What if you constantly question your seemingly perfect relationship? What if you’re looking for flaws, and assuming that things will fall apart any second, even though you have no valid reason for those thoughts?
Is it your gut telling you that something is wrong? Or, could it be that you’re suffering from relationship anxiety?
If you’re facing this doubt, you’ve come to the right place. You’re about to get all the info you need, starting with the definition of this condition, proceeding with its symptoms and causes, and finally, ending with the right treatment.
What Is Relationship Anxiety?
According to Karla Ivankovich, Ph.D., relationship anxiety is “when one or both people in the relationship spend more time in anxious thought about the relationship than tending to the relationship itself.”
Basically, it’s connected with over-worrying and overthinking your romance. It’s the situation when you question, analyze, and doubt every aspect of your relationship.
What Is Relationship OCD?
Relationship obsessive-compulsive disorder is “an OCD subtype that is characterized by ongoing intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior around uncertainty of a relationship.”
If you’re not an expert on the matter, these two terms sound pretty much the same. Well, they’re not.
Simply put, the key difference is in the intrusive thoughts and compulsive reactions that R-OCD brings. Basically, a person with dating anxiety will worry and obsess over something that bothers them in their relationship. At the same time, a person who is suffering from R-OCD will spend months or even years obsessing over that same thing.
8 Signs Of Relationship Anxiety
We’re all guilty of allowing the following thought patterns to get the best of us from time to time. But, how can you know if you’re dealing with relationship anxiety or whether these are just temporary doubts?
Well, let’s take generalized anxiety disorder as a reference. According to experts, it’s safe to say that a person suffers from generalized anxiety disorder if their excessive and chronic worrying lasts at least six months.
So, if you can’t get rid of the following symptoms for half a year or more, it’s safe to say that you’re suffering from dating anxiety.
1. Overthinking your relationship.
Have you ever caught yourself overthinking literally every word your partner says? Did they really think about what they said?
Or, were they playing? Did they tell you they love you enough times today? If they did, did they really mean it? Or, did they say it just to calm you down?
You even go into details about the tone of their voice. If they call you by your first name, something must be wrong.
And, l won’t even go into the ways you analyze every move they make.
Didn’t they look at you weirdly this morning right after they woke up? Isn’t that sign enough that they no longer find you attractive?
If they don’t pick up their phone the instant you call, hell will break loose.
You don’t have to necessarily tell them anything about your doubts. Nevertheless, I’m sure you’ll spend the rest of your day thinking about them.
Options are pretty much endless. Maybe they got tired of you. Maybe they’re being unfaithful. Maybe you did something to make them angry.
Does any of this sound familiar? If the answer is yes, you definitely have one of the first symptoms of relationship anxiety disorder.
You’re simply incapable of letting things be. You have to dissect every little thing in your relationship.
You analyze everything to the core. And, do you know what’s the worst part? You’re never happy with the conclusion.
2. Doubting your partner’s feelings.
It’s perfectly normal to doubt the other person’s intentions and emotions when they’re clearly playing with you. You have a boyfriend or a girlfriend who keeps on sending you mixed signals, doesn’t want to put a label on your relationship, or plays hot and cold games.
In that case, it’s natural that you don’t know where you stand.
But, what about feeling like this in a healthy relationship? In that case, we have a problem.
If you look at your romantic relationship from the outside, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. You have no reason to question your partner’s fidelity, feelings, or intentions about you.
Truth be told, they never did anything to make you doubt them. Besides, you’ve been together for a pretty long time now.
Should you doubt them?
Let’s look at things realistically: why would they spend years next to someone they don’t give a damn about?
Yes, this is exactly what your mind is telling you. Nevertheless, you can’t seem to chase your negative thoughts away either.
No matter how great they’re treating you, the truth is that you expect them to break up with you every second.
You can be having the time of your life, but then, all of a sudden, you wonder if they really love you. In that case, you’re probably struggling with relationship OCD, characterized by intrusive thoughts.
And, the nightmare doesn’t stop there.
You probably keep on asking your partner if they have fallen out of love with you, how much they love you, and if they would continue loving you even if you get paralyzed or something like that.
You go into the darkest possible scenarios and ask them if they would find someone new if you died, and stuff like that.
Acting out when you don’t get the response you expect is nothing unusual either. You have trouble controlling your emotions as much as you try to.
Let me break it to you: all of these questions annoy the hell out of them. They just want you to realize that they wouldn’t have stuck around if they didn’t love you, period.
3. Expecting the worst possible outcome.
Everything will fall apart sooner or later. Your partner will break up with you; they’re just waiting for the perfect opportunity to do so.
They’ll understand that you’re easily replaceable, and they’ll find someone better. They’ll break your heart into pieces and leave you crushed. You’ll never find a new relationship, and you’ll die alone and miserable.
This is your thought pattern… I can bet my life on it. You never see the good in things, and you always expect the worst possible outcome.
It’s like this with little things as well. If you two get in the middle of a silliest fight, you expect it to be the end of your long-term relationship.
If your SO listens to a sad song, you assume they’re reminiscing about their past relationship.
I know what you’re about to tell me. You’re preparing yourself for the darkest scenario so you don’t get too shocked if it really happens. And, if things turn out to be good, never mind… you’ll just welcome them openhandedly.
But, honey, trust me that this is not the way to protect your heart from getting broken. You’re torturing yourself with this negative thinking while you could be enjoying life.
4. Fears of rejection and abandonment.
What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to those who experience relationship anxiety? Being abandoned or rejected, that’s right.
I’m not talking about intimate relationships here only. Whether you like to admit it or not, you get a panic attack when you picture a loved one walking away from you.
But, of course, these feelings of anxiety get to you the most when you think about your SO abandoning you.
You think that it would be the end of the world. Your life would suddenly become pointless and everything else would lose meaning.
And, the worst part is that you have no real reason to think that way. You’re just terrified of that idea.
But, hey, let’s dig into that fear a little deeper. What if they really do? What if they leave you?
Would you die? Would it be the end of you?
I promise you that you’ll survive. Yes, you’d probably have a hard time getting over them, but trust me, you would keep on living.
People who sabotage themselves are subconsciously ruining their romantic relationships. You’re probably not even aware of doing this, but if you’re guilty of self-sabotage, you’ll put walls around you.
Basically, you’re not allowing yourself to be vulnerable in your relationship. Exposing your true emotions and letting the other person in all the way means giving them the opportunity to hurt you.
And, that’s the last thing you’re ready to do. So, you put up barriers and don’t become overly intimate with the other person.
Of course, I’m not talking about physical intimacy here. I’m talking about the fact that you don’t share your true feelings, fears, and hopes in order to keep them out.
Another common way people who experience relationship anxiety sabotage themselves is by breaking the relationship off out of the blue.
Basically, you leave your partner at the first sign of trouble. Do you do it because you think your relationship isn’t worth fighting for? Or, is it because you think you should have never started dating them in the first place?
No. You do it so they don’t have the chance to break up with you first. When that happens, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You knew things would end anyhow, didn’t you? Well, this proves that you were right all along.
6. Deeply rooted trust issues.
You can be in a happy, committed relationship that lasts for years without any special turmoil; however, regardless of this, you don’t trust your partner.
You don’t think they’re faithful, even though you’ve never found any evidence to prove your point. You don’t think they’re telling the truth, even though you’ve never caught them lying.
You’re convinced that they’re not being honest about their previous relationships, and you don’t believe they love you.
On the contrary, you think they’re just waiting for the perfect opportunity to backstab you and ruin your life once and for all.
You obsessively check their social media, use every chance you get to go through their phone, and double-check everything they tell you. Your possessive jealousy is taking a toll on your mental health and on your relationship.
If this is the case, you clearly have some serious trust issues that you need to start working on right away. Being careful is one thing, but living with this paranoia is completely different.
7. Emotional codependency.
The harsh truth is that you don’t love your partner in a healthy way. You’re actually addicted to them and to your relationship.
How can you test this? Well, you’re certain that the end of your romance would mean your spiritual death.
You’re so clingy that you can’t stand being away from your SO for a minute. If it were up to you, you two would spend literally every moment of your day together.
When you get into an argument, you get into a real crisis. You can’t breathe and you can’t think straight.
You feel that you need this person like you need air to breathe. You’re lost without them, and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to keep them around.
But, this is not the end of it. They’re the only ones who have the power to dictate your entire mood and wellness.
Everything could be going great in your life, but if you’re not on good terms with your partner, you have no will to live. On the other hand, if things are good in your relationship, the entire world could collapse right in front of you. But, guess what: you wouldn’t give a damn.
Your self-worth fully depends on their validation. If they compliment your looks or achievements, your self-esteem skyrockets. But, if they criticize you about something, you immediately feel like the biggest failure in the world.
Well, my dear, that means that you’re emotionally dependent on this person.
8. Commitment phobia.
Most will assume that commitment is a must for those who are suffering from relationship anxiety. Surprise, surprise, but things don’t always go in that direction.
In fact, a lot of anxious people are terrified of committed relationships. Actually, they have a condition called commitment phobia.
You’re not afraid of someone limiting your freedom or taking your independence away. You’re scared of getting overly exposed when things become too serious.
What if you fall in love? What if you start loving that person more than you love yourself? What if things go downhill? What if you lose them after you have gotten used to their presence?
You think it’s better to keep things casual. That way, you won’t get too attached, and you will face a smaller risk of getting your heart broken.
Besides, you can’t lose what you don’t have, can you?
4 Causes Of Dating Anxiety.
Not everyone has the same symptoms of relationship anxiety. Well, nobody got it for the same reason either. Here are the possible causes of this condition.
1. Unhealthy anxious attachment style.
Simply put, your attachment style describes the way you connect to other people. Therefore, an unhealthy style of attachment can be one of the primary causes of this type of anxiety.
These styles of bonding can be traced down to the type of attachment you had with your parent or primary caregiver as a child.
If you developed an anxious attachment style, then you’ve had unpredictable parents who didn’t meet your emotional needs. They behaved inconsistently in a way that they loved you at one point, but then neglected you the very next moment.
It’s easy to develop trust issues and fear of abandonment in this kind of environment. You’re incapable of being alone, and you’re emotionally dependent on your partner, which brings you to relationship anxiety.
An avoidant attachment style is typical for children whose emotional needs aren’t met. These people have trouble opening up, talking about their feelings, and committing.
On the other hand, there is a secure attachment style. Here, parents give comfort to their children, and at the same time, encourage their independence.
People with a secure attachment style rarely develop social anxiety, have high self-esteem, and at the end of the day, have a bigger chance of building happy romances.
2. Previous neglect or abuse.
Like it or not, we all carry our emotional baggage around. Your previous relationships have a stronger impact on your new relationship than you might think.
Yes, I’m primarily talking about intimate relationships here. Nevertheless, sometimes, you have to dig deeper and go back to the first relationship you ever had: the one with your caregiver.
If you ever felt unloved, unwanted, and emotionally neglected in any of your past relationships, you have a greater chance of developing relationship anxiety.
You expect that every relationship you get into will end up as your previous one did. Flashbacks from your past trigger your anxious thoughts.
You look for red flags in your current relationship so you can run for your life before it comes to neglect or abuse. Your negative thoughts are there because you’re terrified of history repeating itself.
As painful as this is to hear, the truth is that you’re used to getting abandoned. It’s the only scenario you’re familiar with, so it’s no wonder you expect it all the time.
3. Tendency to overthink.
Overthinking is in your blood. You don’t analyze your relationship only; you’re pretty much the same about everything in life.
No matter what you’re going through, you always expect the worst. Pessimism overwhelms you, and you don’t remember the last time your negative thoughts weren’t haunting you.
Overthinking is a part of your personality and, of course, you transfer it to your romantic relationships as well. You overthink, overlove, and over-worry about everything, let alone about something this important.
4. Self-esteem issues.
Finally, problems with low self-esteem can be one of the things that cause your relationship anxiety. For whatever reason, you think that you’re not good enough.
Your sense of self-worth is distorted. You don’t think you deserve anyone’s love and attention.
Consequently, you wonder why your romantic partner would stay by your side. If you don’t see yourself as attractive, intelligent, interesting, and valuable, how can you expect them to think that of you?
You assume that everyone sees you through your own eyes.
Basically, the relationship you have with yourself is not a quality one. Therefore, it’s impossible to develop a healthy relationship with anyone else.
How do I stop relationship anxiety?
If you want to heal your anxiety in the healthiest way possible, you have to follow these steps:
1. Identify the main cause.
The first thing you must do is figure out what’s the cause of this issue you’re struggling with.
Is it your attachment style? Is it your emotional baggage? Is it your self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecy? Or, is it your low self-esteem?
You can’t work on resolving your problem until you get to the bottom of it.
Analyze each one of these causes mentioned above and see which one you relate to the most. After you do that, focus on fixing that issue before anything else.
2. Practice your communication skills.
The next step is to work on your communication skills. I’m not talking about learning how to talk to your partner in a healthy way only.
Primarily, I’m asking you to learn how to talk to yourself. Learn how to admit your emotions to yourself, and most importantly, learn how not to judge yourself for feeling something.
When it comes to your SO, what matters is to tell them what you’re dealing with. Don’t be ashamed to name your problem and to talk about the signs of relationship anxiety you experience.
I’m not advising you to talk about this on the first date. After all, it’s quite an intimate matter, and you shouldn’t open yourself up that much to this new person you’ve just met.
Nevertheless, if you’re in a serious relationship, it’s something to discuss with your partner. Fear not… I promise that you won’t chase them away.
On the contrary, they’ll be relieved once they finally understand what’s behind some of your behavior patterns.
3. Learn how to control your emotions.
Rarely can anyone take full charge of their emotions and stop letting things bother them. We’re human beings, not robots.
However, it would be good if you could evolve to the point where they don’t control you either. The trick is to learn how to look past the emotion you have at this point.
I’ll give you an example. Just because you’re angry at your partner at this moment doesn’t make your entire relationship worthless.
You shouldn’t allow that negativity to overwhelm you, especially not to the point where you forget all the good things you share outside of this situation.
The best way to prevent things from bothering you is through mindfulness; a meditation method that helps you relax all of your senses.
4. Work on your happiness outside of the relationship.
Your relationship should make you happy, but it shouldn’t be the only source of your happiness.
So, what if the worst-case scenario comes true? Will you allow that one person to take away all the joy from your life?
As long as you’re doing that, you’ll continue to struggle with relationship anxiety. But, when you learn the importance of putting yourself first in your own life, things will drastically change.
That’s why you have to build your life outside of your romance. No, don’t neglect your partner, but don’t forget to be a person and not just their boyfriend or girlfriend.
I’m not telling you to prepare yourself for the worst scenario, but always make sure you have a life you can come back to if your relationship happens to fail. Make yourself happy no matter what!
5. Learn to love yourself.
You can’t expect others to love you when you don’t love yourself. Actually, even if you get all the love in this world from the outside, it’ll never be enough.
What you must do is stop connecting your sense of self-worth with someone else’s validation. You have to understand that you’re worthy of everyone’s love, especially your own.
Don’t worry…loving yourself over your partner is not selfish; it’s how things should roll. Practicing self-care and prioritizing your own happiness is not ego-centric; it’s how we should all behave.
4. Ask for help.
What if you’ve reached the point when nothing helps? Well, this means that it’s time to ask for help.
Yes, you can try asking your partner, a friend, or a family member to give you a hand. Nevertheless, always keep in mind that they’re not trained professionals. It doesn’t mean that they don’t want to help you; sometimes, they just won’t know how to do it.
The best thing you can do is talk with a mental health professional who will guide you through the entire process of healing.
You’ll probably engage in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), where your counselor will eventually help you change your thoughts, habits, and behavior patterns.
How do you deal with relationship anxiety?
The most important thing here is to take your problem seriously, but at the same time, not to see it as something that cannot be resolved. Be aware of the issue you’re dealing with and the gravity of the situation, but also have hope that you’re strong enough to fight it.
The worst thing you can do here is panic about the fact that you’re panicking. I know that this is easier said than done, but please, know that this will only make things worse.
How do I explain my relationship anxiety to my partner?
If you’ve decided to share your problem with your partner, firstly, you have to explain what relationship anxiety is. Talk to them about the symptoms, possible causes, and most importantly, about the way it makes you feel.
Tell them that you know that dating someone with anxiety is not easy, but that you believe you’ll work things out together.
Be completely honest, but don’t forget to tell them that your condition doesn’t mean you love them any less! Of course, don’t forget to work on your communication skills before doing the talk.
To Wrap Up:
I just want you to know that you’re not alone. In fact, you’d be surprised by the number of people who are struggling with relationship anxiety.
But, you know what makes you special? The fact that you’ve admitted that you have a problem, and the fact that you’re willing to solve it.
Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here, would you? You’ve already made the first, hardest step, and you should be proud of yourself for it!