*Disclaimer: anxiety manifests differently in different people and it is subjective to individual people and it is unlikely that my exact experiences align with other people’s experience. *
“It feels like I am enclosed in an all-encompassing bubble, isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded by overwhelming feelings all of the time; even when there aren’t any feelings left to feel.”
Anxiety can be all consuming and tiring and having a partner with anxiety can in itself be difficult. My first and most important tip is that they don’t want you to fix them, they just want you to be there you know? Tell them that it will all be alright and most importantly that you are there for them. People with anxiety are often so susceptible to suicidal thoughts and low moods because of the constant worry and overthinking so just look out for them and try to make them happy okay? They need you even if they don’t always tell you.
My second piece of advice is try to be patient and not get frustrated, I know it must be super difficult because we need constant reassurance and struggle with change and say sorry a lot and ask if we are annoying you so often it must drive you up the wall. We know they can often seem irrational- it’s just like thoughts, so many thoughts that race around your mind so intensely that they blur the other thoughts, they shine the brightest and are all we can think about and there’s so much thinking and you convince yourself that these thoughts have some level of truth in them. Try to remember, anxiety disorders are not purely caused by them and their thoughts – there are chemical as well. Those with anxiety really do know that their fears shouldn't bother them, but as hard as they try they can't stop, and expecting them to use logic to control their anxiety is so tricky. Telling us to “relax,” “calm down,” or that something is “no big deal” doesn’t help their anxiety.
Panic attacks. Don’t underestimate them please. Yeah, you might see them cry, or zone out and stop being present or be a little grumpy, I often have trouble with breathing. But you aren’t in their head. It’s mainly internal, it feels like nothing will ever be okay again and all the noises are too loud and lights are too bright, and you struggle to talk. It feels like how I imagine drowning feels, you feel the waves around you and suddenly a wave comes and engulfs you. It's like being caught in waves. They’re so powerful. They drag you down to the bottom and the water starts to feel like its filling up your lungs breath by breath. You’re separated from the real world whilst the sounds are echoing in the water and you feel so powerless and claustrophobic. In my experience, it is horrible but you can’t usually externally see that. It is important to know what they want in this scenario as it is often specific to the person, so ask them. Some people like being left alone, I like air and lots of it and if I’m with my significant other, I want hugs and hair stroking and told that it will be okay (lol I’m a bit needy) but just ask them and just do your best to make sure you’re there for them, you don’t need to lecture them or tell them to calm down, you just have to make them feel safe.
Remember to try and be proud of them when they improve. They'll be able to see it on your face- they’ll know if you feel disappointed in them. Remember that anxiety changes thought patterns and can make people think and feel much more negatively, which unfortunately
means that many of them are going to read your facial expressions, assuming you're annoyed with them or ashamed of them. Try and let this person know that they can talk to you without any fear of judgment. It's important to know that you're there to listen, and that you aren't going to judge them or change the way you think/feel about them based on anything they say - even if they say the same fear over and over and over and over again. Maybe let them call you if they ever have a panic attack or start spiralling as it can be incredibly comforting. Anxiety can make people feel lost and alone so knowing that someone is a phone call away helps.
I hope you found this somewhat helpful, we don’t want to be this way anymore than you want us to be this way but remember, you being there means the world and you really are our hero when you are there. Please gang, don’t put your own mental health after us however when you can be there for us, even if you don’t understand our feelings, you are good people. If you clicked on this article because you’re have a relationship/friendship with someone with anxiety and want to help then well done, you are a pretty amazing human