According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million Americans live with anxiety related disorders in United States each year, making anxiety one of the most prevalent mental health issues nationally.
– by Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC / Talkspace Therapist
Tons of people in the United States and beyond cope with moderate to severe anxiety issues. It goes without saying that the impact can be widely felt by those that surround them.
Exemplified by excessive worry, rumination as well as panic (for some), anxiety disorders can be incredibly debilitating the individuals diagnosed but also the family and loved ones surrounding them. If your partner is struggling with anxiety on a daily basis it can feel like you’re living with the ghost of anxiety.
Loving someone with anxiety is not typically something that we talk about in the counseling field.
Usually the focus falls on supporting the person with the anxiety, but people don’t live in isolated vacuums. We have friends, loved ones, colleagues, and a host of other folks with whom we interact on a regular basis. And for people that support a loved one with anxiety, the impact of the disorder can be extremely difficult to deal with.
The stress resulting from consistently supporting a loved one can leave you feeling drained and exhausted. Psychologists have coined a term, compassion fatigue, that refers to this concept.
For families coping with mental illnesses such as anxiety, a caregiver who is often thinking of the best ways to support their partner can sometimes forget their own self-care. At some point they may feel like their supportive tank is running on empty. They may find themselves increasingly unable to offer the support their partner needs because of their feeling drained.
The American Institute of Stress indicates the following as some of the symptoms associated with compassion fatigue:
- Isolation and loss of morale
- Sleep disturbance
- Emotional intensity increases
- Cognitive ability decreases
- Behavior and judgment impaired
- Low energy and negative mood
- Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation
- Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted
- Loss of hope and meaning
If your partner is dealing with persistent anxiety, compassion fatigue may sneak up on you when you least expect it. You may find yourself exhibiting some of the symptoms mentioned above and it may be difficult to continue supporting your loved one as he or she cope on a day to day basis. If there are other family members who depend on you, like children, it is critical that you take some time to decompress and refuel.
The key to battling compassion fatigue is awareness.
Being aware that you’re running on empty can help you take he necessary steps to reassess your own needs. While you do so, you are creating a scenario in which you can be an even more effective support provider for your loved one and your family as a whole. While you should be there to care for your loved one as much as possible, it is just as important that your needs for rest and support are met as well.
Persistent anxiety is a pervasive and exhausting condition. Being a supportive caregiver for your loved one can be draining in addition to the other responsibilities that life throws at you.
Be mindful of checking in with yourself routinely to avoid compassion fatigue and continue to support your loved one to the best of your ability – anxiety is no one’s friend.
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