PTSD. OCD. GAD…
So many anxiety disorders get boiled down to short, sweet little acronyms—even though their impacts are often long-lasting and sometimes bitter. As someone living with anxiety, I spent most of my early adulthood wandering through every “what if” labyrinth my nerves felt like exploring. These mental excursions took days out of my life, and usually resulted in crippling exhaustion. Finding a way to work on myself while fatigued felt impossible, and allowed isolation to set in.
Although anxiety is alienating, it’s important to know you’re not alone. One of the biggest pushes to get my brain under control actually came from earning a degree in psychology. While researching the mind, I started to see that there of plenty of people out there like me, fully capable of living lives with meaningful relationships. Treatment was possible, and with hard work, I could draw my own map to navigate a way out of these anxious thought patterns.
Living with Anxiety
Living with an anxiety takes a hefty toll on one’s mind, and therefore places stress on how a person interacts with those they love. A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology investigated how daily anxiety of one partner in a marriage could negatively impact both individuals’ perceptions on the quality of their relationship. If I read that study years ago, my brain would immediately start wander into the darkness.
Does this mean I’m cursed? Will it be impossible to meet someone? Are all of my relationships doomed to be destroyed?
But, with therapy, I’ve started to see that all of these fears are just questions. They are not realities. Although anxiety can negatively impact relationships, it doesn’t mean they are doomed. It means that there are rough days. How you and your partner deal with these tough moments can make a huge difference—and strengthen the bond you have together.
Treating anxiety is different for everyone. But effective therapy, in virtually any form, rarely involves avoidance. Even in relationships, anxiety’s negative impacts on a person and their partner intensifies when either enabling behavior triggered by the disorder or ignoring it altogether. Finding ways to worth together, to talk through moments of panic, often yields a more positive outcome. It also is more likely to reduce frustration for both parties on a regular basis.
What I Learned
One of the biggest lessons I learned while both living with and studying anxiety was one of the hardest to truly believe: some days, it’s okay not to feel okay. That’s the nature of living with my disorder. What matters most is how I deal with anxiety when it starts to creep into the forefront of my mind. Regular therapy, medication, exercises in mindfulness, and even just plain old exercise can make things much more manageable. Balancing these healthy outlets differs from person to person, from relationship to relationship. Addressing these things head on with a supportive partner can ultimately have two huge benefits: a stronger relationship and a better management of anxiety.
Whatever acronym doctors use to describe your strain of anxiety, it’s perfectly possible to have a meaningful partnership with another person if you want one. With the right support, you can discover incredible ways to heal.