Is anxiety killing your marriage?

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?

Anxiety can be a major detriment to your marriage.
Anxiety can be a major detriment to your marriage.

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.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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6 comments

johnO77 8 years ago

My name is Johnny, I'm 25 years old and I can't seem to get over my major trust issue. It effects my everyday life, I can't focus on school, on my business, my family, or my gf. I've always had bad trust issues with relationships, I honestly blame my self for all the gf's that have left me, or decided to run off with another guy. Luckily! The gf have I have now, has noticed my problem and loves me enough to be by my side. I feel horrible! She's never thrown up any red flags...but it seems like any slight deviation in my conversations with her, throws up all kinds of red flags that aren't even there! I start rambling on about nonsense, and throwing accusations. She's told me before that she has to walk on egg shells when she talks to me because she doesn't know if I'm going to over analyze (which I do a lot) what she said and start throwing those pitiful red flags. I know I have an issue..unfortunately it took us breaking up to realize that, but she was willing to take me back and help me through everything. But it seems like when I start to feel "ok" my mind just goes crazy..and I start to get really bad anxiety and I usually don't eat for a day or two.

yvonne 8 years ago

My husband has suffered from anxiety for several years, some days worse than others. Over the past year, he has become somewhat depressed as well because of the anxiety. He tends to attribute any "abnormal" physical feeling to the beginning of a panic attack, when then typically throws him into one.

unicor 8 years ago

So the basis of anxiety is fear. One must have clear what is causing the fear. Is it a REAL behavior from the other person? For example a gf or bf /husband/ wife, has gone out of the relationship and met some one else and even though you forgave her/him the behavior is in the back of your mind. The fear is from a real action from the other person, so you either determine to stay in the relationship and "fear" it can happen again ( which it could, if the cause is in the personality or lack of morals, lack of real love or lack of commitment from the other person and unless you confront that together and the other person changes it can happen again) or the other person can just be using you until they find "some one better", there are con artist out there that are great at pretending they "love" you until they obtain what they want, financially or emotionally and then leave you. If the cause is external, just removing yourself from the situation can calm the fear. The other person no longer has power over you. Of course there is something to work through and TIME is important to release your attachment from the other person. After all you may have been really in love with that other person either because you believed they were good and loyal or because you did not allow yourself to see the person as he/she really was. However make a list of the negative behaviors and personality traits of the other and tell yourself you can do better or at least is best to be alone that in that bad company. Eventually you will heal and let go. Do not go from one to another without getting to know more of the person. Give yourself some time alone to see clearly the other person before getting emotionally or physically involved again. You would be hurting yourself more. Is like playing with a gun loaded with one bullet. Or the anxiety-fear can be from past experiences when you were small, perhaps from negative experiences with parents or adults in your past, and you have the anxiety =fear internalized, fear of abandonment ( they left you alone and something negative happened), or some one abused you physically, or verbally. Or you suffered hanger or thirst. Or poverty ( lack of) So what needs to happen is to have clear in your mind the cause of the anxiety=fear. Then deal with it. If it is internal you need to confront the internalized past, either through counsel or by yourself. Auto suggestion or positive self talk works well. You can write down the cause of the fear and say. "I am aware that you fear of_______ are part of my make up. Now I release you, fear=anxiety. I do not need you any more, I understand how you came about and now in the present I let you go. I am strong, confident, perfect in my imperfection as all human are ( remember there is no human totally perfect), I am capable and no longer fear my past or my future. Repeat this many times until you believe it. Take a class in breathing/yoga and become aware how to release fear=anxiety through breathing/stretching. Go for long walks near a large body of water like the ocean, lake or river. Or in the mountains or a park. The important part is to breath deep as you do ( walk). It calms you down. Look at your fear in your mind and release it. Let it go. You are strong ( otherwise you would be dead already) and can conquer it. If you believe God is power request that power internally or ask for help through your church. If not, realize we are here in this life and this planet for a VERY SHORT TIME to learn to be happy. Give yourself permission to be happy. Enjoy music, dance, painting, meeting others, join a meet up group, take a class, there are free classes through community colleges. Realize you can help others conquer their fears when you conquer yours and share this information I am sharing with you. Good luck. And blessings

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, Yvonne - it can be hard to break that cycle. I hope he is able to talk to someone and get the help he needs. Perhaps this can help you as well - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/health-issues-harming-marriage/

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, John - I'm sorry you feel that way but it's important you recognize the behavior. I hope you find a counselor or a doctor to talk to in order to address the issue and hopefully resolve it. It sounds like you'd found a good woman!

Mike_Olsen_SMN 8 years ago

Hi, unicor - This is all good advice. It sounds like you have been in the position yourself.