According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an anxiety disorder is the most common mental illness in the United States affecting nearly 40 million adults age 18 and older. Several marriages have felt the crippling effects of doubt and insecurity that accompany states of anxiety and panic.
Leading people to ask the big question, how do you support a spouse that has a deep connection with feelings of inadequacy and terror?
First you must try to understand and identify the source of their anxiety. There are several things that can induce anxiety: a negative childhood experience, negative self-talk, negative relationship with a parent or a traumatizing life experience. These scarring events have permanently created a sense of impending danger, hyper-awareness to the individual's surroundings and fear of inadequacy.
Helping your spouse to overcome and cope with their heightened anxiety can be easier by following these do's and don'ts.
Do understand that your partner seeks reassurance and comfort at a time when they feel the most insecure and on edge. Your partner may put on a brave face, but underneath their anxiety they are searching for adoration and acceptance.
Do invite your partner to get up and do something physical. Scientists have proven exercise to be a useful tool to lower stress levels and counter worry. Go on a walk, take a dip in the pool or go dancing.
Do pay attention to their moods. When your spouse is in a cranky mood be careful with how you communicate with them. Anxious individuals cannot adequately describe the mood or worries they have when they are on edge, so it is vital as their partner to recognize their change of mood and encourage your partner to talk about them. Talking can release built up tension.
Do listen when they are in need of someone to vent to. Whether they want to talk about work, family relationships, neighbors, their body weight or money... listen. Their ability to talk about issues and concerns is a sign they trust you and appreciate your advice.
Do question if they are doing alright. Let them know you are a safe space, a confidant and their rock. Letting them know they have someone in their corner who loves them will help them combat anxiety and feelings of not being good enough.
Don't allow yourself to feel anxious as well. Moods can often be contagious, but do not let your spouse's fears and trepidations make you begin to question yourself. Remember anxiety is not your fault and there are ways to cope with it.
Don't allow your spouse to bully you. Anxiety can cause a partner to unleash critical and degrading statements towards the ones they love most. Often times their ability to criticize is more of a reflection of their own insecurity than a real jab at your character. Fight this action by trying to understand their point of view and then guiding them to the best solution.
Don't set your spouse into a panic over your own reasons to stress. If your spouse is easily set off from hearing other people's worries do not vocally express them. Write them down or text them to your partner and ask their opinion on the situation. The casual expression will help diffuse any unnecessary tension.
Don't let their fear and tension draw a reaction out of you. If there is a certain thing pressing heavily on your partner do not let their worry lead you to an argument. Try to diffuse the tension early by guiding the conversation to small and simple things the two of you can do to solve the issue before it gets worse.
Anxiety is an emotional response that defies all sense of rational thinking. Fight to understand the source of the problem they are dealing with and talk together to find sensible solutions.
Proper communication and love can counter the crippling effects of anxiety.