Loving Someone with Anxiety
Anxiety is unpredictable, confusing and intrusive. Some people seem to exaggerate the importance of control. Without being aware of it, they spend an excessive amount of time and energy trying to control their children, their spouses, their employees, and every relationship in their lives.
Other people aren’t so up-tight. They seem to be more easy going, and they seem carefree and get more done. How do we account for the difference between those who seek to plan or prevent and those who trust their judgment to solve problems as they unfold?
When we worry about an event, we focus on an imaginary threat that is not happening in reality. Think of this reaction as akin to hiding in a cave. They can’t live in there forever but it is safe. It is a place of protection from a real or imagined threat. It allows them to periodically peer out, assess the situation and deal with perceived potential threats. These threats have nothing to do with reality, but the emotions and reactions are real.
Loving someone with anxiety can be difficult. It is useful to be supportive, patient, and accepting during these episodes. Often times, people with anxiety can recognize when their thoughts are irrationally pessimistic and scary, but at the same time, they may not be able to pull themselves out of this vertigo.
Anxiety is a completely normal physical response to protect ourself against a threat. It’s not ‘crazy’, ‘bitchy’, or controlling, and it is not a failure to worry. There is a primitive part of the brain that’s geared toward driving our attention to threats. When it does, the body surges with cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenalin, this prepares the body ready to run for its life or fight for it. This fight or flight response is part of being human. However in some people (people with anxiety) the ‘on’ button is a bit more sensitive.
Because of their need to stay safe and to prepare against the next threat, people who struggle with anxiety are compelled to have a plan. They are driven to make sure everything has been organized to keep everyone safe, happy, and out of trouble. They’ll make sure everyone has what they need.
The need to control for everything that might go wrong is hard work. For the same reasons that drive anxious people to make sure that everyone has what they need, everyone is looked after, that things are under control and the likelihood of anything turning bad is minimized, we might also feel controlled.
As a loved one of someone with anxiety, we need to see it for what it is. It’s the need to feel safe by planning, preventing, preparing or controlling the possibility of something threatening happening
– not the need to control us. We might get frustrated – that’s okay – all relationships go through that. Having compassion doesn’t mean we have to go along with everything put in front of us, but we can talk things out if we need to.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive