Anxiety can be a debilitating condition for those who suffer from it.
Although it may seem irrational or difficult to understand, the feelings that person has are very real and very terrifying for them. Understanding how to support and comfort a loved one with anxiety can help them manage and treat their condition effectively.
If you have a loved one who’s struggling, there are a number of ways in which you can support them. Take the time to listen and understand their fears, feeling understood will provide some comfort. Remind your partner that however they feel today can change tomorrow. Anxiety is a problem that needn't be a permanent state.
The key is to be calm as much as possible. When your partner feels anxious, their mind will be running at 110 miles per minute. Calmly reassure them that they are safe, allow them to explain their anxieties and urge them to write it all down.
Allowing someone to take note of their situation and environment will allow them to process it better. Sometimes, just knowing that you’re there will help them with managing their anxiety. Having anxiety can be a terrifying and lonely place but knowing that there’s someone there to ride out the dark times makes it all the more reassuring.
It can be difficult to understand why your partner has a phobia, but to them, the fear is immobilising. Don’t judge or dismiss their fears. By telling them that there’s nothing to worry about makes them feel even more ashamed of the fear they hold. Show compassion and understanding by agreeing that what they are going through is terrifying but it will end. The fear won’t last forever and you’ll get through this together.
Anxiety manifests itself in multiple forms therefore different levels of support are needed to support your partner. If they have not yet sought professional medical advice, it’s important that you encourage them to speak to their GP.
Your partner isn’t looking to you for a solution, if they knew what it was they needed to do, they’d have done it already. Listen to your partner and make sure they feel heard. Sharing a problem out loud can help to alleviate some of the stress. Remind your partner that they’re not alone and you’re here to keep them safe.
Help them find treatment
Although your partner will probably have already researched extensively to try and find a solution, you can always do your own research into techniques and methods that help with anxiety. Whether that is talking therapies to manage phobias or relaxation techniques to manage day to day anxiety, there are a host of helpful options out there. Knowing that you are on their side and researching with them can be very comforting.
Place yourself in their shoes
Life is absolutely terrifying right now for your partner. Anxiety is a life limiting issue which will no doubt have an impact on your own life. It might be frustrating to see other couples happily doing things you only wish you could do with yours but remember, anxiety isn’t forever. If you can help your partner get better, you’ll be back to doing what you both enjoy in no time. Have patience and put yourself in their shoes, how would you feel in their situation? What support would you need from your own partner to get through this? Loving someone with a mental health issue can be exhausting but remember that the person you love is not defined by their illness. This illness, too, shall pass and you can support them in getting there.
Don’t be afraid to try again
Not all solutions and treatments will work and it’s important to understand that that’s OK. What works for one person may not work for another. Work with your partner to find the best solutions for them and never ever give up. If you can be proactive and realistic, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.
Taking care of yourself
Taking care of a loved one struggling with their mental health can be tiring. As much as you love your partner and want to take care of them, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your mental health matters too which is why you should remember to take time out when you need to. Although you are dedicated to caring for your partner, continue to do the things you enjoy and don’t let your own happiness suffer to. You can only be your best self for your partner if you are healthy in body and mind.
Remember that poor mental health can affect anyone. Just because it’s never happened before, doesn’t mean poor mental health won’t happen to you. Even the most dedicated of CEO’s have fallen victim to burnout. We are all human and need to remember that our bodies need to rest. If you need to take some time out, arrange for a friend or family member to spend some time with your loved one. Don’t be afraid to say you need a break.
In 2020, a study found that men who were supporting their partners post-birth didn’t get resources to help them manage their partners and their own mental health. Many were quoted saying that they weren’t given enough advice on how to support their partners. As a result, the negative effects of poor maternal mental health had a direct effect on their own which made it more difficult for the men to support their partners. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if things are getting difficult. The fathers were reported feeling like there was little support or sympathy for them since they hadn't given birth. Just because you are not battling anxiety like your partner, you have every right to the support you need to help you and your partner.
If you are helping a partner or a loved one with their mental health take a look at some or the resources and therapies we have available on our website.
1) Mayers, A., Hambidge, S., Bryant, O. et al. Supporting women who develop poor postnatal mental health: what support do fathers receive to support their partner and their own mental health?. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 20, 359 (2020).
2) Poulin MJ, Brown SL, Ubel PA, Smith DM, Jankovic A, Langa KM. Does a helping hand mean a heavy heart? Helping behavior and well-being among spouse caregivers. Psychol Aging. 2010;25(1):108-117. doi:10.1037/a0018064