your charity project that you’re obligated to fix. There is no easy solution – you just have to ride it out.’
14. Everyone is different.
‘Sure, your sister and your ex may well have suffered with anxiety too but that doesn’t mean that what worked for them works for me.’
15. Don’t assume that every emotional reaction I have is anxiety-related.
‘Having someone reference your anxiety every time you show emotion is extremely irritating. Sometimes I’m just upset because you’re being an idiot.’