Let’s talk anxiety. And relationships. And anxiety in relationships (that’s more accurate, actually).
You should know by now that anxiety is something we love to focus on and work with clients on. You should also know that relationships are something we love to focus on and work on with clients. Wouldn’t it make sense that we end up combining the two?
Here’s the deal.
If you’re dealing with or struggling with anxiety, then it’s important that you have an idea of what is exacerbating it. Of course, there are a variety of factors (such as thoughts, food, behavior) that play a part, and when people come into counseling, they tend to focus on those things (especially thoughts and behavior).
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
At the same time, one important factor that’s often overlooked during this counseling process is relationships.
Interestingly enough (and less well known), anxiety can be a sign of a relationship that is struggling and/or one partner’s needs going unmet. It might be related to attachment, trauma, personality traits, or genetic predispositions. No matter what the reason, it’s still there. It’s not that your relationship is the sole cause of anxiety (there are plenty of relationships that aren’t healthy, but partners aren’t suffering through anxiety), but it might be worth thinking about.
If you’re a person who deals with anxiety and aren’t sure if your relationship is exacerbating the symptoms (or even if your relationship is at the core of the symptoms), then it’s time to reflect a little bit. You might start to pay attention to when you do and don’t feel anxious. You might start to log what you eat, how much you sleep, and your exercise schedule to see when anxiety pops up and what correlations exist (if any). You can check in to see how frequently you’re feeling anxious and whether it’s debilitating or a nuisance. You might also pay attention to your thoughts - are they feeding into anxiety (i.e. “I never get anything right,” “oh my gosh, what if this happens?!”) or are they present-moment focused? Little note about thoughts. The general consensus is that thoughts focused in the past feed into depression and thoughts focused in the future feed into anxiety. That’s the short version (there’s more nuance than that).
*Keep in mind that some level of anxiety is normal and expected. There’s a point when it becomes too much, but every person will experience anxiety at some point in their life.
If you’ve been tracking and checking for patterns, you might then start to asses your relationship. How safe, supported, comfortable you feel. How connected, cherished, and loved you feel. How well (or not well) your conflict discussions (read: fights) go. Any number of things, really.
From there, you may speak up and the relationship rights itself, or you may reach out to a local couples counselor (ahem) :) and set something up. Anxiety is a beast and if it’s something that can be addressed through another avenue (i.e. relationship counseling), then it’s worth it to try.