It’s Complicated: Anxiety and Relationships

It's complicated - Anxiety and Relationships

Maintaining healthy relationships with others requires a lot of effort, but this can be challenging when you’re struggling with mental health issues. Dating can already stir unpleasant emotions and comes with the risk of getting hurt or being disappointed. Anxiety in romantic relationships can cause even more stress and fear that impacts both partners and creates an unstable relationship.

At some point in their lives, everyone experiences dating stress or trouble communicating with their partner. However, if anxiety is creating constant tension in your relationship or encouraging you to avoid relationships altogether, there are steps you can take to overcome anxiety about love and improve your dating life.

What Is Relationship Anxiety?

Relationship anxiety refers to feeling intense worry or fear about a relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic. Most people experience some nervousness about relationships. They may worry about not being accepted by their partner or having their feelings reciprocated. This normal dose of worry or fear can develop into anxiety when it becomes excessive and starts to negatively impact your relationship.

Some signs that someone is experiencing relationship anxiety include:

  • Worrying the other person is cheating or lying
  • Fearing the other person likes someone else better
  • Pushing others away first to avoid getting hurt or rejected
  • Avoiding serious conversations due to fear of conflict
  • Overthinking every conversation, whether it’s in person, on the phone or through text
  • Feeling anxious about sexual or emotional intimacy
  • Worrying anxiety is negatively affecting the relationship
  • Avoiding relationships outright

Unlike other forms of anxiety, relationship anxiety doesn’t have its own set of guidelines or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria. However, it has some similar characteristics to social anxiety disorder, particularly when it comes to experiencing significant discomfort and fear about rejection. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 12% of American adults experience social anxiety at some point in their lives.

How Anxiety Can Impact Relationships

Understanding how your mental health influences your behavior can lead to healthy, long-lasting relationships. When it comes to anxiety and dating, there are a few ways your mental health may impact how you approach relationships and interact with your partner.


People with anxiety are prone to overthinking, hyperfocusing on worst-case scenarios and having an intense fear of rejection. This can lead to clingy and codependent behavior, such as seeking out constant communication with a partner and getting anxious if they don’t respond quickly enough. They may also shut down or struggle with effective communication.

One study published by Cambridge University evaluates the effect of social anxiety on romantic relationships. Many respondents in committed relationships reported being more critical of their partners during negative interactions. People with anxiety may feel anger toward a person they feel dependent on or lash out in destructive ways if they become worried or anxious about their partner’s behavior.

Emotional Intimacy

In that same Cambridge University study, many respondents reported feeling high levels of interpersonal difficulty, including lower levels of emotional intimacy and feeling like their partner didn’t listen to or understand them. This can result in disclosing less personal information to your partner, which may make the relationship feel less trusting and more confining. It can also cause your partner to feel less comfortable opening up to you about their feelings.


To prevent anxiety in romantic relationships, some people may avoid that connection altogether, even if they desire it. They may pull away from people or engage in self-sabotaging behaviors before the relationship gets serious. This can cause others to perceive them as being cold, apathetic or emotionally unavailable.

If a person with anxiety is in a committed relationship, they may avoid serious conversations due to their fear of conflict. However, avoiding communication and not being honest with your partner can lead to constant worry about them leaving or hiding something from you.

Coping Strategies for Anxiety in Romantic Relationships

Having anxiety and being in a relationship can be difficult, but effective coping strategies can help you pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from and feel more secure about your relationship. Here are a few tips for dealing with relationship anxiety.

Be Honest About Your Feelings

Expressing your feelings while anxious can feel overwhelming, but it’s necessary to sustain healthy relationships. When addressing conflict, start by taking responsibility for your actions without blaming your partner.

It’s also important to recognize that while your feelings are valid, they’re not always facts. For example, consider whether your partner is actually trying to hurt you or your anxiety is heightened. Having a conversation about it can deepen your relationship and build more trust.

Use Self-Care Techniques

Anxiety can cause physical symptoms, including rapid heartbeat, light-headedness or chest tightness. Using self-care techniques can ease your anxiety and help you develop a healthier stress response. Examples of self-care techniques include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Guided meditation
  • Yoga
  • Journaling
  • Talking with a trusted friend or family member

Work on Building Trust

Trust isn’t built overnight, and it may take time and practice to feel comfortable being vulnerable and opening up to others. Try reaching out to trusted friends or family members, and talk to them about what’s making you anxious or bothering you in general. This can help you feel more comfortable talking about your feelings, which is essential to building healthy relationships.

Ask for Help

Several treatment options are available for managing anxiety, including therapy and medication. A therapist can help you process your feelings and uncover negative thought patterns affecting your relationship. Attending couples counseling with your partner can also help with improving communication and learning new problem-solving skills to deal with relationship conflict.

Some people may prefer medication for managing symptoms of anxiety. Some of the most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac and Lexapro, or benzodiazepines, including Xanax and Valium.

Seek Support for Relationship Anxiety

Open communication is essential to maintaining healthy relationships when you have anxiety, but it isn’t always easy to do. At Restore Mental Health, we offer numerous therapies that can provide the support you need to overcome anxiety and build better relationships with your loved ones. Contact us today to speak with one of our compassionate counselors and learn how our services can help.