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When a Spouse Has Anxiety

When a Spouse has Anxiety

If your spouse has anxiety disorder, it can place a large strain on the relationship. In any relationship, couples must work through any number of hurdles. They may face differences on raising children, finances, and intimacy. Each of these can be enough to drive a wedge into the relationship, adding anxiety to this mix makes it all the more difficult. The normal challenges can become exaggerated and additional challenges and problems are added.

A survey by the Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA) the impact of anxiety on relationships is high. The survey was specific to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, however, the results may be similar in all types of anxiety. Some of the findings of the survey include:

  • People with GAD are two times more likely to have at least one relationship problem than those without anxiety.
  • Seven out of ten respondents indicated that their anxiety had a negative effect on their relationship with their spouse or significant other.
  • People with GAD were three times more likely to avoid intimacy with their spouse or significant other than those without anxiety disorder.

Anxiety in Relationships

The survey completed by the ADAA provides a glimpse of how the partner with anxiety views their relationship.  Many did not consider themselves to be in a healthy or supportive relationship and felt their anxiety stopped them from engaging in normal activities with their spouse. Overall, the anxiety seemed to permeate many different aspects of a person’s relationship and have a negative impact. Some of the specific ways anxiety can interfere with relationships are:


Finances are also considered to be one of the major reasons for problems within a relationship. Arguments about money are listed as one of the major factors impacting the divorce rate. In relationships where one partner suffers from anxiety, finances can be a major source of problems. Anxiety disorder can interfere with someone’s ability to either get a job or keep a job. When the entire financial burden is placed upon one person, especially if this is from necessity rather than choice, arguments and resentment can build.

Emotional Support

In every relationship, both partners look to the other for emotional support. Relationships, in which one suffers from anxiety, or another mental illness, can become lopsided. The person dealing with anxiety may require more support and their anxiety may interfere with their ability to offer support. The partner without anxiety may end up feeling angry or bitter, needing emotional support for their role within the relationship, but not receiving it. They may resent the other partner; resent the amount of attention they need, the amount of time and effort they require. At the same time, they may feel guilty about these emotions, intellectually knowing their partner is not purposely acting in this way, but emotionally deprived of their own needs. Depression, anger and fear are common and normal reactions in the partner without anxiety disorder.


Communication is an essential part of any relationship. Without it, couples cannot resolve conflict or deal with problems within the family unit. When anxiety disorder is a part of the relationship, communication may break down. Emotional needs within the family may not be met and resentment and anger may be part of everyday life. When this happens, communication is all but impossible.

Family and Social Activities

Routine household chores include shopping, running errands, vehicle maintenance and, when there are children, making sure children get to activities on time and attending sports events or recitals. These family activities can take up an enormous amount of time and energy. Keeping the events coordinated requires attention to details. When one partner is not able to participate in completing these routines, the entire responsibility falls on the other partner. This can leave one person feeling overburdened and burned out.

In addition to caring for the children and the household, the partner without anxiety may need to also care for the partner with anxiety, taking their anxiety into account and modifying family activities to be sure the needs of the person suffering from anxiety are met.

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