6 things highly anxious people do to their friends and partners without realizing it

How anxious you are as a person often comes down to a combination of your genes and your environment.

Unfortunately for me, I have an incredibly anxious mom. So regardless of whether it’s biology or my upbringing that’s to blame, it means I have a natural tendency to stress.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about anxiety is that even when you recognize its futility, you can’t seem to talk yourself out of it.

Even worse, it’s not just our own well-being it impacts, it can also affect those around us in ways we don’t always consider.

Being both an anxious person myself, but also growing up with an anxious parent, I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

I understand how crippling anxiety can be for the one suffering from it. Yet I also know how difficult it can be for a loved one who has to deal with that too.

Here are 6 things highly anxious people do to their friends and partners without realizing it.

1) Stress them out too

Sadly, a bit like the flu, anxiety can also be contagious.

Living with anxiety can be emotionally draining, not only for you but also for those around you.

Even if you try to keep it to yourself, we tend to pick up on these things subconsciously, as social psychologist Rosie Shrout explains:

“Not dealing with stress can create a negative cycle where partners “catch” each other’s stress. This happens because stress is contagious – when our partners are stressed, we become stressed. Think back to an argument that escalated quickly. You might have “caught” one another’s stress during the argument, which made you both feel even more frazzled and made you say things you wouldn’t have otherwise said.”

2) Undermine them

The consequence of being a worrier means I’m very organized. I pay attention to the finer details. On the plus side, that can be a useful skill.

But my obsession with the finer points can mean that even when I do trust my partner to do things, I don’t always act like that.

  • Asking several times whether someone has done something
  • Checking up on a task they’ve done “just to make sure”
  • Going over details again and again

Sound familiar?

When I do this, I know it comes from my anxiety and wanting to make sure all is okay or going to plan.

But when someone is on the receiving end of that, they can feel like you’re saying they’re incompetent or incapable.

It seems like you don’t trust them to get on with things. It can feel very undermining.

That’s especially true if you can’t let go and need to control everything.

3) Be a bit controlling

Control can help us all to feel safe. That’s why research has shown that a sense of control is associated with better physical and psychosocial health.

But this desire for control exists on a spectrum. And as pointed out by WebMD “People with anxiety disorders feel a need to control everything around them in order to feel at peace.”

That can quickly lead to micromanaging as we’ve just seen. It can also mean you find it difficult when you’re not in the driving seat of your relationships at all times.

This often causes an imbalance of power.

Partners and friends may feel like everything has to be done your way. They may feel like they get far less choice and you are the one who makes all the decisions.

When control really takes hold in a relationship, it can bring a lack of trust and jealousy issues that spiral.

4) Make honest communication harder

Because I know what an anxious person my mom is, I never tell her anything anymore.

Well, only the highlights reel.

Whilst I’d like to be able to share both the bad and the good of my life, I don’t feel like I can.


The simple answer is that it’s not worth the hassle.

When we’re struggling with something we understandably want support and comfort. We don’t want even more stress pilled on us.

When an anxious person takes your stress on as their own, it magnifies what you already have to deal with.

This makes honest communication a lot harder. Partners, family, and friends may feel like they have to shield an anxious person from certain truths.

At best this makes open communication more challenging, and at worst it can lead to secrecy and lies.

Whenever you can’t talk openly, misunderstandings and misinterpretations are more common.

5) Become overdependent on them

When someone is suffering from anxiety they may end up relying more heavily on their partners and friends for reassurance and validation.

Maybe you find it difficult to be alone, so you seek company more often.

But for loved ones, that might feel clingy or needy sometimes. They may want some space, but feel guilty for asking for it.

Your anxiety may have knocked your confidence. So you find it difficult to trust yourself to make decisions and always want guidance on what to do.

Really you are just looking for support, but it can manifest in destructive ways that push people away.

Over-dependence can place a burden on your loved ones, impacting their own emotional well-being.

6) Neglect them

6 signs youre in a relationship with someone who emotionally neglects you 6 things highly anxious people do to their friends and partners without realizing it

People deal with anxiety in different ways. So whilst some may become over-reliant, others will withdraw.

As anxiety becomes overwhelming you may cancel plans, isolate yourself, or stop communicating with people about what’s going on and how you feel.

Sadly, that can leave your partner and friends feeling disappointed, neglected, or excluded in your life.

When you’re already struggling with your own feelings, you may not always have the bandwidth to deal with anyone else’s.

That can make it harder for you to fully empathize with the emotions and experiences of your loved ones.

As a consequence, they may start to feel even more unheard or misunderstood.

It’s not your fault, but you can do things that will help

First things first, anxious people do not want to be anxious. So it’s not as though we purposely do these things to our friends and partners.

Piling on guilt and shame about how your mental health may be impacting people you care about will only do more harm — to both you and them.

You did not ask to feel this way. The people who love you want to be in your life, and that means embracing all that you are.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t be more mindful of how we behave and the consequences that has on our relationships

1) Try to talk openly about anxiety

The more you can educate yourself and your loved ones about the potential impacts of anxiety, the better.

The best way forward is to encourage open dialogue.

That means creating a safe space for your partner and friends to express their concerns or frustrations.

It’s not going to work if you all get defensive as soon as you tell each other how you feel.

Creating a non-judgmental environment will foster greater empathy, understanding, mutual support, and open communication.

It’s vital for both you and your loved ones to be able to express your needs, wants, and fears with one another.

Importantly, everyone needs to feel heard.

2) Practice active listening

If we want to be able to really connect and understand one another, we need to get better at listening.

Active listening is about making a conscious effort to listen to your partner and friends without judgment or defensiveness.

In this article, you’ll find some tips on how to deeply listen.

This can help build greater trust and strengthen your relationships.

3) Create healthy boundaries

Our boundaries in relationships are like the rules we agree to live by.

Set clear boundaries so that everyone understands what is expected of them, and what’s not okay.

For example, after my partner told me that he feels undermined when I check up on him when he’s doing a task, I know to be mindful of this.

When temptation strikes for me to stick my nose in, I remind myself that this autonomy is an important boundary for him.

Once you understand how everyone feels, you can set your own unique boundaries based on problem behaviors that cause frustration in your relationships. 

All relationships benefit from this, whether anxiety plays a role or not.

At the end of the day, boundaries provide a solid structure for successful connections.

4) Find ways that work for you to help reduce your anxiety

Some people can overcome their anxiety, while others simply learn to live with it.

Either way, effective coping strategies that minimize its impact are needed.

What works best for you will likely depend on how anxiety affects you. It can take many forms.

Some options you may want to consider include:

  • Mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and other stress-busting techniques
  • Exercise and diet
  • Therapy
  • Seeing your doctor for medications

Final thoughts

This article may be about how anxiety affects those around us, but remember:

The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to feel happy in yourself.

That’s why it’s important to prioritize self-care activities to manage your anxiety effectively.

This will not only benefit you but also contribute to healthier and more fulfilling relationships.




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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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