16th May 2023
People with relationship anxiety are prone to overthinking, which can lead them to feel stressed and insecure about their relationship with their partner. If unaddressed, this anxiety can lead to struggles in relationships, but self-care techniques and individual or couples therapy can be effective treatments.
Relationship anxiety is a type of anxiety that affects your thoughts and feelings about your partner and your relationship.
It can be caused by various factors, including experiences in previous romantic relationships, anxieties outside of your relationship, low self-esteem, or poor communication with your partner.
Relationship anxiety can cause you to second-guess your relationship, consistently seek reassurance, or even deliberately try to push your partner away.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the United States, experienced by over 19% of adults, and include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and phobias . Relationship anxiety isn’t an official anxiety diagnosis, but instead can be an aspect of GAD, panic disorder, or social phobia.
While the signs and symptoms experienced by somebody with another type of anxiety might affect their relationships, this does not necessarily mean that they have relationship anxiety.
For somebody with relationship anxiety, their partner, and their relationship with their partner, is at the center of their worries and fears.
There isn’t a single cause for relationship anxiety, but experiences in your childhood, and other anxieties outside of your relationship can all play a part.
Common underlying causes of relationship anxiety include:
When one person’s anxious feelings become a key part of a relationship, it can drive a wedge between partners, blocking effective communication, and overpowering positive connections.
The thoughts and behaviors experienced by somebody with relationship anxiety can cause stress for both partners, and, if unaddressed, can lead to a relationship breakdown.
The ways that anxiety affects relationships depends on the signs exhibited by the anxious partner:
It’s very normal to experience a degree of anxiety in healthy relationships. For many, this can be early on, when there is uncertainty about compatibility or the level of interest from a partner, but feelings of anxiety can appear in long-term relationships, too.
How you experience relationship anxiety can also vary. For some it is short-lived, for others it comes and goes as the relationship develops. For others, it becomes a constant presence, which is when it is most likely to become an issue.
Relationship anxiety becomes problematic when it lasts long enough or is severe enough to impact your relationship, your partner, and other aspects of your life.
Signs that somebody has relationship anxiety vary from person to person, and many are interlinked. Common examples include:
Identifying what is driving your anxiety is the first step to overcoming it. Depending on the root cause, effective treatments include self-care and self-soothing techniques, improving communication with your partner, therapy, or medication.
Practicing mindfulness and improving your wellbeing can help to address feelings of overwhelm. Simple activities like going for a walk, writing in a journal, or focusing on your breathing can improve your sense of self, make you feel more in control, and help you to avoid acting impulsively to seek reassurance.
Actively focusing on the present moment can also help to curb feelings of anxiety. Instead of worrying about what may or may not happen in the future, bringing your awareness to your current reality and letting yourself enjoy time spent with your partner can help you break out from a negative thought spiral.
While communication between a couple is often affected by relationship anxiety, improving it is an essential part of moving forward.
While all relationship dynamics are different, being honest about your feelings, and letting your partner open up to you, enables both parties to understand and support each other better, and overcome conflict.
Talking to a therapist can offer you a safe space, free from judgment, to uncover the root of your relationship anxiety, identify your anxious behaviors, and help you to work through them.
Couples counseling can also be a helpful way to manage anxiety in relationships. Professional help can offer structure and guidance to help you understand each other’s needs and feelings and communicate effectively.
If the anxiety in your relationship is linked to anxiety outside of your relationship, for example, if you’ve been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you might be prescribed medication to treat the related signs and symptoms.