You love your partner, but he’s not easy to love. If he has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), you may have had to alter your life in response to his needs. You may have had to turn down social engagements—sometimes awkwardly at the last minute—to accommodate your partner. You have probably had to take on more than your share of responsibilities when your partner was too anxious to function well. If that lack of ability to function intrudes on his ability to work, you may have had to worry about finances as well.
If you love someone with GAD, you face challenges. Here are some suggestions for meeting those challenges:
Do your homework. If you happen to love someone with anxiety disorder, it may be unfair that you have so much to deal with, but the more you know, the better you’ll be able to cope. Learning about GAD will give you an edge. For example, if he tells you he’s having a panic attack, you’ll be more likely to interact with him in a positive way. You’ll understand that his anxiety and panic is very real, and you’ll be less apt to minimize his suffering, which is typically not helpful. You’ll also learn that GAD is very treatable.
Help your partner get treatment. Of course, your partner has to be willing to get treatment; you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do. But you can encourage him, let him know you’re on his side, that you want the best for him. Help him find an appropriate, well-qualified therapist with whom he feels comfortable. That therapist may even enlist your help in supporting your partner when he encounters situations that trigger his anxiety.
Be mad at the disorder, not your partner. Once again, you’re missing out on the block party barbeque because your partner is anxious around crowds. So yes, you’re angry and resentful. You’ve every right to be. But you love your partner. Being angry with him, blaming him or attacking his character won’t help. It will probably do just the reverse. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit quietly by and take it. Tell him you’re angry and disappointed that you can’t go. Or unhappy that you have to go alone. Tell him how you feel; just don’t belittle him in the process.
Accentuate the positive. When your partner is learning to cope with his disorder, be supportive. Look for improvements in his behavior and let him know you notice his accomplishments, no matter how small. It’s hard to make changes—give him positive reinforcement.
Be careful not to enable him. If you are always heading off potential anxiety provoking situations, you are saving your partner short-term grief. But you are not letting him experience anxiety so he can work through it. He’ll need to do that if he’s going to get better in the long run.
Take care of yourself. While assuring your partner that you’re supportive, remember that you must take care of yourself before you can help someone else. Practice self-care and seek therapy for yourself and/or couples therapy. It could help you provide a more stress-free home environment in which to help your loved one work on treating his anxiety disorder.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact