Life with fear can be difficult ̵
If so, you are not alone: Several studies have shown that anxiety disorders can contribute to dissatisfaction in marriage.
"We often find that the … partners of our patients are somehow involved in their anxiety," says Sandy Capaldi, deputy director at the Center for the Treatment and Investigation of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.
perceived at many different levels and in various forms – from moderate to debilitating, from generalized anxiety to phobias – and their effects may vary, but psychiatrists and therapists indicate that there are ways to help your partner overcome challenges, while at the same time taking care of yourself.
Treat the symptoms first.
Since an anxiety disorder can be very stressful, you should first talk to your partner about how anxiety affects your daily life Insomnia, for example, says Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO of Brain & Behavior Researc h Foundation in New York. Something as simple as using the word "stress" instead of clinical names may also be helpful. "Often people feel a little better when they talk about stress, rather than … fear [disorders]," says Borenstein.
Do not minimize feelings.
"Although the other person's perspective makes perfect sense to you, you should validate it," says Carolyn Daitch, a licensed psychologist and director of the Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Try to understand the fears and worries of your partner. Consider least that these fears and worries are real for your partner before you figure out why such things can be irrational.
Fear has no easy solution, but helping someone starts with compassion. "Too many partners, especially male partners, want to fix the problem immediately," says Daitch. "They have to start with empathy and understanding, they can move on to logic, but not before the person feels they are not judged and … misunderstood."
Help your partner get treatment – and join in if you can.
If your partner is overwhelmed by anxiety, encourage your partner to seek therapy. You can even suggest names of therapists or offices, but do not call the therapist and make the appointment yourself, says Borenstein. You want the person to have some freedom of action.
Capaldi says she often brings a patient's partner to participate in the therapy and strengthen the patient's support system at home. "We three – patient, partner, therapist – are one team and this team is against the anxiety disorder," she says.
Do not talk to your partner at home, as a therapist might. For example, do not suggest that your partner take medication or change behavior. "Let the recommendations for the treatment of professionals come," says Borenstein. "Personally, I'm a professional, and I would not [prescribe anything] become a loved one."
It may also be helpful to investigate the type of anxiety your partner may be living with, says Capaldi (The National) The guide from Alliance on Mental Illness to Anxiety Disorders is a good place to start. "People often feel misunderstood with anxiety," she says. "If the partner takes the time to do a little research, that can go a long way."
For tips on how to help your partner choose the right form of therapy, see this guide from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Encourage – do not push.
If your partner suffers from debilitating anxiety and you do not, your partner's behavior can be frustrating, says Cory Newman, a professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. But you should never patronize or reduce the fears of your partner. Comments like, "Why can not you do that? What's your problem?" will probably be ineffective.
Instead, try to encourage your partner to overcome the fear. "Lead your encouragement in a positive direction," says Newman. "Say something like & # 39; Here's how it will benefit you if you [this] can encounter discomfort."
Daitch cites as an example someone with an immense fear of flying: "Start with the Words: & # 39; I really understand how afraid you are of flying It makes sense that you are scared You can not get off the plane If you have a panic attack, [you’re] you are afraid you might embarrass yourself … or it feels like you are out of control when there is turbulence. & # 39; view things from their perspective. "
Then you can try to gently push your partner to overcome these fears.
Maintain a life beyond the fear of your partner.
In order to maintain your own mental health, it is important to cultivate habits and relationships that are unique to you, such as friends. Have your own support network, such as a best friend or therapist (or both), when overwhelmed by your partner's anxiety.
Partners definitely need their own support, says Capaldi, "whether this means their own therapeutic relationship or just friends, family [and] other interests or activities that take them from the world of fear in which they may live to distinguish. "
And do not let the fear of your partner determine the life of your family. For example, someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder who is closely associated with anxiety disorders wants their family members to keep everything very clean or organized in an arbitrary way. According to Newman, it's important to limit the organization of your household to the fears of your partner – rather than fulfilling every request or mandate.
"Attempts to be respectful, but also set limits," he says.
Help your partner remember that the goal is to deal with fear – not to get rid of it.
"Many people with anxiety disorders understandably regard fear as the enemy," says Newman. "Actually, it's not that, the real enemy is avoidance, anxiety causes [people] to avoid things – like applying to schools, flying to a cousin's wedding – [that can lead to] enriched lives … and that causes depression. "  It can also reduce the number of life experiences that you and your partner share.
"You can lead a fearful life, but when you do things – you do this job interview, you say social invitations, you get in the car and drive to the sea, though … you do not want to drive 10 miles – They still do these things, "says Newman. "OK, you may need [medication] or therapy, but you're still alive."
Susie Neilson is an intern at the Science Desk of the NPR. Follow her on Twitter: @susieneilson .