How To Talk To Your Partner About Your Anxiety

by Meg Kehoe

Anxiety is daunting to live with. Some days it can be hard to handle the effect it has on you, let alone trying to describe it or explain it to your partner. Talking to your partner about your anxiety can seem impossible when you're feeling especially controlled by your anxious feelings, but according to relationship counselor and therapist Elisabeth Graham, it's possible. I spoke with Graham to get a better understanding on how to talk to your partner about your anxiety.

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, I know how daunting it can be to try and explain your struggles to someone who may or may not understand them. But according to Graham, breaking down your personal experience with anxiety into smaller pieces can help you describe it better to your partner.

Explain How It Affects Your Every Day

"If you're living with anxiety, you know that it affects your every day," Graham says. "And it can be stressful to think about telling your partner such a personal part of your life, but in order for them to truly understand, you have to explain how anxiety personally affects you."

To start, Graham recommends explaining to your partner how your anxiety affects your every day activities. "Anxiety can make simple activities like going out to dinner, or sharing your work, difficult for you," Graham says. Help your partner understand how it affects you by using specific examples. Whether your anxiety impacts the way you wake up in the morning, your daily routine, or something more specific, do your best to explain what your anxiety affects, and how it changes your day, even in the smallest ways.

Compare It To Something They're Familiar With

If you're unsure of how to help them understand, try comparing the way anxiety makes you feel with a situation they may be familiar with. From stage fright, to another phobia, if there's something that unsettles your partner, it may help to try and compare your anxiety to what unsettles them. "Anxiety feels different for everyone," Graham says. "Whether your anxiety feels like standing on the edge of a sky scraper, or walking through a deserted city late at night, or turbulence on an airplane, use an experience your partner is familiar with to help you describe your anxiety."

Explain That You Don't Always Have The Solution

After explaining your anxiety, your partner may want to help you find a solution. Unfortunately, there isn't always a solution when it comes to anxiety. "Be prepared to explain to your partner that anxiety is not necessarily something that can be fixed," Graham says. Though it may be difficult to help them understand the effects of anxiety, and the way it has a tendency to shift priorities and abilities in your life, helping your partner understand that anxiety is not a black and white problem with a trusted solution will in turn help them realize that there's no one thing that can "cure" what ails you.

Help Them To Understand Ways They Can Help

Though there may not always be a simple solution to your anxiety, you know the things that help you shift from anxious to calm when you're feeling at your worst. Graham recommends making a list, or providing resources for your partner to help them understand how they can help. "Writing out all of the things that help you when you're facing anxiety will not only help you, it will help your partner understand ways that they can help you through your anxiety," Graham says. Whether it's self care, kind words, meditation, poetry, a familiar scent, or something else, create a list of things that help ease your anxiety that you can share with your partner to help both of you in an otherwise stressful time.

"Often times, when you're living with anxiety, you can feel like your anxiety is a burden, or that it's something you should handle on your own," Graham says. "But by sharing your anxiety with your partner, sharing how it affects your daily life, you give your anxiety less power." If you're nervous to share this facet of your life with your partner, Graham recommends taking small steps, and running through how you'll explain things to your partner on your own, before you breach the subject with your partner. Having anxiety about discussing your anxiety is normal. Sharing your experience with your partner will only serve to help them understand you on an even deeper level, and build up trust in your relationship.