How Anxiety Affects Relationships

September 22, 2022

Anxiety can negatively affect our relationships in many different ways. We might be constantly worried, controlling, angry or irritable – all of which are related to our anxious feelings about ourselves or others – and this can put a strain on relationships. 

Anxiety can also inhibit our ability to communicate and connect with our romantic partner, family and friends. Sometimes our anxiety shows up in a form of dependence – we are reliant on another person in a relationship, while other times we may be avoidant. 

We all enter relationships for different reasons. Some of us want love or companionship, while others want to be validated to feel like we belong. According to Diane Young, therapist at South Pacific Private, many of us get to a certain point and realise what we thought we were going to get from the other person in the relationship isn’t what we are getting. “This can trigger in us a sense of feeling insecure in the relationship – this is anxiety – a fear that ‘I am not good enough’,” she says. 

“This affects daily life when it seems it’s not just one relationship we’re questioning and we’re beginning to question others.” Diane says that anxiety can take over our life if we’re never settled in ourselves and if we’re often going to that other person to feel ‘enough’ – to feel that what we do is enough, and who we are is enough. We can become co-dependent, which is commonly known as ‘relationship addiction’.

How is anxiety triggered?

Anxiety can be triggered after a major event or or a buildup of smaller stressful life situations. “Anxiety is largely about how we were treated in our family system originally,” says Diane. “If the message we got was ‘it’s what you do that’s important, not who you are’ you will become an adult who does a lot for others (people pleasing, complying with requests from the other party) rather than standing in your own power, getting your own needs and wants met, and being able to offer that to others, and loved ones.”

If we end up in a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel their feelings, who denies that they are anxious, then we will pick that up. “That’s when we get a double blow of anxiety because we are taking on our partner’s anxiety too. The same goes for anger,” explains Diane.

When anxiety gets too much or when anxiety gets out of control, it will start to become debilitating in our personal lives, and at its very worst we can become agoraphobic, and won’t want to leave the house. At its middle stage we might be doing a lot of pretending we’re okay, and not really speaking up for what we do need in our daily life – from our family, kids, colleagues, friends, and we certainly won’t be speaking up with our partners.

A lot of anxiety today is triggered by the nature of the circumstances we live in, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. “Anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to debilitate our ability to live with any sense of freedom and any sense of connection with the people in our lives and the people that love us,” explains Diane.

Treatment for anxiety

Treatment can help you understand how your anxiety is affecting your relationships and develop coping mechanisms. At South Pacific Private, our compassionate team of clinicians will not only treat the symptoms of your anxiety, but will seek to root out underlying causes and equip you with strategies for long-term recovery. “If people have anxiety and can recognise it, I would certainly recommend getting some professional help, because with the right tools, we can recover.”

Do you or someone you know need help with anxiety? You can call our team seven days a week on 1800 063 332. 

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