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 Anxiety Can Affect Relationships | Orlando Anxiety Therapist Shares Information 

At the Center for Anxiety and OCD at GroundWork Counseling we strive to provide empirically supported, evidence-based care for our clients seeking anxiety treatment through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

anxiety-and-relationshipsIf you suffer from anxiety, you are probably very aware that your anxiety can have a negative effect on your work, school and social life. Another part of life that is often negatively affected by anxiety is relationships. Romantic, family and parent-child relationships can all be affected when a person suffers from anxiety.   When one person has significant anxiety or an anxiety disorder, many relationships can be impacted.

Anxiety can have a ‘ripple effect’ on relationships. Anxiety can create tension, emotional difficulties and overall negatively affect how people live their lives. The people closest to the person with anxiety is likely affected the most and may take on a caretaker role that can be quite draining.

Take for example, the impact a person with panic disorder has on her significant relationships. The individual with a panic disorder likely experiences physical symptoms such as difficulty breathing, dizziness and a pounding heart and the person often truly believes that her life is in danger. She may take numerous trips to the doctor’s office or emergency room before she is correctly diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. This can be very upsetting, not only for the person who is experiencing the anxiety attacks, but it can also cause the person’s loved ones to be anxious and scared. The anxious individual may begin to limit where she can go alone and often a ‘safety zone’, which is usually close to the home, is established. Whenever the individual with panic disorder has to leave this safety zone, she will likely begin to ask her loved one to accompany her. Reliance on other people that she thinks will decrease danger and give her reassurance increases and often, loved ones begin to feel resentful.

Other examples of reliance due to anxiety disorders on others include:

  • A child with separation anxiety may need his parents to sleep next to him
  • A person with social anxiety may have her partner speak in her place
  • A child with a phobia can cause parents to avoid places and situations that might trigger fear
  • A person with generalized anxiety may seek constant reassurance from his spouse

While some accommodation is probably unavoidable and may be part of a natural way of expressing empathy for a loved one’s distress and a desire to be helpful, research shows that these actions actually have a negative effect on the course of the anxiety disorder and contribute to poorer treatment outcomes. It is easy for a parent or partner of a person with anxiety to fall into the trap of participating in the anxiety instead of helping the individual with their treatment.

If you or someone you love has anxiety disorder, you probably already know that it can place a large strain on relationships. Research shows that the impact of anxiety disorders on relationships is high. Partners and spouses of anxious individuals often felt that they are not in a healthy or supportive relationship and anxiety was found to prevent family members from engaging in normal activities. The partner without anxiety was frequently also found to take on a care-taking role for the person with anxiety in addition to taking on the majority of caring for children and the household. It was found that the person without anxiety felt overburdened, unsupported and drained.

So how can you help your partner or child with anxiety get better? You can encourage your loved one to seek treatment with evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). You can talk with your child’s or partner’s therapist about your role in treatment and what you can do to help.

At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our therapists are specifically trained in CBT and will help you to understand how you can best support your loved one, when to push, when to let go and how to set appropriate boundaries with specific behaviors you are willing to accept.


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