Almost all couples have their share of challenges. However, when half of a couple has an anxiety disorder, both partners face a new set of challenges, and the normal ones may be exacerbated.
An ADAA study found that generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, sufferers were significantly less likely to consider themselves in a “healthy and supportive” relationship with their partner or spouse than people without GAD; two times more likely to experience at least one relationship problem (i.e., getting into arguments on a regular basis, avoiding participation in social activities); and three times more likely to avoid being intimate with their partner. Although the study looked specifically at GAD, many of these findings would likely be true for other anxiety disorders, too.
Having an anxiety disorder is usually associated with a great deal of personal distress, but it can be equally difficult for significant others. Partners of those suffering with anxiety problems often take on more than the normal share of domestic, economic, parenting, and other responsibilities such as the following:
These challenges can be daunting. It is important to note that with treatment, people with anxiety disorders can go on to lead productive lives that include successful careers, thriving social lives, and busy schedules. Appropriate treatment can often help alleviate many issues that contribute to the stress of the significant other.
You can facilitate improvement and recovery by providing support and encouragement. Here are some tips that might help:
Recovery requires hard work on the part of the person with an anxiety disorder and patience on the part of the partner and family. It may seem like a slow process, but the rewards are well worth it.
Although ultimate responsibility lies with the patient, you can play an active role in the treatment of your partner’s anxiety disorder.
Mental health professionals are increasingly recommending couple- and family-based treatment programs. In one approach, a mental health professional enlists the partner as a co-therapist. With training, the partner can assist the patient with homework assigned by the therapist. This might involve accompanying the patient into anxiety-producing situations and providing encouragement to stay in the situation by using anxiety-reduction techniques.
This might also include helping a partner adhere to a behavior contract developed with the therapist to control anxiety responses in situations when the therapist is not present. For someone with OCD, a behavior contact might limit how often the patient may indulge in a ritual. The partner helps discourage the patient from repeatedly performing the ritual and positively reinforces ritual-free periods of time.
Find a therapist  in your area who treats anxiety disorders.
It is extremely important (and not selfish) for partners of those with an anxiety disorder to take care of themselves. These tips will help you cope: