Anxiety can be a crippling burden, and even in minor instances, can cause numerous problems in interpersonal relationships, motivation, self-confidence, and the ability to face the outside world.
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness, affecting some 40 million adults in the US alone, and yet they remain widely untreated. Only about one third of individuals suffering with anxiety disorders seek treatment, though many types of anxiety disorders are highly treatable.
The forms and levels of severity are broad, and many people experience anxiety differently, but regardless of how the problems manifest, we know that uncontrolled anxiety wreaks havoc on relationships, especially marriages.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that people with anxiety disorders are twice as likely to experience problems in their relationships. But why?
There are two main factors that contribute to the paralysis and struggle that anxiety brings: intense anxiety is both overwhelming and deeply personal.
When the entire world feels overwhelming, even terrifying, it becomes difficult to maintain a job, to open yourself up to others, or even be willing to try out new experiences. When you feel overwhelmed, you tend to build up emotional “walls” to protect yourself from the harm you perceive lurking around every corner, and that makes it all but impossible to form the bond necessary for a happy marriage.
Anxiety is also, by definition, very self-absorbed. It has everything to do with “me, me, me.” How someone’s statement is hurtful to me. How my needs are unmet. How a situation could be threatening to me. And what’s worse, this problem is usually apparent to the person struggling with anxiety, and becomes yet another thing to lament: beating themselves up for the their own inability to see past themselves.
These problems can manifest themselves in withdrawing from communication, wallowing in self-pity, and even trying to convince a spouse that you’re beyond help. Anxiety can be an emotional rollercoaster ride, alternating between quiet suffering and lashing out at the cruel world they perceive.
This lack of stability and predictability can be exhausting for a spouse, and coupled with some of the other problems caused by anxiety disorders (perceived threats, lack of social interaction, difficulty finding and keeping a job, irrational fear, excessive worrying, etc.), the strain can be too much for a marriage to survive.
So, if any of this sounds familiar – like experiences you’ve had, feelings your spouse has expressed (or you’ve observed), or even if your friends, family, or other loved ones are dealing with these problems – seek help!
It can be difficult to admit a problem, or to convince someone with a problem to seek diagnosis and treatment, but your marriage depends on it! Without any kind of treatment, anxiety will continue to bear down, chipping away at the enjoyment you find in life, reducing your willingness and ability to connect with others, and pressing you into a dark corner that takes all of your strength to escape.
Don’t let the anxiety sufferers in your life become part of that untreated statistic. It can (and will) get better with some expert help. If it goes unchecked for too long though, it may just strangle your marriage with fear, doubt, and isolation.