How Does Someone with an Anxiety Disorder Impact Their Peers?
A certain level of anxiety is anyone is normal, helpful even. For example, if we are anxious about an upcoming test it can motivate us to study. But when our anxieties, worries and fears get to a point where they are interfering in day-to-day life (such as with school, work, relationships, leisure activities), it could indicate some form of anxiety disorder. There are several types of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and social anxiety disorder.
As we mentioned above, relationships are one of many things that can be impacted by anxiety disorders. Here are some examples of how they can be affected:
- Some people with anxiety disorders get very anxious about being alone. They may need constant attention from, and contact with, other people. Some people may find this intrusive or “clingy” and find it hard to deal with.
- Because people with anxiety can have a lot of worries, sometimes this leads to suspiciousness of others – perceiving intentions and actions of others in a negative way. They might also feel more easily hurt by others. By seeing others in a negative way or reacting frequently to hurts, it can bring a lot of anger or distress into the relationship.
- Certain anxiety disorders can make it hard for people to be with crowds, crowded places or any social setting. This might make it difficult to spend time with peers who are interested in doing the types of things that are difficult for an anxious person.
- Some people with anxiety disorders can have a “wall” up to protect themselves from hurt and other negative emotions. This can get in the way of some important aspects of close relationships, such as warmth, reciprocity and genuine interest in the other person.
- Some people with anxiety disorders can be very indecisive. Some peers might be fine with this, others might find it frustrating.
How to improve relationships:
If you have an anxiety disorder:
- Be mindful of staying in the present when interacting with others.
- Remind yourself of the positive qualities about the people you are close with.
- Work on becoming more aware of the ways in which you interact with others so you can catch yourself when relating in a way that could be hurtful to the relationship.
If you know someone with an anxiety disorder:
Educate yourself about anxiety disorders so you understand what a person with an anxiety disorder experiences and the effective ways to treat anxiety disorders. For example, it is important to know that anxiety is not something that can be brushed away with logic. If you are trying to logically talk a friend out of their anxiety, you will probably be left feeling frustrated and impatient with that person, which will not be helpful to either of you.
If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, or know you do, it is important to meet with a reputable mental health professional, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, so that you can address your symptoms. If you know someone with an anxiety disorder it could also be helpful to meet with a therapist so you can educate yourself about it, as well as learn ways in which you can be helpful to that person.
If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.