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By Emma Sullivan


There is no question as to whether anxiety has an impact on the relationships in your life. Whether anxiety is a new visitor, or you’ve lived with it for years – it’s hard balancing your anxiety and relationships. Anxiety is a very demanding and unwanted companion. When anxiety arrives, it expects to be given your full attention, not leaving much room for anyone else.

Relationships of any kind take effort, nurturing, and commitment. Something that can be hard enough in today’s busy world – but when you are fighting a battle with your mind, it’s hard to give anyone else the space and time that you just don’t have.

But it’s not impossible. It just changes things, and in some ways, anxiety can actually help you in relationships – stick with me on this!

Years ago, at 19, my anxiety arrived in dramatic fashion. I experienced terrifying panic attacks among other awful symptoms. I didn’t know what was happening, so to try and explain to friends or family was very difficult. I would cancel plans, or if I did go, I would want to leave. I didn’t know where to be. I didn’t even want to be in my own skin – so I can imagine I wasn’t great company! Friends dropped away quickly, and being somebody that loved to be social, this was a very lonely time.

It was a harsh lesson but looking back it was the best thing for me. I was released from the responsibility of maintaining friendships that were only surface level, not being invited to parties meant I could spend time recovering from the day, rather than using energy trying to pretend I was ‘normal’, it was actually a blessing.

I was extremely lucky to have met my now husband around that time. He was very patient and understanding, even though he didn’t understand what I was going through. It’s very hard to have a relationship with someone that has anxiety as the third wheel!

Family relationships were different (some made my anxiety worse) and I had to limit the time I spent with them, which isn’t always possible! Finding a way to maintain a relationship and keep your distance is not easy.

I have just turned 40, and although my anxiety still lives with me, it’s not full time! My experience taught me that most people just want you to be OK, they want to give you an answer or to know what will cure you. They may get frustrated because they don’t understand, they may want to spend time with you and feel you’re pushing them away. It’s good to let them know you are not asking them to fix things, but to just be understanding and to be there whilst you figure this part out. Let them know you love them and it’s not personal.

Living with anxiety is finding the balance between facing your fears in order to heal, and avoiding the situations that make it worse. Be kind to yourself.

‘Emma Sullivan is a blogger and trainee hypnotherapist from Dorset. Having lived with anxiety and depression, she is passionate about mental wellbeing and works to help others through the same.’

The views expressed by the contributor are not necessarily those of Anxiety UK, nor can we guarantee the accuracy of the information provided. If you would like to write a blog for AUK please email [email protected] for more information.

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