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13 Tips From A Psychologist For When A Relationship Causes Anxiety

when a relationship causes anxiety

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” ~Anais Nin

When a relationship causes anxiety, we are groomed to believe our relationship anxiety is the problem. After all, anxiety can strangle love, suffocate it, tear it apart, leaving most of us to believe that relationships and anxiety simply don’t mix.

If we feel anxious, most of us believe we need to get ourselves under control lest we ruin our relationship. We don’t see anxiety as useful, we see it as a problem which adds pressure to the anxiety we are already feeling, and ultimately escalates it.

But what if anxiety wasn’t the problem at all, but was instead trying to tell us something? Something important that we needed to hear?

The most important thing to know about anxiety is that it isn’t dangerous, and nothing is wrong with you if you feel it. Anxiety can actually be a powerful help to you. It is a sensitive amazing tool we all have to pick up on potential threats to the things we care about most. What we do with anxiety can make the difference between it being helpful, or harmful. Anxiety wants to be recognized, and understood.

If your relationship is causing you anxiety, here are a few things to consider.

1. Anxiety in relationships is common. 

Especially if you are prone to worrying or are with a partner who doesn’t communicate clearly, anxiety will be a part of your relationship, and that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing. Social by nature, we are pulled powerfully to love, long to feel connected, and want to protect our connections when we secure them. It isn’t hard to feel anxious when we don’t feel connected, and also anxious we do feel connected, anticipating a time when we may not be.

2. Anxiety means you care. 

Fundamentally, anxiety means you care – we can only worry about things we care about – and relationships might be the most important thing to us. We care deeply about securing love, and keeping it safe. And we feel anxiety when love might be at risk. We want our relationships to work, and we also worry about not having them. It’s hard to imagine not feeling anxious from time to time when it comes to love. Worrying about our anxious feelings only confuses us, and blurs the message we need to hear.

3. Tune into what relationship challenge your anxiety is signaling. 

Take a moment to acknowledge and name how you’re feeling (this actually lowers your distress according to research) Are you feeling a normal amount of protective anxiety, or is there something more significant worrying you?

4. Separate personal worries from relationship worry.

Anxiety can be just about you, and insecurities you bring to every relationship, or anxiety can reflect stresses in the relationship. Determining reasonable relationship anxiety from your own insecurityis important, and not always as simple as it sounds.

5. Detangle your baggage. 

We all bring our previous experiences, or “baggage,” into relationships – we can’t help but do this. But fears and anxieties left over from our childhood or previous relationships can flare up in current relationships. Unrecognized baggage can confuse anxiety’s signal, and add to what might otherwise be a manageable anxiety load. This can make us more irritable, less patient, and quicker to react.

Recognizing your buttons are getting pushed, and that the situation is similar but not the same, can help lower your anxiety again, and direct your focus to the actual problems at hand – your communication, the time you’re spending together, how you are feeling. These are the stressors that deserve your attention, and your collective solutions.

6. Beware of anxiety from other areas of life bleeding into your relationship.

Anxiety is a squirly emotion that doesn’t always “respect boundaries” when it comes to areas of our life. If you are anxious in one area of your life, it isn’t hard to feel anxiety in other areas too. This is called overgeneralization, and it is a common symptom of elevated anxiety. If you are feeling stress in your life – even good stress like when you are striving for more – your relationship could be bearing the brunt of your increased distress about other things.

7. Carefully sort your concerns from those of others.

Beware of external pressures that can cause relationship anxiety. Family, friends, religious, and societal pressure can be real, and can lead to relationship anxiety. Expectations we take in from others can be insidious and often tough to differentiate from our own values. Pressure absorbed from others can create anxiety about needing to simply be in a relationship, often obscuring your focus on deciding whether this is the right relationship.

8. Know when anxiety is causing its own set of relationship problems. 

If you are fighting more, communicating less, or starting to feel strained by anxiety in your relationship, this is a good sign that anxiety’s energy isn’t being put to its best use. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when a relationship causes anxiety, even as anxiety is always trying to signal something important that deserves our attention. When anxiety’s energy isn’t channeled into problem-solving solutions, it will  fester and eat away at a situation until it is addressed. Anxiety will continue to escalate until we address it.

9. Recognize the motivation in anxiety to solve the problem. 

Instead of trying to ignore when your relationship causes anxiety, recognize the motivation it delivers to do something aboutthe problem. Are you worried about communication, constant unresolved fighting, betrayals of trust, or a lack of safety? Tuning into your rational concerns can deliver the information and energy you need to take constructive action.

10. Remember moderate anxiety can help you function at your best.

Contrary to popular belief, moderate anxiety can create the sweet spot of performance that allows us to strive for our best selves, and relationships. Not too little, and not too much, moderate anxiety can be a trusted partner in helping us strive to be our best. Anxiety keeps us focused on the things that matter most. Not just in our personal lives, anxiety can be a trusted partner in our relationships as well.

11. Prioritize self-care and wellness when relationship anxiety lingers.

When you are stressed, and your defenses are worn down, you can be more vulnerable to the negative symptoms of anxiety. Even if it’s not what you feel like doing, this is the time to limit alcohol, sleep more, heavy up self care. Proper sleep, wholesome nutrition, and physical activity will help keep your body and mind healthy, so you can harness your relationship anxiety most effectively.

12. Mind your attitude.

No one has ever claimed anxiety is a picnic, and feeling scared and confused can be deeply unsettling. But just because anxiety is uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. How you think about stress and anxiety determines how it will affect you according to science. Anxiety plays dirty when it comes to grabbling our attention  and motivating change. Keeping a positive attitude can help you keep anxiety productive, rather than letting it devolve into something that isn’t.

13. Know when to ask for help.

If detangling your anxiety or communicating effectively proves to be a roadblock, it’s time for help. Friends and loved ones can be a great support, but sometimes their guidance doesn’t always feel helpful. A professional therapist can help you detangle your feelings and work through the roadblocks that are holding you and your relationship back. Ultimately the goal of therapy is to help you understand yourself, and your relationships better, so that you can more clearly see and implement solutions that are needed.

If anxiety has become overwhelming, or you are struggling with feelings of hopelessness, here is where you can access immediate help now.

 

It is normal to worry about even the healthiest relationships, especially if worry comes naturally or if we have had reason to worry in the past.

When a relationship causes anxiety, try not to be spooked, or jump to the absolute worst conclusion.  Thinking about anxiety as useful, rather than a nuisance, can help you use it constructively.

Don’t be afraid to name that you care about your partner and your relationship; this sometimes can be anxiety’s most effective use, fueling communication and intimacy that ultimately protects your bond.

 

For more help with managing stress and anxiety, check out my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, register for my free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here, or check-out my anxiety and relationships blogs.

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

When a relationship causes anxiety

 

 

 

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

56 Comments

  1. Misty on February 11, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    I’m n a relationship to where it is a one way street. My feeling or thoughts don’t matter and if I bring them up it’s a big deal and causes a fight. It causes him to say things to me he shldnt. Like he doesn’t need me here. My anxiety level is out the roof bc of lack of communication and care…..someone help or give me advise I don’t want to leave but I may have to

    Mm
    Nm

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on February 21, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Misty, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about the anxiety you are feeling. It can be hard to understand what is happening with your anxiety and even harder to know what to do with it, especially if you are not feeling emotionally supported. I hope you have other people who are supporting you in helping decide the best next steps. Wishing you all the best, Alicia

    • Makayla on July 10, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      So is mine!! How do you stop your anxiety

    • t on March 5, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      I was in that kind of relationship…RUN!!!!! even though it is hard because you care.
      Run forest Run!!! lol, but I am being serious.

  2. Lizzy on March 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this. Even though I knew most of it already, it’s good to hear it from a professional. A lot of other blogs/articles on this topic caused me further anxiety by planting the seed that there is something really wrong with my relationship. Thank you!

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on March 9, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Lizzy,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m so glad to hear the post was helpful.
      All the best,
      Alicia

  3. Lee on March 13, 2018 at 6:52 am

    Is there a root incident i.e. Trama that can happen whilst within a relationship that can cause ptsd which then manifest into anxiety ?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on March 13, 2018 at 10:21 am

      Thanks for your question, Lee. Yes, any significant traumatic incident that has occurred in a relationship can generate understandable ongoing anxiety (for example, a spouse who has previously been unfaithful could generate anxiety when they engage similar avoidant behaviors to the traumatic incident). The trick is to notice the anxiety, rather than dismiss it, and look carefully for the signal it is sending. Once you are clear on why you are feeling anxious, it is easier to judge the rationality of your experience (i.e. is it something to worry about now, or is it simply a “ghost” from the past?) and what you should do with it.

      • Hayley on April 7, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        Thank you – that was helpful

        • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on April 11, 2018 at 1:48 pm

          My pleasure!

  4. Rose on May 2, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    I understand this article very well because I tend to be a worrier. Still, when I try to listen to what my anxiety is telling me about my relationship, I have a voice in the back of my mind saying “there is just something off. The man is great and you love him but something is missing.” I love him and see a happy future with him, but that “something is missing” feeling haunts me and I think it has to do with my many ambitions that I do not think my boyfriend would join me in doing. I am afraid that this feeling will not let us move forward in our relationship unless it starts to fade away. But I don’t know how to do that. I followed the trail to why I am anxious and that’s were it leads me. I just don’t know how to resolve it. All these other websites say that he is just not the right one and I have a hard time getting my head around it and it makes me go in circles on what is actually happening in my head and my heart. Any advice?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 7, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Hi Rose,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond.

      It sounds like you are tracking your anxiety and getting clear on what it is signaling – this is the best way to determine potential resolutions. Anxiety tends to resolve best when it fuels solution-focused action. So when you think about the things that are causing your anxiety, ask yourself what is in your control that you could do to forge a solution. Perhaps it’s a shift in expectations of him and your relationship, or perhaps a different way to think about your future and what you expect from a partner. The solutions that can effectively resolve your anxiety will always be in your control, and will have to do with you, not him.

      Wishing you clarity as you keep working your anxiety,

      Alicia

    • Adri on December 25, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Hello Rose,

      I am going through the same situation. I love my boyfriend but I get really bad anxiety when I think of the future. He is great to me. I feel like something is missing . I feel like I have to focus on work then think about a relationship. I wish I can do both but for some reason I feel like I have to let him go yet I see him as my future husband. I am so confused.

  5. Jalissa on May 8, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    Hi, I seen you ask someone in another comment, is there a reason to feel the anxiety or is it just a ghost that’s causing the anxiety. And in my situation it is a ghost that’s causing my anxiety to run its course but I don’t know how to stop it. I keep thinking what if he does it again what if he leaves me and his kids. Am I enough for him what if I’m not enough for him so many questions that I believe one day it will cause us to end and I believe it’s because of the anxiety

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 8, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Hi Jalissa,

      “What if he does it again” can be a confusing worry – both a legitimate, reasonable concern, and also a “ghost” from behavior you are no longer seeing. Teasing out what is a realistic worry, and what isn’t, is the key here. How likely is it that he won’t do it again? Are you seeing any similar behavior to the last time that could be triggering your anxiety, or are you simply unable to forget how scary the situation was when it happened? Are your feelings of not being enough at all like what you felt last time?

      Insecurity in a relationship is a horrible feeling, and one that often signals trouble at some level that needs addressing. You should never feel inadequate to a partner who loves you. You should feel enough, and safe. It is your partner’s job to show you that you are enough, and you can be sure of his love. And it is your job to assess if you should believe him.

      Anxiety often serves the function of keeping us honest with this delicate and complicated process. Try not to drown out your anxiety, but instead let it breathe enough that you can understand and use it. We may not like what it is signaling, but anxiety is always there trying to keep us safe, and protecting what we care about most.

      Warmly,
      Alicia

  6. Sarah Clare on May 9, 2018 at 3:53 am

    Hi, I firstly wanted to thank you for your posts….I have found reading them so helpful! I am a worrier and have been with my husband for 22yrs. I have always suffered with anxiety, however, since having our son 5yrs ago it has got slightly worse, to the point that my GP prescribed an SSRI. Although taking this helped I feel it has just masked my reasons for anxiety. I have recently weaned myself off the medication as its something I do not wish to be on. Since stopping I have been able to look at what is causing my strongest feelings of anxiety…..many years ago I had an affair and left my now husband totally in the lurch, he was devastated. We got back together and both feel it did our relationship good having such a break, however, I feel I am constantly living with the guilt of what I did and that is raising its head as quite a destructive form of anxiety at times. To be able to write this down is helping so much as it is something I have not discussed with anyone. I feel I can continue to work with what I have found and hopefully have a less explosive family life SSRI free! Thank you!

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 9, 2018 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Sarah Clare,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m so glad to learn my posts are helpful, and that engaging with them is helpful to you as well. I am a big believer in “naming to tame” when it comes to our feelings and experiences. Sounds like you have a good handle on the feelings that can still flare from time to time, and why. This is more than half the battle in being able to make more constructive choices with them. Understanding our emotions allows us to feel more control over them, and I hope you will continue to “decode” your anxiety when it flares – it is ultimately trying to protect you, and things you care about most.

      Wishing you all the best,

      Alicia

  7. Nicole on May 13, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I have a history an anxiety, but it has been under control for 6 years. I’m getting so frustrated in my relationship. It’s like he doesn’t understand me. I figured i’m a highsly sensitive person. He will continue to cuss and talk to me in a rude way and it makes me so upset. We bicker at eachother and have pointless arguments. I am super happy around my friends and other people, but when I go home to our apartment and around him I get anxious. He gets mad because i’m sensitive and says I shouldn’t be the way I am, but I can’t help it. I told him when he cusses or yells I get upset and start crying. He doesnt care. We have been on and off for 4 years and im finally thinking this isnt right for me. We planned to buy a house and have a child, but ai cant see myself living with him and dreading it. Of course I want a house and a kid in my future, but he makes it so difficult. That’s the only thing that is an issue in my relationship. We cannot agree that I am sensitive and dont like conflict. Example: he asks me where my keys are several times and I said why? He said just give me the f!ckin keys in a rude tone.. i said that hurt my feelings and he said stop being so sensitive just get the keys and lets go. I didnt end up going with him to store and that made him more mad and then we argued almost the whole day. Its just little things like that.. he has a temper and gets irritated when i take him somewhere and i dont know where things are. We went to an island and he got mad because i didnt know how to read the map and he was saying “use your f!cking phone! Are you stupid?” When he asks me questions and i take a few minutes to collect my thoughts and then answer he says “why are you so slow oh my god! Are you dumb?”. If we go to the store and i wonder off and start looking at things Im interested in he gives me a dirty look, shakes his head and walks away. Its like wtf? Everything i do he has a attitude and i just want to enjoy life with him but he has to have everything be perfect. So that’s why i am having this anxiety around him.

    • Stephanie on May 27, 2018 at 6:45 pm

      Nicole,

      Your anxiety is completely justified. What you are describing is abusive behaviour and anyone would experience anxiety being confronted in such a demeaning way. Get out before you get too deep. Relationships are complicated and it isn’t easy to see when abuse is happening and our feelings of love for that person can muddy our vision.

      I hope you can get help from a counsellor or support in some way and get yourself to a more peaceful place away from this abuse.

      • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 27, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        Hi Nicole,

        I’m afraid I agree with Stephanie that your anxiety appears to be completely justified, and most likely a signal your relationship may not be what you hoped it was. This is never easy to face, especially when it is not what you want or want to believe. And yet, your anxiety is there to protect you, and nudging you toward safety. It sounds like your partner has tremendous difficulty moderating his own irritability (and possible anxiety), but unfortunately isn’t taking responsibility for his behavior and is instead blaming you for his behavior. This is likely to get worse, not better, and I sense you understand this.

        I hope you can access the support you need to take a hard look at your relationship and do what you need to do to protect your emotional safety. We all deserve to feel valued, loved and respected, and when we don’t, it is our responsibility to look honestly at the situation, and be courageous in making needed change.

        Wishing you all the best in your path ahead,

        Alicia

  8. James on May 17, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    I tend to be an over-thinker so when I am in a relationship I tend to ruminate on one thing or incident. with my last relationship I was unhappy with the person so it made sense but I have recently started doing this in my current relationship and I am very happy with this person. I don’t know why I only get this form of anxiety in a relationship but once it starts I don’t know how to turn it off without being single forever.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Hi James,

      Rumination is a particularly tricky form of anxiety where thoughts circle on themselves and fuel more anxiety, not less. Often related to irrational fears or patterns of circular thought, rumination need not be triggered by a bad situation (or relationship). It is generally a habit people use when they are stressed, uncomfortable, or vulnerable – all of which are possible in even the best relationships. Of course, rumination can be triggered by familiar relationship patterns or “pushed buttons” as well. What makes rumination so unhealthy is that it targets situations or realities that are beyond our control, happening to us (ie, how she behaves, what someone said, what situation happened) rather than the things we are doing and those dynamics within our control.

      Breaking rumination habits can start with letting your anxiety fuel the things you have control over (ie how you think about things, how you react, what you aim to change). Anxiety is meant to harness focus and fuel action – the trick is to channel it into things within your control, rather than letting it keep you stuck fighting patterns you can’t control. There is excellent professional help out there too if breaking these patterns feels too overwhelming.

      Best of luck to you,

      Alicia

  9. talz on May 31, 2018 at 3:50 am

    Hi guys, let me just say I am in an amazing relationship with a man who is completely loving and supporting, I got engaged 3 weeks ago and my family wasn’t really positive about the whole idea ( I am an orphan) he got complete support from his family, I cried so much over it but I was okay, or so I thought. two days later after we returned back home, I woke up and I just had a thought, do I really love him and the anxiety has been out of control ever since, I find myself crying, my feelings are not even warranted, sometimes I am so numb, I spoke to him about it and he keeps reassuring me that il be okay, I started seeing a therapist I just want to be well, I love this man, I wanna be with him, we live together but sometimes thinking about him gives me panic attacks and it has never been like this. I don’t know where the anxiety is coming from, this is my first stable relationship and this man is so so loving and the whole thing is so devastating, sometimes I am okay and I see a bright future but sometimes I am just sad and anxious and I don’t know why. my doctor gave me a pill to calm me down coz I was at a point where I couldn’t even eat. I kept thinking if I leave the relationship ill be fine, but I love my person and there is no red flag in my relationship I just wanna get to the bottom of the anxiety

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on June 5, 2018 at 6:59 pm

      Hi Talz,

      Gosh it sounds like you are really struggling to understand how you feel about your fiancé, and the sudden anxiety you are feeling now that you have agreed to marry him. I’m glad you have sought the support of a therapist, and hope you getting more clarity as you continue your work. Since you mention you are an orphan, I am curious if your anxiety has more to do with potentially losing this great love of your life, than of making the right decision to marry him. Your family relationships are likely confusing to you, and it might be hard to process why they are not more supportive, and what their reaction means to you.

      Continue leaning on people you can trust, and those whose feedback make sense to you, and to your heart. You will work through this, and get to the bottom of your anxiety if you resolve to be patient with yourself.

      All the best,
      Alicia

  10. Chrissy on July 26, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    I’m very fussy and i finally met someone post divorce but I question if he’s not taking me seriously whenever he doesn’t do what I expect someone who wants me should do, if there are other women, I get anxious when I think I see changes to his behaviour.
    Then I ask if he’s right for me.
    I’ve decided the right man will accept the fact that I have anxieties, be patient with me and help me overcome my relationship fears by showing me that he’s sticking around. Ive never found myself wanting for male attention so I guess this doesn’t help either.
    The fact that my current relationship is long distance, he has a demanding job and he is very emotionally guarded makes things even harder. We’ve had a couple of close calls. I’ve backed off, he’s come through because I know he doesn’t want to lose me, only to slip back to where we left off. He has told me he gets frustrated with my insecurities but he understands- although I don’t know if he’s just saying it to appease me.
    I don’t know how long this ‘dance’ will contInue until we both wear each other out.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 13, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      Hi Chrissy,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. Long distance relationships are hard, and can make navigating relationship anxiety particularly challenging. Sounds like you know yourself pretty well and are asking the right questions. Healthy love, even if long distance, should make you feel more confident, not less so. Keep listening to your feelings and communicate them when you need to. Communication is one of the best ways to bridge the gulf of physical separation.

      Also, here is an article I wrote on managing and strengthening Long Distance Relationships. http://time.com/3957763/long-distance-relationship-tips/

      All my best,
      Alicia

  11. Lilia Robberts on August 14, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Walking down the halls of the university I go to made me so scared to go back to school. My heart was racing, and I wanted to break down and start crying. Thank you for letting me know that anxiety is common and isn’t totally bad. It’s true what you said, it is because I care. Maybe I care too much. Lately, I have been thinking it might be wise if I take a stress test. I want to make sure that I am being taken care properly for what type of anxiety I have

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on August 14, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Lilia.
      I agree that seeing a medical doctor, and even undergoing a stress test if recommended, is an important step in making sure your heart is healthy. Hoping your anxiety continues to clarify itself, and that the transition back to school improves.
      All the best,
      Alicia

  12. Maggie on August 23, 2018 at 2:22 pm

    Hi ! I’m having a really hard time with my anxiety in a new relationship I’ve entered. We’ve been dating for a couple months and now I’m becoming so anxious. He is such a sweet, smart handsome guy. I started out so confident but now that my feelings are deepening I find myself thinking I’m not good enough for him. I want to give this relationship a real chance but I’m worried my negative feelings will impact it. He tells me all the time how wonderful he thinks I am but now I feel less attractive than before I dated him. I don’t understand why because you’d think this would boost my confidence. What is going on and what should I do?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 3, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Maggie,

      Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you are in a tough situation of trying to understand your anxiety which isn’t always easy. Anxiety is a deeply sensitive tool that is designed to protect us, and I agree should quiet as a healthy relationship progresses. The right relationship helps us feel loved, adequate, and connected.

      Keep listening to your anxiety, wading through the irrational fears that you aren’t good enough (because you are), and tune into what else your anxiety could be signaling. Could you be picking up on his insecurities? Someone else’s? Trust your anxiety and use it to dig a bit deeper into what else it is signaling.

      If you are looking for more targeted help, you may also want to pick up my new book, Hack Your Anxiety, which has a toolkit that walks you through this process.

      https://www.amazon.com/Hack-Your-Anxiety-Make-Work/dp/1492664138/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

      All my best to you,

      Alicia

  13. c on August 26, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Hi

    im currently experiencing symptoms of anxiety nd hardly sure if it is a problem to attend to…. headaques, tens muscles, weeping for no specific reason , shaking……im in a marrige were my spous has been married before nd had 3 kids in the previous marrige….. nd we share a daughter together…. we constantly argue about the kids rules applied to them nd our daughter included… many occasion the tend to clash well as if i start to rise my opinion it becomes violent… so actually im in an abusive realationship aswell + i hav my inlaws living with me aswell …..etc what to do?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on September 3, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      So sorry to read about your distress. It is hard enough being in a challenging and stressful marriage, but an abusive one becomes particularly toxic and dangerous. An abusive relationship causes understandable and rational anxiety – you are in danger. This kind of anxiety doesn’t go away until you do something to protect yourself, and tends to escalate as you look for compromises that don’t solve the problem. It also sounds like you are feeling trapped by a family situation that is crowded and possibly unsupportive.

      I don’t know where you live, but if you are in the US, here are national hotlines that are monitored by volunteers and available 24/7 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Also, this website is helpful https://www.thehotline.org. If you live elsewhere, use the internet and a safe internet connection to find resources that are available in your area. Knowing what is around you that can help is an important first step in accessing safety for yourself and your family.

      All my best,

      Alicia

  14. Nelly on November 11, 2018 at 2:39 am

    I have a slightly complicated situation. For 3 years I was best friends with these two guys (for the sake of clarification I will call them A and B) . A and B and I did everything together. After having mutual feelings for A for about a year, we started dating. About a month into the official relationship, A decided he wanted a different girl, but instead of telling me this, he just told me I wasn’t good enough for him and I would never be good enough for him. Then he stoppped talking to me and a month later was dating this other girl. We haven’t talked since. It broke me losing someone I had loved, and also someone who was my best friend. B tried to keep his friendship with me, but I was too scared that he would also think that I wasn’t good enough to have in his life, so I shut him out. We didn’t talk for probably 6 months. Eventually B and I started talking and hanging out again, but I still refused to talk to or engage with A. Low and behold, there are now mutual feelings between B and I (it has been a year and a month since A and I last talked. I have not dated or had serious feelings for anyone till recently with B). B and I are not officially dating. B and A are still really close friends. I am terrified to get super close to B because I don’t want him to leave and hurt me like A did. I feel like having feelings for B is wrong since he is still so close to A, and I tend to push him away because I’m so scared of losing him too. This anxiety is starting to effect our friendship and I’m not sure what to do.

  15. Chris on November 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    My anxiety attacks up am afraid my wife going to leave me it seat off when I couldn’t get it up then she say thing now am afraid she leave me I want to doc she said I have anxiety I never had it thing go through my head I get cheast pains short breath she said she wont but I still get that feeling

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Sounds like the symptoms you’re describing are anxiety (racing thoughts, chest pains, shortness of breath, and guilt) but I would recommend you see a doctor to make sure. Chest pains and shortness of breath could by symptoms of other health conditions, and erectile dysfunction is easily treated through medication. Anxiety and sex seldom work well together, so my advice is to take control of your anxiety and do something with it (by getting yourself checked, making sure you are ok, and possibly getting some ED help).

      Wishing you all the best,
      Alicia

  16. Nia on November 19, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Hi. I had a long history with my boyfriend, we are together for more than one and a half year now. The first half of our journey was rough, for me… He used to continuously hide things from me, seeing girls he met from tinder, flirting with some of his girlfriends. Being caught several times lying, feeling guilty, he said he has changed himself now and wanted to be faithful only to me. It is true, we truly have great times together, we always have, and I never seen him doing anything “bad” anymore. But well, yes, he still hide some small things, but only to avoid arguments, because he know how insecure I can get over small things. Worst part of me now is that I get bad anxiety, like a panic attack where I feel suffocated whenever there is a triggering situation similar to past events of him having the chance of “secretly” seeing other girls. These trust issues is really bothering me, like “is it that he is really getting better at hiding his things” or “is it only in my mind and I’m destroying our relationship”. He was my only closest friend, the one I tell everything to. I don’t know if I can tell him this because it will hurt him, it makes me feel better to be able to write here though. Thank you Dr. Alicia.

  17. Sophie on November 27, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Hi! I’m in a perfectly healthy six month long relationship with an amazing girl. She has her issues but so do I, and together we make a great pair. A few months into our relationship, around the time we had our first kiss, I started having debilitating anxiety about the relationship. Sometimes I’m fine, but sometimes even thinking about her sends me into a panic. She’s so wonderful and I really want to make this work, but my anxiety is so bad I can hardly function sometimes. Do you have any advice for getting over these feelings? I’m suffering horribly with it, and I was hospitalized after the anxiety mixed with med changes sent me into a downward spiral.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on November 29, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Hi Sophie,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I don’t have any easy answers about how to get over your debilitating anxiety other than to ask yourself what is driving your anxious feelings. Are you afraid of losing your relationship – that she will reject you, or that you will reject her? Getting at the bottom of what you are frightened of is the only way to know what to do about your anxiety.

      Hang in there, stay curious, and keep asking the right questions. Also make sure to talk to her about your feelings too.

      All my best to you,
      Alicia

  18. JT on December 8, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Hoping you still read this. I broke up with an ex after almost a year because I felt I didn’t love her. It drove me crazy until I eventually gave up. I didn’t feel romantic love, but It was so hard to leave her. I did it for her sake
    7 months later we tried to have casual sex. I honestly didnt miss her that much, but I was still holding resentment towards her for something she did. Seeing her again gave me a flood of emotions. We argued about our past wrongs, and somehow it felt great to actually communicate. Somehow forgiving eachother made me feel close. I felt her love for me for the first time, as before I thought she was just an infatuated girl and that love was always temporary. Weeks later we decided to try to work it out. I have been thinking about this obsessively for several weeks of nonstop anxiety and depression. Still, I have my doubts about the future of the relationship. I still question if I love her or not. Sometimes I feel like I am falling for her, and sometimes I don’t feel like we have a connection. I would consider lust, but honestly I wasn’t that into her even when we first dated. But now, I am suddenly much more attracted to her. I tell her compliments and try to make her happy just to see if I am breaking out of wall. I had a really bad relationship years ago, and I still hold resentment towards it, and I want that to be the reason I feel unsure. I overanalyze everything constantly, even the feeling us males get of lack of interest after sex makes me anxious that maybe it isn’t love. But man, I care about this girl so much it literally makes me sick. I don’t understand my feelings. Why would I get so deeply depressed this month if I didn’t love her? I have so much fear of hurting her if this doesn’t work out. I saw a psychologist and but only one appointment so far. I just dont get it.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      Hi JT,

      Thanks for your comments. Sounds like you are asking all the right questions about your feelings, and doing your best to understand your relationship anxiety. Translating feelings isn’t always easy, and it sounds like in spite of your concerns, you are feeling a stronger sense of connection and love for her as your relationship evolves. It also sounds like you are struggling to differentiate between sexual attraction and love, and have understandable concerns about your feelings.

      Love is a complicated, and deep, emotion that evolves within a relationship and draws on so many of our early relationship experiences. You mentioned some of this in your comment, and I would recommend you continue to grow your inner understanding. I hope you will stick with the process of meeting with a psychologist so that your understanding will deepen. You may also find my book helpful on harnessing anxiety. The ebook will go on sale January 7 for $7.99 at Amazon. You can click here to get your copy.

      https://www.amazon.com/Hack-Your-Anxiety-Make-Work-ebook/dp/B07FPQN67M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

      In the meantime, you may also find my free ebook on naming emotions a help. You can click here to get your copy. on this link to. . I think it’s great that you are seeing a psychologist to help you deepen your understanding of your emotions.

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/ebooks/

      Wishing you all the best,

      Alicia

  19. AP on December 8, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Hi,

    My husband and I have been together for over 10 years. Unfortunately 3 years into our relationship my husband collapsed in the middle of the night, I found him and had to seek medical help – thankfully he is ok.

    This situation has seriously affected our relationship as I am constantly worrying that when it will happen again (it has happened several times per year for last 6 years). We are under a cardio specialist who assures us that everything is ok and no major faults with his heart. We still have an inconclusive reason as to what triggers these episodes. It can happen if my husband drinks alcohol, has an upset tummy, becomes stressed about something etc.

    With us having no real diagnosis, it has been hard for me not to worry and I suffer with anxiety surrounding whether he is safe or not. We have since had a child (2 yr old) and now have another one on the way. I am full of anxiety and dont like leaving our child with him. Id never stay out anywhere over night and leave my husband to look after our baby ‘just in case something happens’.

    As you can imagine, it is quite suffocating to feel like this and what should be the most joyful times of our lives is filled with unwanted anxiety.

    It effects us socially as I dont like him to drink alcohol, if he does then I dont sleep as I lie awake in case I have to deal with him collapsing. These episodes happen a few times a year without warning.

    How can I get over this? It makes me feel so unhappy in life yet logic tells me I have everything to be happy about…..married in a loving relationship with a beautiful family around me.

    Thanks in advance for any advice and tips.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 2:50 pm

      Hi Andrea,

      Congratulations on your pregnancy, and thanks for your comment.

      What a scary situation you described with your husband. I can certainly understand your anxiety about not knowing what might happen with his health, and if I read your comment accurately, what is the matter to start with.

      When it comes to health anxiety, I am a big fan of getting medical answers. I find that health anxiety is seldom irrational, and the best salves for it are answers. I know you mention you are under the care of a cardiologist, but I don’t like that you don’t have a diagnosis and yet your husband’s recurring episodes are severe enough that he couldn’t care for himself or your child.

      My best advice would be seek a second cardiac opinion. I’m not sure what you mean by, “no major faults with his heart,” for example. I am not a cardiologist, or even a medical doctor, but I do know there are other more lengthy tests that can be run (like heart monitors that record activity and can be worn for weeks at a time). At minimum, a cardiologist should be able to tell you what the episodes are, and how to manage them.

      Being young and growing a family, I think getting answers will help you and he feel more control over the situation moving ahead.

      You may also find Chapter 17, Facing Crisis, in my book, Hack Your Anxiety, helpful. In it, I describe several health anxiety situations and walk through how I have helped my patients tap into and use their anxiety constructively. You can get your copy here:

      https://www.amazon.com/Hack-Your-Anxiety-Make-Work-ebook/dp/B07FPQN67M/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

      Wishing you and your husband all the best,

      Alicia

  20. Mayank on January 1, 2019 at 7:17 am

    I had a friend whom I loved she also but due to some he leaves now we can meet and talk but all the time I feel what he is doing we will meet tomorrow , now I have a problem of head ache , no sleep , fast heart beat , repeated thought s can listen romantic songs , sad songs
    are always playing in in my mind what should I do ???

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on January 4, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and hoping the cause of your anxiety continues to clarify itself. Wishing you all the best.

  21. Claire on January 18, 2019 at 7:31 am

    Relationship causes anxiety when there is overpressure or loads of fight or misunderstanding between two people.i just read the article found it very informative thanks for the guide.

  22. Jerry on January 30, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    I recently broke up from a 4 plus year relationship with the girl of my dreams, I’ve always had anxiety and I’ve mostly always been able to deal with it. I never ever told her about my anxiety until after it was over. I wish I could get her to understand how anxiety works so that she would forgive me for acting so needy and insecure

  23. Geo on March 29, 2019 at 5:01 am

    Relationship for 8 years. My bf tried a lot, so eventually I said yes!That time I was in my best confident yrs, seeing friends and new ppl, going out. As time passed I started to see less new people, I had trouble with being myself more cos he didn’t really enjoyed going out for social interaction. Started to do more of the things he likes, like going clubbing and support him with his Dj career. Had lots of fights, his family tried to make him break-up with me. Even though I was getting deeply hurt by seeing how he would listen to them more than his feelings, I couldn’t leave him because I was pissed about the time invested and he was all that I was left with. Now I’m starting to see the needs I have from a man since I started seeing a therapist because of my panic attacks.
    We are making sex 2 times a month for 2 years now; he doesn’t initiate but he mostly never initiated sex if I look back.Started to ask to communicate more and I started to tell him about my needs now. He shuts down every time I get to talk about my needs. I get very anxious if I start thinking how he never asks me about what I want. I feel like he’s not happy with the relationship anymore too but I don’t know if it’s because he needs other things or he is pissed off that I’m ” waking up”.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for reaching out. I’m so glad to hear you are working on yourself and seeing a therapist. It sounds like you are working to understand the causes of your anxiety and practice delineating your needs. Good for you.

      I love your metaphor of waking up. I don’t know if you’ve read my book, HACK YOUR ANXIETY, but waking up is a metaphor I use throughout and ties to a personal story of mine that was life changing. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, here is a link where you can find out more. I have two chapters dedicated to relationships and understand from readers it has been a huge help to them, often as an adjunct to therapy.

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/books/hack-your-anxiety/

      Feel free to check it out, or also browse my relationship blog for other useful strategies and resources.
      Keep up the great work,

      Alicia

  24. Sophia on April 13, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    I came out of a 9 year toxic and emotionally abusive marriage. Now I am with a wonderful and understanding man however certain things trigger my anxiety in this relationship to the point where I feel frustrated with my own feelings. For example I need a lot of attention and quality time in a relationship and when he is busy it starts to bother me even though I know very well I shouldn’t be upset over this. We see each other twice a week and he lives very close but why do I have this quality time anxiety. I keep myself busy with family, friends and other things but those anxious feelings are in the back of my head once I am triggered.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 4:53 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Sophia.

      9 years is a loooong time to be in a relationship, and I’m guessing many of the concerns you are feeling now may be attempts to heal from it. You raise a good point about being triggered, and how to tease apart legitimate current concerns from the “ghosts” from previous relationships. Quality time seems to be one of those grey areas for you. I would start by asking yourself if the quality time you have with your partner is actually the quality time you’re seeking. What’s working, and what’s missing? That might give you a starting place to evaluate things a bit more objectively.

      I also dedicate an entire chapter to dating and relationships in my book, HACK YOUR ANXIETY, that is available at retailers in the US and Canada, and soon will be available on audio. Here is the link to the book page.

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/books/hack-your-anxiety/

      Feel free to check it out, or also browse my relationship blog for other useful strategies and resources.

      The most important thing is not to turn your back on your anxiety, and work to hear your worries rather than dismiss them. An abusive relationship erodes a sense of self confidence, and rebuilding a trust in your feelings could be a valuable tool in healing.

      Thanks again for reaching out, and wishing you all the best,
      Alicia

  25. Julie Lopez on May 4, 2019 at 4:26 am

    Hi! First thank you so much for addressing this topic, I personally really needed it. I am very in love with my boyfriend but I’ve had a super rough past consisting of being cheated on and just being dropped out of the blue. I’ve always had bad anxiety but going through these things have worsened it by a lot. In my relationship now I find myself often feeling confused about if it’s what I should be doing right now since I don’t feel like I’ve completely healed from my past. (but do we ever heal completely?) MY anxiety makes me doubt everything and makes me feel like I need reassurance from my boyfriend at all times that he actuallt wants to be with me. It’s starting to drive me crazy.

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I’m sorry to hear you are still feeling so anxious, and feeling insecurity that feels so much like it’s just you and your anxiety. It’s hard to know sometimes what’s causing our anxiety, and whether it’s something mostly current or something twinged by our past. It can be helpful to dig into your anxiety a bit further to get a bit more clarity. A few questions you might consider asking: what am I worried about exactly? What has given me the idea that I should be worried? Has anything happened, or are there things I’ve noticed that have me feeling uncomfortable? What are the situations specifically when I feel like I need reassurance from my partner?

      I have found self-doubt to seldom be a productive path – the much braver path is listening to our doubts and doing our best to make sense of theme and use them for solutions. While anxiety can be unhealthy and sometimes seem to come out of nowhere, it is seldom random. I hope you might continue to find more clarity in your feelings, not less. A healthy relationship should always make us feel more sure of ourselves, not less so.

      I walk through a great deal of this in my book, HACK YOUR ANXIETY, that is available online at Amazon, and other retailers. Here is the link to the book page

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/books/hack-your-anxiety/

      Feel free to check it out, or browse my website for more resources.

      Wishing you all the best,

  26. Kyle Fredriks on May 16, 2019 at 11:22 am

    Hey so just came across this article. I have someone currently in my life who I truly believe will be the last. However I fear my past is causing way to much anxiety. From she can do way better to Ik going to screw this up. Its been a real struggle. Is it because Im so damaged from my past relations?

    • Alicia H. Clark, PsyD on May 17, 2019 at 10:58 am

      Hi Kyle,

      Thanks for your question. Staying focussed on what are the probabilities, rather than all the possibilities, is key to managing your anxiety when it comes to resetting your expectations and learning to trust. Your past is real, and situations that feel similar to ones that were painful in the past, will signal anxiety to get your attention. Sorting through what to do with it will help you keep control. I discuss this in some significant depth in my book, HACK YOUR ANXIETY, available at major US and Canadian retailers. Here is a link to find out more.

      https://aliciaclarkpsyd.com/books/hack-your-anxiety/

      Wishing you all the best,

      Alicia

  27. Kelly on May 31, 2019 at 10:31 am

    I know this is over a year old but I feel the EXACT same way. It came out of nowhere and is debilitating. I can’t think about my boyfriend or enjoy anything we do because this horrible anxious feeling has taken over. I have really, really bad OCD and a therapist told me this is a form of it. It’s relationship ocd and I know that because I KNOW these are not my real feelings. I can’t even explain it but I hope it goes away.

  28. Amya on June 2, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    Hi I’m 17 years old and I been with my boyfriend for 7 months and I love him alot and really scared to lose him and I been getting so bad anxiety and like it scares me bc idk if it’s anxiety or if i am losing feelings but I do tend to over think alot and my anxiety kicks in and makes me want Me to like break up with him and leave him but I don’t want to I love him and idk what to do

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