When you are living with someone who has broken their leg, you may help them carry things, drive them to appointments or run errands for them, or gather their belongings for them. You know that eventually, their broken leg will heal.
But what happens when you are living with someone who is suffering from anxiety disorder?
Believe it or not, anxiety can be more contagious than the flu and more demanding than a broken leg. That’s because, unless you understand the symptoms, you may end up suffering from anxiety, too.
What Is Anxiety Disorder?
Each year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with a form of anxiety disorder. More than just being stressed or going through a bad or difficult time, anxiety disorders comprise a category of illness that affects how we interpret the world around us – and how we react to those interpretations.
There are a number of common anxiety disorders, the most common of which are:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – This causes people to worry over and overcomplicate even the most seemingly mundane events. Those with GAD are the constant worriers, where a relatively small concern can become overwhelming or exhausting.
- Social Phobia – Also called social anxiety disorder, this causes people to avoid social situations, even if it is something important such as a wedding, job interview, or their child’s dance recital.
- Panic Disorder – Also known as panic attacks, this causes physical changes in the body – from racing heart to shortness of breath to deep sweating. While panic attacks usually are short-lived, they are intense enough to stop a person from reacting normally to situations.
Other conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder, are not necessarily categorized as anxiety disorders, but they do cause the sufferer to have anxiety or panic-like episodes. These episodes can include racing heart, sweating, or fight-or-flight reactions, which are similar to the symptoms seen in other types of anxiety disorders.
Minimizing Stressful Triggers
Persons suffering from anxiety disorders picture a reality for themselves based on their experiences and reactions to past events – and to the events, people, or situations around them. And because their reactions and expectations often become the “norm” of a mutual living situation, a person who is living with someone with anxiety disorder often finds himself or herself doing everything possible to minimize triggers.
Sometimes, minimizing triggers can be as easy as managing expectations, such as avoiding large gatherings or not forcing your partner to do things they don’t want to do. For those living with someone suffering from panic attacks, it could be working out strategies for potential outcomes, such as rehearsing dialogue or mapping out scenarios.
Living with someone who has PTSD may require you to offer a warm hug or a safe place for the person to regroup and calm down. Should the person suffer from GAD, it may help to simply offer a sympathetic ear.
All of these solutions require the person living with someone with anxiety to help establish an environment that is reasonable, understanding, and manageable. But what happens when their anxiety becomes your problem too?
When Another Person’s Anxiety Becomes Your Reality
For many people suffering from anxiety disorder, their anxiety can get in the way of your own life. And oftentimes, by the time you realize that this is happening, it is too late to manage things yourself without professional assistance.
For example, if you are forfeiting activities you love because your partner won’t attend with you, or if their phobias are curbing your lifestyle, relationships, or livelihood, it is time to seek out options. If their anxieties are putting you, others, or themselves in a harmful or potentially dangerous situation, seek help immediately.
Treatment for Anxiety Disorders
If your loved one hasn’t sought treatment for their anxiety disorder, perhaps they should. In most cases, treatment for anxiety disorder consists of a combination of talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and medication.
If you have been living with another’s anxiety disorder to the point that it is affecting you, then you too should consider therapy to learn strategies to keep your relationships – and yourself – healthy.
Psychiatrists in the Greater Boston Area
Everyone deserves to have a happy, healthy life. No one wants their loved ones to suffer anxiety or any other condition that prevents them from thriving and being happy.
And you should not have to suffer with someone else’s anxiety. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced mental health professional you can trust.
Neuro Behavioral Center is a premier outpatient center focused on compassion and caring. We provide the most advanced and comprehensive treatment in adult psychiatric and psychology services.