Always keep in mind that they are much more than their anxiety
No one is safe from the world. We all carry trauma and are affected, in ways we often do not understand, by what goes on around us. Always keep in mind that you fell in love with a person, with someone who is so much more than anxiety-on-two-legs. They may be funny, they may be intelligent and they may be confident, because these things have nothing to do with anxiety. You wouldn’t have approached this person in the first place if you didn’t think they’d be worth your time. People with anxiety are not broken and they are often aware of the irrationality of their fears. Remember what brought you together in the first place and know that this is something you can overcome, as a team.
Picture this. You’re out somewhere and you thought you were both having a good time when, all of a sudden your date goes blank. They freeze and have a hard time responding to you. You wonder what it is that you have done. Most likely, you have done nothing. A panic attack can be triggered by an outside factor, but in many cases it just shows up uninvited, whenever it feels like it.
How to describe a panic attack? Different people will have different ways to describe it. I for one, feel as if something hits me out of the blue. There’s this feeling of being threatened or attacked (even if there is no visible threat), I find it hard to relate to anything around me and I collapse into myself. It’s a sort of implosion, I guess.
A panic attack is scary, but is usually doesn’t last too long, so the best thing you can do is be patient. You can hold your date’s hand, remind them to breathe or you can say something soothing, but, in any case, you have to keep calm. Becoming alarmed, yelling or making sudden movements might only make it worse.
They do not claim special treatment
As stated above, a person with anxiety is often aware that their fears are irrational. They do not claim to be delicate little snowflakes that need to be handled with the utmost care. You don’t have to worry about threading lightly all day, every day. As long as you keep things honest, establish boundaries and can talk openly to your significant other about their anxiety, things should work out well.
Trust is key
One of the common fears people with anxiety have is that others might have a hidden agenda. They do not enjoy mind-games and might shun you if they think you’re up to no good, even if they are aware that it might be just in their heads. If you’re trying to approach someone with anxiety or are at the beginning of your relationship, just be yourself. There’s no need to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to impress. Remember that people with anxiety might need time, be patient and maintain honest, open communication.
They can be very loyal
Because people with anxiety often get told that there’s something wrong with them, that they’re overreacting, or that it’s all in their heads (Thank you, Captain Obvious), they will greatly appreciate someone who sees beyond their anxiety, but who, at the same time, is willing to provide emotional support during difficult moments. Thus, they can be very devoted partners, willing to work hard for the relationship.
They can be in their heads a lot
People with anxiety tend to spend a lot of time in their heads because a lot goes on in there. Perfectly captured in a comic that represents a superhero called Anxiety Girl, able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound, an anxious person’s mind always races ahead, making up one catastrophic script after another. It can be hard to keep these thoughts under control and, in order not to be overcome by them, a person with anxiety will spend a lot of time in their heads, trying to put order into their thoughts. Usually, the companionship of a trustworthy person can help to keep them at bay.
Once again, people with anxiety are not broken and many are aware of their condition. If you’re beginning to see someone, and they tell you they have an anxiety disorder, there is no need to worry too much – besides the worries that are inherent to the beginning of any new relationship. This person will not want you to coddle and care for them as if they were baby and they will not expect you to magically fix them and make it so they never become frightened or have a panic attack ever again. They know that this is not possible and that anxiety is something they have to live with. Many know that it is their own responsibility to manage their anxiety and have already taken steps to do just that.
Share the good times
So, you began a relationship with someone who has anxiety. No one can see and/or control the future. No one, not even the two of you, can know for sure how things will work out for you. There are bad times, but those exist in any human relationship. If you share a bond, communicate easily and can trust each other, you can face them together. You will have good times as well – things to enjoy together and friends to share. I wish you the best.
Anca Rotar is a Romanian-born writer, over-thinker and caffeine addict. She is the author of two books, Hidden Animals and Before It Sets You Free, both available from Amazon.com. Among her interests, which she finds it hard to shut up about, she counts fashion, yoga, city breaks and deadpan sarcasm. She is also currently studying Japanese, so wish her luck. You can sample bits of Anca’s creative writing here.