Seeking support for your mental health?
While a strong relationship can enhance your life in just about every way, even the closest and most stable relationships can occasionally cause feelings of anxiety.
If you have relationship anxiety, you might constantly feel worried about certain aspects of your relationship, from your compatibility with your partner to the strength of their feelings for you.
While it’s normal to experience ups and downs in a relationship, relationship anxiety may have a constant negative effect on the way you think and feel about your relationship, even if it’s clearly moving in a positive direction.
A range of factors can contribute to relationship anxiety, from negative experiences in your past to issues such as low self-esteem.
Luckily, with the right approach, it’s almost always possible to overcome relationship anxiety and enjoy a healthy, trusting relationship with your partner.
Below, we’ve explained what relationship anxiety is, as well as the key signs that may signal you have an anxiety issue in your relationship.
We’ve also explained what you can do to deal with this form of anxiety, from techniques you can use with your partner to options such as talking to a licensed mental health provider.
Relationship anxiety is, as its name suggests, a type of anxiety that may affect the way you feel about your relationship with your romantic partner.
Unlike generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or specific phobias, relationship anxiety isn’t listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, it’s a fairly common issue that can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.
If you have relationship anxiety, you may frequently seek reassurance from your partner that things are okay, or engage in self‐silencing behavior.
While it’s generally possible to overcome relationship anxiety on your own or with your partner, you may also benefit from treatment options like individual therapy.
As just about anyone in a relationship can tell you, it’s common and normal to occasionally feel worried or concerned about how things are going with your partner.
This is especially true during the early stages of a relationship, when you and your partner have only recently developed a close bond.
It’s also common and completely normal to experience these feelings following an argument or disagreement with your partner.
Because relationship anxiety isn’t a diagnosable condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are affected by this form of anxiety.
However, most psychologists and other mental health professionals report that feelings of worry and anxiety about relationships are relatively common.
Some research has also found that this type of anxiety, when left untreated, can be damaging to relationships.
For example, in a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, a team of experts found that attachment anxiety — a form of anxiety related to a person’s feeling of closeness — drives volatility in daily feelings about romantic relationships.
This study also found that partners with high degrees of attachment anxiety were more likely to report lower relationship quality after conflict.
In short, relationship anxiety is both fairly common and something that’s important to treat for a healthy, happy relationship with your partner.
Because no two relationships are identical, there’s no one-size-fits-all list of signs of relationship anxiety.
However, many people with relationship anxiety experience similar feelings and concerns about their romantic lives. Potential signs of relationship anxiety include:
Feeling concerned about your partner’s feelings for you. You may feel worried that your partner doesn’t love you or care for you, even if you have a strong connection and real love for each other. This type of anxiety may develop after your partner doesn’t return a phone call or takes longer than normal to reply to a text message.
Worrying that your partner wants to break up with you. You might feel worried that your partner isn’t happy with your relationship and wants to break up, even if there are no clear signs of this.
Thinking you’re not important to your partner. You may feel concerned that you’re simply not important to your partner, or that your relationship is a relatively low priority compared to other things.
Finding it difficult to enjoy happy moments. You may worry about the future of your relationship excessively, even during happy moments such as a night out together or a vacation.
Obsessing over your partner’s actions. You may worry too much about small things that happen in your relationship, including completely normal things your partner does that you interpret as negative.
Sometimes, these feelings can change the way you behave towards your partner. If you have relationship anxiety, you might:
Sabotage your relationship. When anxiety clouds your thinking, you may respond by avoiding your partner, starting arguments or engaging in other activities that sabotage your relationship.
Excessively seek out reassurance. Research shows that people with interpersonal dependency — a complex that revolves around a need to associate with others — are likely to seek out reassurance to an excessive degree. You may find yourself often seeking reassurance from your partner that things are okay and your relationship is moving in the right direction.
Self-silence to please your partner. In order to avoid upsetting your partner or risking disagreement, you may start to self-silence by not fully sharing your opinions, thoughts and/or feelings with your partner.
Miss out on positive experiences. Over the long term, the changes that occur in your thoughts and behavior due to relationship anxiety can prevent you from having positive, memorable experiences with your partner.
Experts aren’t aware of exactly what causes relationship anxiety. In some cases, several unique factors may all play a separate role in feelings of worry or concern that have a negative effect on your relationship with your partner.
These may include your experiences in previous relationships, low self-esteem or other anxiety disorders that affect your mood and behavior.
Some research also suggests that your attachment style — the type of emotional connection you established as an infant with your primary caregiver — may contribute to relationship problems in adulthood.
For example, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that student-aged men with an insecure father-child attachment were associated with higher levels of anxiety and avoidance in romantic relationships.
The same study stated that young women with an insecure mother-child attachment style were more likely to display higher levels of aggressiveness in relationships.
Although anxiety can feel overwhelming when it occurs, it’s often possible to overcome anxiety in your relationship through changes to your thought patterns and behavior.
You may benefit from practicing clearer communication with your partner, being more mindful of your partner’s needs and priorities, or simply focusing on relaxing when you run into a situation that makes you feel anxious about your relationship.
Simple techniques to overcome anxiety, such as limiting your caffeine intake, taking some time to yourself, getting sufficient rest and exercising may help you to keep yourself calm and avoid worrying or overthinking about minor issues in your relationship.
When you feel that you’re acting purely on your feelings, it may help to give yourself a minute to calm down and think rationally.
If you often experience anxiety about your relationship, speaking to a therapist may help you to find out what’s contributing to your feelings and behavior.
Several different forms of therapy are used to treat anxiety, including individual therapy with an expert mental health provider.
Sometimes, the best way to overcome anxiety in your relationship is to take part in therapy with your partner.
Research shows that therapy with your partner is often effective at improving some aspects of relationship anxiety, such as self-silencing and reassurance-seeking.
You can start this process by talking to a mental health professional that specializes in couples therapy, either in person or online.
Since relationship anxiety isn’t recognized as an anxiety disorder in the DSM-5, there aren’t any medications that are specifically approved to treat this condition.
However, if you experience relationship-based anxiety as part of a larger anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder, your healthcare provider may suggest using medication to treat your anxiety symptoms.
We’ve discussed some of the most common medications used to treat anxiety disorders in our guide to anti-anxiety medications.
It’s normal to occasionally experience anxiety in your relationship, especially if you’ve only just started to see your partner.
While occasional anxiety is normal, constant, ongoing feelings of anxiety can have a noticeable negative impact on your relationship, making it important to treat them when they develop.
To overcome relationship anxiety, try implementing the techniques listed above by yourself and with your partner. Over the long term, you may start to notice a positive change in your feelings and thoughts that gives you a stronger, closer and more trusting relationship.
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Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.