Relationship Anxiety: Signs, Causes, and Tips to Overcome it

Relationships can be wonderful. They can be fulfilling, joyful, and…yes, stressful. In fact, few things in life can cause us the type of anxiety a romantic relationship can. While some stress is normal in life, acknowledging when things get hard and learning how to deal with relationship anxiety can help you establish healthy, functioning, rewarding relationships for years to come. Thankfully, relationship counseling online is easily accessible if you’re ready to start managing it.  

Read on to learn more about the causes of romantic relationship anxiety, what some of the signs and effects can be, and most importantly, what to do if you’re feeling anxious in a relationship.

What is Relationship Anxiety?

Relationship anxiety can come from difficulties you’re having in your relationship: You may be concerned about whether or not your relationship will last. You might be unsure if you can trust your romantic partner. You may even be struggling with commitment issues. The list goes on. All of these worries can contribute to relationship anxiety.

It’s important to understand that anxiety is normal. There’s a point, however, where it becomes a hindrance to any growth between two people. If you feel like your anxiety is interfering in your relationship, it might be time to seek help. 

When left untreated or unacknowledged, relationship anxiety can sometimes result in:

A lack of motivation, both personally and professionallyEmotional distress for one or both partnersEmotional exhaustionExtreme fatiguePhysical concerns like an upset stomach, headaches, neck and muscle tension 

Causes of Relationship Anxiety

There are many common causes of relationship anxiety. Understanding them can help you figure out how to better navigate the stress you might be feeling in your intimate relationships.

Past experiences

Negative past experiences can create responses in the future any time you feel a similar threat or fear. People who have been hurt in the past can become understandably wary in the future. It makes sense then that if you or your romantic partner had any trauma in the past, you might learn to carry the resulting fear into your future relationships.

Attachment style

Attachment style forms in our childhood years. Anyone who was neglected by parents or caregivers growing up may find that they question security in adult relationships. 

Attachment theory includes the following attachment styles:

Anxious attachment style: Questioning how strong your partner’s feelings are for you, or if you can trust them, is common when you didn’t get that foundational love and support as a child. Those who develop an anxious attachment style may wonder about their self-worth, be hesitant or on guard often, and worry about people they love losing interest in them. Secure attachment style: On the flip side, when parents consistently express their affection and love for their child, it’s common for a secure attachment style to form. Children with secure attachment styles might become clingy to the adults in their life or need reassurance about love in any relationship, including romantic ones in the future. 

Relationship counseling online or in-person can help you navigate a relationship if you have either attachment style. In fact, imago relationship therapy aims to focus on reworking your image of love from childhood.

Communication skills

Poor communication skills can affect virtually every aspect of your life. Not knowing how to communicate or trying to deal with somebody who can’t appropriately express themselves can be frustrating and overwhelming at times. It can affect your new relationship now and into the future. Learning how to have honest conversations and share feelings in a healthy manner can be a game-changer when it comes to knowing how to cope with relationship anxiety.

Low self-esteem

Many people suffer from low self-esteem and negative thinking. Not being confident in your ability to handle situations or feel secure in a relationship can have a significant impact on your anxiety. 

Negative thinking from low self-esteem can cause you to doubt:

How your partner feels about youHow much you deserve to be in a secure, loving relationshipHow much you can trust your partner

Tendency to question 

Questioning motives in any relationship is normal. That said, if your tendency to question your partner begins to interfere in how the two of you interact, it may be more of a problem than you think. 

Are you asking a lot of questions about the choices or decisions your partner is making? Do you spend an unusual amount of time worrying about your partner’s intentions? If so, you may be allowing your inclination to question become a guiding factor in your relationship, which might not be healthy. 

What Are the Signs of Relationship Anxiety?

There are dozens of signs that you’re experiencing relationship anxiety, both physical as well as emotional. 

What are the physical signs of relationship anxiety?

Rapid breathingIncreased heart rateSweatingTremblingFeeling weakHaving difficulty concentrating or focusing

What are the mental signs of relationship anxiety?

Questioning your partner’s feelings (even if they show you love) – Your partner seems madly in love with you and is constantly making kind gestures toward you, so why do you still question how much they love you? If you’re doubting your partner’s feelings to the point of fixation, you might have relationship anxiety.Questioning how much you matter to your partner – Do you question how much your partner would miss you if you were gone? Do you wonder what type of support they’d be able to offer you if you were struggling? Do you worry that they’re using you? These are all signs that you might be experiencing relationship anxiety.Self-sabotaging – If you feel that you’re not worthy of your relationship, you may try to actively find ways to self sabotage. This might even be a subconscious act, where you don’t necessarily realize you’re doing it. Meeting with an ex in secret, continuously accusing your partner of wrongdoing, picking fights, or finding other ways to create conflict can all stem from the anxiety you feel in your relationship. Lack of trust – If you have a basic lack of trust for your partner, and you find that you’re continuously searching for signs of infidelity or dishonesty, you might actually have developed relationship anxiety.Blowing things out of proportion – Do you: make a bigger deal out of things than you probably should? Find that you’re unusually angry about things that shouldn’t upset you as much as they do? Feel overly hurt about things that maybe were unintentional? These can all result from relationship anxiety.

What Are the Effects of Relationship Anxiety?

Feeling anxious in a relationship can have a negative impact on both parties. If you find that you’re always worrying, those emotions may trickle into every aspect of your relationship. Some of the major effects of relationship anxiety can be: 

Depression

Long-term relationship anxiety can easily turn into depression if it’s not addressed. 

Increased anxiety

One of the more difficult parts about anxiety is that it can increase in both intensity and frequency. This alone can be a motivating factor to get you to deal with your relationship anxiety.

Confrontation

The mistrust that anxiety can cause in relationships might result in unwarranted confrontation and conflict between you and your partner.

Controlling behavior

Much like confrontation, becoming controlling might be a way for you to try and manage your relationship anxiety. Ultimately, controlling behaviors can have such a negative impact on a relationship, you might end up driving a further wedge between you and your partner.

A self-fulfilling prophecy that ultimately ends the relationship

Sometimes, relationship anxiety and all of the symptoms that come along with it might eventually result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we’re not careful, our thoughts become our actions, and our actions become our realities. 

How to Overcome Relationship Anxiety?

There is some good news about understanding how to deal with relationship anxiety. Once you can identify and acknowledge it, you can find ways to overcome it. Let’s explore some tips for learning how to cope with relationship anxiety. 

Talk to a therapist

Therapy can be great for any type of stress. That goes for relationship anxiety too. Both individuals and couples therapy have been found effective in helping when one or both people in a relationship are experiencing anxiety. Therapists can help you cope, so you can move past your anxiety and focus on building a stronger connection with your partner.

Focus on your thoughts

Learning to manage how you think can be the first step in overcoming your relationship anxiety. Especially if you have negative thoughts or self-esteem issues, or if you have a tendency to make assumptions about your partner’s motivations and intentions, you can learn how to change your thought behaviors to better your relationship. 

Because relationship anxiety is so often a result of consistent, excessive worrying, therapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very successful in building skills to heal your relationship.

Manage your physical symptoms

Self-care is always a great practice, regardless of what state of mind you’re in. It’s essential that you learn to manage your physical symptoms by recognizing them and taking steps so they don’t take over. 

If you’re finding that you have an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or trembling, mindfulness techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and even working out can all help. Getting enough sleep and eating healthy are other ways you can manage the physical reactions you have to your anxiety.

Focus on your actions

Being aware of your behavior means you can change it. For example, if you know you have issues with trust and you’re acting out because of them, you should learn to redirect your energy. Beyond that, you can find out why you aren’t trusting your partner. Finding productive and healthy ways to deal with a lack of trust can help you in many facets of life.

Practice positive communication

Poor communication might be one of the biggest factors of stress in a relationship. Therapy can help with this as well. Being able to effectively communicate can alleviate anxiety, as you learn how to address it before it gets out of control.

Try to be mindful

Meditation and other mindful practices like journaling can help all kinds of anxiety. Having an outlet and being able to center and ground yourself are amazing skills that you can apply to many areas of your life.

If you experience anxiety in relationships and need help managing it, reach out to a licensed therapist from Talkspace today.

Sources:

Simpson JA, Rholes WS. Adult attachment, stress, and romantic relationships. Curr Opin Psychol. 2017;13:19-24. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352250X16300306Nguyen DT, Wright EP, Dedding C, Pham TT, Bunders J. Low self-esteem and its association with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in vietnamese secondary school students: A cross-sectional study.  Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:698. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00698/full

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