Dos and Don'ts of Dating Somebody With Anxiety

I can’t tell you how badly I wish there was a course my past boyfriends could have taken to learn the “Dos and don’ts of dating a girl with anxiety”, just so I could save a lot of difficult explanations and withholding of emotions, primarily out of fear that I couldn’t make them understand why I was acting so strange. In all honesty, I can say that there were more boyfriends/potential lovers that didn’t even know that I suffered from General Anxiety Disorder, along with OCD and depression. I got so good at hiding it (on the surface) that most of them just thought my random panicky outbursts and withdrawing was some deep rooted baggage, or that I simply didn’t feel safe or comfortable with them. In truth, I was fighting a mental battle – war rather – inside my head, while they helplessly stood by with nothing offered to them but confusion.

For a long time I was so self-conscious about it that I wouldn’t offer them much of an explanation beyond: “I have this thing, it isn’t a big deal, I’m fine.” I was absolutely terrified that if they knew I had something internally wrong with my mind that they would get freaked out, seeing me as some kind of basket case that just wasn’t worth the effort, and subsequently, leave me. This fear was so bad that I found myself pushing them away long before they ever got the chance to reject me, and likely missed out on dating a couple or more really great guys. I mean, how could I blame somebody for assuming that a girl who can suffer from violent panic attacks, constant anxiousness, obsessive and intrusive thoughts that can cause her to be bed ridden and inconsolable at times … is a complete nutcase? I would be scared too if I had to face somebody who had those issues.

But, I’m in a better headspace now, and I’m here to shed some light on people who suffer from anxiety. All of those things I listed shouldn’t scare you too much, because they can be a very small portion of our lives, and it certainly doesn’t take up the entirety of our existence – even if at times it can feel like it does. There are others who suffer more severely of course, but to those people, I always urge they get to a better place before dating. This is what I did. I worked on getting my anxiety under control, and can confidently say that I am doing much better. And while anxiety is no longer who I am … it is part of me. It’s never going to go away, there’s no magic pill that I’m willing to take to repress it (I don’t prefer those medications for personal reasons), and it is forever going to affect me, my life, and my relationships, in some capacity. With this in mind, I wanted to create a mytake that would – as I said – shed a little bit of light on people with anxiety in regards to relationships. I hope that somebody out there finds it insightful, if not then at least an enjoyable read. Without further hesitation, here are some things to consider when dating a person with anxiety. They aren’t in any particular order, they are just the things that I think are most vital to know when dating somebody with an anxiety disorder.

We can’t help it

This is the biggest thing that I want EVERYONE to understand about people who deal with anxiety. I can’t count on all of my digits, hands and feet included, how many times I’ve been told I was a pussy, a wuss, too sensitive, and that I needed to get over myself, all because of my issues with anxiety. Mind you, a lot of the people who did this to me weren’t completely aware of the extent of my disorder, but there were a handful who were completely aware of my condition and still made these remarks to me. I believe the main reason is that people don’t understand how little control we have over our anxiety: anything can set it off, and once it’s in motion, there is little we can do but try desperately to cope with it. It isn’t a switch that can be flicked on or off, and no amount of positive affirmations or rationalization will make it go away sometimes. It can certainly help at times and ease the symptoms (especially if you’re having a panic attack), but it isn’t going to cure us. Telling us to get over it, to suck it up, to change our thinking – you might think you’re helping us, but you’re not. You’re belittling the fact that this is an involuntary disorder and making us feel that it isn’t a real problem, and that the problem is us. This is detrimental to our self-esteem, and shows us that we can’t truly feel safe with you, even if that was never your intention. So please, be aware that this isn’t something we can help, but it is something we can get a grip on … with SUPPORT.

Dos and Don'ts of Dating Somebody With Anxiety

Try to understand our nervousness and hesitation

Especially when it comes down to getting to know a person, it can take us a long time to get comfortable with you, and we may even seem hesitant at times and then enthusiastic another. It isn’t you. We’re working ourselves up over it. Just like the condition, we have times of calmness and clarity and then times where we second guess everything and find ourselves painfully anxious. Try to understand that there might be times where we withdraw, pull away, or even avoid opening up to you, simply because we aren’t sure if we have the strength to be that vulnerable. Just be patient, if it’s meant to be, we will give in and help you understand.

It doesn’t make us “crazy”

A big misconception about anxiety is that the people who have it likely suffer from constant extremes; if you were to type in anxiety on Youtube, you’d likely find a bunch of people detailing horror stories of constant violent panic attacks and severe phobias – but that doesn’t account for all of us. As I said in the beginning of my take, most people aren’t even aware that I suffer from an anxiety disorder, because, like most, I’ve learned to hide it pretty well. However, it does rear its ugly head every now and again and is always there, but that doesn’t mean we’re “dysfunctional” or that we suffer from violent extremes. Even if we do, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t something that can’t get better. If you’re unsure about our disorder when it comes to light, then don’t be afraid to ask questions – don’t just assume we’re going to be nothing more than a walking meltdown.

You make us feel safe, but…

Sometimes we need to be alone. There are times when I have needed someone to be there and there have been times when I needed nothing more than to be alone. This doesn’t mean we don’t love you, or trust you; it means we feel overwhelmed by the presence of others and/or we feel pressured to stop having our much-needed fit (we have to get that shit out sometimes) to appease and relax YOU. You might be afraid that you’re letting us suffer alone, but you’re not. We will come to you and ask it of you when we need you, but we also need for you to respect when we need our panic space where we can freak out without any judgement or pressure to stop. If you have any doubts of whether or not we need you, just calmly ask … we’ll tell you.

On the note of feeling safe…

There are times when I have wanted nothing more than for my partner to take the reins and make me feel like he is my protector, my shield, my safe place and voice of reason. While most of us actively try to not allow this responsibility to fall on the shoulders of our partners, we really appreciate it when you can read our expressions and cues and take control, just so we can have a second of not feeling like the weight is solely on our shoulders – because believe me, many people with anxiety will attempt to hold the responsibility themselves and may even FIGHT to keep you out of it to protect YOU. But we get weak sometimes. Sometimes we need you to take our hand and pull us through the crowd of people that is making us feel smothered; sometimes we need you to tell someone who is asking us too many questions to tone it down; sometimes we need you to take us home from a party early because we had a bad week and can’t handle the influx of people around us; and sometimes we need you to sit with us at the end of the night and just help us rationalize our irrational thoughts so we can sleep. We know it’s inconvenient, but we’d do it for you – and in doing this, you can help us get stronger by showing us that we don’t have to fear vulnerability. We have to embrace it and work through it, and we can do it together.

We CAN improve, but we can’t be CURED

If you are dating someone with anxiety, you will never NOT be dating somebody with anxiety unless you break up with us and begin dating somebody else. As much as we can improve and learn to manage our symptoms, we will forever have the cloud that will threaten us with periods of relapse, old behaviours and breakdowns. When this happens, we do not need to hear you say: “I thought you were over this.” Because we will never fully be over it, not unless they ever find a way to remove the anomaly that causes us to have this affliction. We can get to a point where we function “normally”, but that doesn’t mean we are suddenly going to stop having a disorder and will stop having moments of weakness. To ask us that is to ask you to NEVER go through periods of turmoil or depression regardless of the circumstances. It’s not possible, and it’s not fair.

Getting angry NEVER helps

I have never expected a boyfriend to NOT have periods of frustration or anger, especially if we’re going through a rough patch, anybody with enough sense knows other people have moments of weakness too. However, for our sake and yours, you should know that snapping at us, yelling at us, or expressing frustration in the heat of the moment is not going to help anybody, especially if it’s a breakdown or panic situation on our end. You can’t argue this condition away, you can’t scream it away, or threaten it away, or scoff it away. You can make it a lot worse by using anger to try and control the situation. Having said that, like our condition, we understand that it isn’t as easy as turning that switch off; if it frustrates you, it frustrates you. With that said, work together with us; walk away when you’re mad and we can talk it out later. PLEASE.

Never backhandedly bring up medication

I can’t tell you how many times someone has discovered my disorder and immediately told me that I should consider medication. First and foremost, most people don’t know how mind altering some of these medications can be, nor do they know your medical history enough to determine if medication is even the best course of action or not. Medication should only ever be brought up under circumstances that are proving to not get any better and only under the recommendation of a doctor or psychiatrist. So, before you backhandedly tell us to just start popping pills, get the facts and be considerate, please.

With all of this said, I hope that somebody reads this and finds it helpful. My intention isn't to beat anybody up who may have underestimated or even neglected to acknowledge anxiety, my intention is to bring understanding and assistance to those with a desire to know. I hope you all enjoyed this and I hope this truly does help somebody. Thanks for reading. Also, for some strange reason, the topic keeps getting "corrected" to sexual behavior, regardless of having NOTHING to do with sexual behavior. Don't know why that is, so if you find it there, SORRY!


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What Guys Said 17

  • I feel like you're identifying too much with your anxiety, but this is a great take nontheless

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    • I definitely don't, most people don't know I have anxiety and I don't believe it defines me, but it is an inherent part of me. It's also important to keep in mind that the take is about anxiety and my experiences.

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    • Also it's the job of my therapist to tell me how to handle it, but thank you for your concern.

    • These kind of responses are most likely part of the reason why she wrote this article in the first place. Having a girlfriend with an anxiety disorder myself I don't think she is identifying too much with it. I feel like she has accepted that she has a disorder and is dealing with it and trying to help others deal with it.

  • Nice take - Yes awareness, education and acceptance of mental health issues the key - It is getting a lot better but still has a long road to travel - I agree with central message be patient and let the person take the lead. I have a multi layered observation everyone's mental health is different, don't go to the internet and look up GAD or Bipolar to assume you know what is going on, there is a myriad of coping mechanisms from personal to professional, offer to support don't choose a route for someone (of course in extreme cases you have to but I think in your take you are talking about mental health issues where the person is able to look for help)

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  • Are you high sensitive too?

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    • Having dealt with women with general anxiety, I can say your tips are valid and useful

  • Having anxiety myself I found this very informative.
    I think it's very important information to get out there. It's scary sometimes having it, sometimes you need people sometimes you don't and quite often it leaves you questioning your own worth.

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  • I share in the Rollercoaster too! I've been dealing with similar issues mostly rooted in TBI and an abusive childhood. So I understand the judgment from others, and the need to restore your energy by being alone at times. It's a constant emotional battle amongst ourselves that gets so intense at times but the rest of the world doesn't hear it like we do. And that's extremely isolating at times. I wish you the best of luck.

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  • Now I need a myTake on how to find someone while having anxiety...

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    • I can certain try for you, @Words_and_Wisdom.

  • Nice take,
    Now do the do's and don'ts of dating someone with bipolar.

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  • I'm a guy and I suffer anxiety that's what made me depressed and unable to date and that resulted in my virginity lasting until I was 38. I eventually got married and had a son I got separated 10 years later. Social anxiety and depression basically ruined my life. I am getting psychotherapy for about 20 years now. never being able to get a girlfriend was the worst part and waiting to lose your virginity at an older age make you feel inferior. Low self-esteem especially for a man

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    • I'm very sorry to hear about your struggles, I hope things improve in the future.

  • OMG my ex has this and it has questioned her why do I like her because I'm guessing she's not used of the guy staying around after pushing him away so many times i told her and I still tell her that I'm with her for the long haul. We had a talk the other night and she told me she has a wall up. But I've got pretty good at knowing when she's annoyed or in a slight spaced out mood but then snaps back and asks me what I said again. None of the times that she pushed me away was my fault.

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  • I've been with a girlfriend who had serious anxiety issues that were brought upon by some of her chemo, prescription meds, and other things. I had more of a crash course, it was definitely nothing you can be prepared for when it happens. I just had to be there and help with whatever so she could go through it while she couldn't get the thoughts out of her head. This other girl, she would be crying wouldn't allow me to touch her, not even a hug, and even when she was sedated to calm her down she just totally isolated herself from me. I was WTF but hey if that's what she needed to get herself back up I am all for it. I wish she could of just let me in to talk about it. I don't even know if I'm in the right to say that it's a bit selfish. I mean, she knew she could trust me the fact that she thinks that she can should the burden by herself, admirable but I'm here to help as well, don't just kick me out. It was a sad, confusing and down right helpless at times while she was going through it. We did talk about it after but it was never something I felt like she was to forthcoming about for whatever reason she felt like not talking about it.

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  • reminds me of American Ultra movie
    so anxiety is wide subject but the suffering is real and it's not curable you can only make symptoms "managed" but like every mental illness it's lifetime (don't listen what they say on internet about depression and anxiety and how medication can "cure you" it's a myth and there is no real cure that will magically turn you to "normal" or any kind of CBT therapy)
    take example of social anxiety disorder , avoidant personality disorder or asperger's syndrome even schizotypal personality disorder
    now try to date with that disorders
    this gave me an idea for a poll :)

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  • This is so true, everyone out please take not of this

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    • Thank you my dear.

  • That t-shirt text is too long. A girl will assume I'm staring at her boobs by the time I finish reading it.

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  • Ok, now try to convince a girl to stand by and anxious guy. ( ._.)

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    • I could do my best.

  • Growing up and being best friends with someone who has severe anxiety and knowing about it. It can be one of the best relationships you can have I believe. He became very close with me very fast and is a brother to me I think I love him more than my own siblings haha. It also helped me become patient and more understanding just try and get someone with anxiety to propose to their girlfriend of 4 years.

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  • You and I will get along well. I have Aspergers Syndrome, and part of Aspergers is issues with anxiety, even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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    • I have a mild case of that too. And I'm well aware anxiety and PTSD are the least of the many problems it invites. It's like waking up every day to find that every inch of the floor around your bed is covered in mouse traps aiming for your toes. You dodge the best you can, then one snags the loose-hanging leggings of your bottom pajamas and snaps back and the lever scratches you in the ankle anyway, and its stings like a bitch. And that's your entire awake life that's like that. Like a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon, but with fewer falling pianos.

    • @ObscuredBeyond That's what I mean, struggles with anxiety.

  • This was a good read and I feel like you have a pretty good grasp on understanding anxiety. I can say that far to often I've dated girls that used it constantly as an excuse. They had absolutely no self control because of it.
    Now it's never been hard for me to understand as I get them too, so I really understand what it feels like.
    I think you nailed most of it on the head by taking responsibility for yourself, and it will always get better (though setbacks happen)
    I've never had a problem with the anxiety attacks but rather the way in which they had dealt with them. Acting as if they could never improve or get better than they currently are.
    If you learn to understand what causes the anxiety. I don't just mean learning the trigger, I mean understanding that trigger. Things often are not scary when they are understood. In this was I think you can surely deal with the issue at its core. You can't cure anxiety, but you can cure the cause more often than not.

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    • Well I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    • Right I suppose cure is a very bad term to use. I guess if I think about it a bit it's not that I was able to change myself, but rather change the way I see anxiety.
      I don't see it as a mental disorder but more as a someone who is hyperaware of everything going on. By changing the way I see myself I have been able to sort through things much easier. When I become anxious I don't see it as fear, but realize that I know there is more going on than I first realized. My body at that time is pumping all sorts of chemicals and hormones into my brain and body that it can be overwhelming at first, but I focus all of that energy for its intended purpose, to take on whatever challenge is before me.
      Yes I do apologize about the dating comment, it was out of place and I do understand everyone is effected differently. Also thank you for your honesty, its a big help for writing in the future.

    • Thank you for being respectful and I have a lot of admiration and respect for the way you carry yourself. I'm not hurt or offended by your responses at all because you were very respectful so, thanks for commenting and having a conversation with me as well as getting something out of it. I'm glad you could help.

What Girls Said 9

  • I have social anxiety and I feel like you spoke for me!
    I feel like I'm scared all the time and I'm really sick of it, but hopefully it will get better with time. I'm glad you wrote this article :)

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  • To RJGraveyTrain: I SO applaud you for NOT popping them pills! You go girl!!! Those drugs ARE mind altering! I was trying to get my boyfriend (at the time) to understand thus about drugs like Zoloft. Thank you SOOO VERY much for walking me through 'what it's like' to have Anxiety. I am in love with a man I was dating who has Anxiety/Panic Attacks. I tried to get him to help me understand. But I believe he could only explain it to the best of HIS ability. Maybe that explains his (as of recently) before I broke things off with him, why he wasn't calling as much.
    I had submitted a question entitled: "If your boyfriend hasn't called you in a week." It has helped me to understand.

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    • Thank you so very much @Inquisitor453.

  • You and I will get along well. I have anxiety and my family is constantly telling me to get over it and to control it like Elsa.

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    • We just gotta be sisters in anxiousness.

  • This was awesome and I can totAlly relate. I have severe anxiety and depression myself. My boyfriend is wonderful about it and if I'm having a hard time he talks me through it or hugs me he just tries to help. My mom on the other hand is horrible and I think she needs to see this, I've had to get help and start going to therapy because all I do is sit home and cry in my bed or have panic attacks and I've asked for her support and all she does is argue with me and picks fights and tells me I'm being silly. I had a panic attack right in front of her like crying, heart racing couldn't breath type attack and she just told me to stop and suck it up. I try my best to keep calm and it's a struggle every day but days like that where I get to the point of crying I need someone who's gonna be there for me and try to talk things over not tell me to suck it up. I don't expect anyone to feel bad for me I know this is something I have to try and deal with but even having someone to talk to or be there helps so much, all she had to do was talk with me and listen but that's been too hard of a concept for her to understand. Sadly I've cut all communication from her as it's too hard to handle being around her.

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  • This was actually helpful to know, thanks!

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  • Great take!

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  • this is amazing. did you share this with editor's of major magazines? i think it should be published.

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    • I would if I had some contacts. Thank you by the way I appreciate your comment.

    • Blogging. You are holding onto your takes, right?

  • Nice Take! I have mild anxiety, and I wish others I dated before knew how to "handle" me. That sounds bad, but I wish they understood that it wasn't always them, it was me. Like you said, sometimes I just need to be alone and deal with it for a bit, then I'm good to go.

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    • I feel you my friend.

  • This take is so true, I couldn't have written it any better. I still keep my disorder to myself or downplay it, never fully admitting it so people wouldn't think I'm some sort of crazy. I even avoid saying the word 'anxiety'.

    "First and foremost, most people don’t know how mind altering some of these medications can be" This, this, this. Some anxiety medications can be so taxing and draining, that's why I stopped taking them all together and pushed through without them. Luckily I've never been told to go on medication.

    At the end of the day I find it's something that people have a hard time figuring out or understanding, they're prone to say something silly but all that matters is they at least try to understand and don't see us as something broken that needs fixing.

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    • I smiled when I read your comment. Thanks for reading it all the way through and I am very happy you enjoyed it.

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