How to Support a Partner with Anxiety

Being in a relationship with someone who has anxiety can sometimes be challenging. As a partner, you want nothing more than to see them happy and thriving. Witnessing their struggles can be heart-wrenching, especially when you feel powerless to help. However, your support can make a significant difference. Here are some effective ways to support your partner:

Ask How You Can Help

Before jumping in to help, ask your partner what they need. Anxiety can make unsolicited assistance feel overwhelming. Phrases like, “How can I support you right now?” or “Is there something specific I can do to help?” show respect for their boundaries and allow them to guide you on how to be most effective.

Be Present

Instead of immediately offering advice, be present and listen. Your partner may just need a compassionate ear rather than solutions. Advice like “Just breathe” or “Calm down” might seem helpful but can be frustrating for someone dealing with anxiety. These phrases can make them feel misunderstood or alone. Focus on providing a non-judgmental space where they can express their feelings without fear of dismissal.

 

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Ask Them How They’re Feeling

Encourage your partner to share their emotions. Ask open-ended questions like, “How are you feeling today?” or “What’s on your mind?” This invites them to open up about their experiences and feelings. Sometimes, simply acknowledging and validating their emotions can provide immense relief.

Learn About Their Triggers

Understanding what triggers your partner’s anxiety can help you avoid inadvertently causing distress. Talk to your partner about their specific triggers and work together to create strategies to manage them.

Encourage Professional Help

Support your partner in seeking professional help if they aren’t already. Therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can be incredibly beneficial for managing anxiety. Offer to help them find a therapist or accompany them to appointments if they find it supportive. Schedule an appointment today.

Overcoming OCD: Steps to Stop Compulsions

Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) often involves a relentless cycle of compulsions that can either pop up sporadically or dominate your entire day. These compulsions might manifest as physical actions like excessive handwashing, checking locks multiple times, or mentally through behaviors such as seeking reassurance or ruminating over fears. Handling these compulsions is exhausting and can feel like a battle you’re stuck in.

Step One: Uncover the Patterns of Your OCD

The journey to managing your OCD effectively begins with understanding the specific themes of your intrusive thoughts. A practical first step is keeping a detailed journal. By documenting your intrusive thoughts alongside the compulsions they trigger, you can start to see patterns. This recognition is vital—it’s like mapping out the battleground so you can strategize effectively.

Step Two: Confronting and Disarming Your Fears

Identifying your fears is crucial, but the real challenge lies in diminishing their power over you. The essence of breaking free from compulsions lies in changing how you respond to these fears. The goal is to reach a point where these fears no longer drive you to perform compulsions.

Case in Point: Facing Fear of Contamination

Take, for example, the fear that bringing home germs could make your family severely ill. This fear might lead you to avoid touching anything when out shopping and to wash your hands repeatedly until they feel “clean”. This behavior, though it feels protective, is driven by an overwhelming fear of illness.

To challenge this, it’s necessary to shift your perspective. Consider the reality that most illnesses are common and generally not severe. Even if it does become severe, chances are your family will likely be fine. By accepting this, the fear loses its grip, and the compulsion to wash your hands excessively or avoid public places can decrease. It’s about embracing a more balanced view—acknowledging that while illness isn’t desirable, it’s a manageable part of life.

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Broadening the Approach

This method of directly addressing and rationalizing fears can be applied across all types of OCD—be it fears about harm, sexuality, relationships, or contamination. By confronting the base fear, the compulsions lose their urgency, making it easier for your mind to move past them without looping back continuously.

Navigating Forward

Adopting a mindset that tolerates uncertainty and discomfort is key to overcoming OCD. This doesn’t happen overnight—it’s a process that involves gradual steps and often professional support. Remember, every step forward, no matter how small, is a move towards regaining control from OCD. Patience and persistence are your allies on this journey toward recovery.

Seeking Professional Guidance

While the strategies discussed here are a great start, personalized support from a mental health professional will make a significant difference in managing OCD. At our practice, we specialize in helping individuals navigate their OCD challenges with comprehensive and compassionate care. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule your appointment with us today. Together, we can work towards a life where OCD no longer defines your day-to-day experiences.

 

 

Navigating Relationship OCD (ROCD)

Navigating a relationship can be challenging enough, but when you add Relationship OCD (ROCD) into the mix, it can seem like an overwhelming wave of doubts and fears. ROCD manifests in a variety of ways, often placing immense stress on both partners. The two most prevalent types of ROCD include doubting your love for your partner and fearing their infidelity. Let’s dive deeper into these patterns and explore some approaches that might help alleviate the mental turmoil.

 

“Do I really love them? Is this relationship right for me?”

These questions can haunt someone with ROCD. Imagine this: your partner has planned a perfect picnic, the weather is gorgeous, and everything looks like a scene from a romantic movie. Despite recognizing the effort, your mind wanders. You notice every minor annoyance, from how loudly they chew to their choice of attire. You start comparing them unfavorably to others, questioning if enduring these perceived flaws is worth it. This constant scrutiny can make you feel distant and indecisive about the relationship.

 

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Yet, the thought of breaking up feels just as scary. You might feel an uncomfortable void at the idea of being without them, which seems contradictory given your earlier frustrations. This paradox is a hallmark of ROCD, where your mind loops through doubts about compatibility while fearing the loss of the relationship at the same time. If breaking up feels more daunting than relieving, it’s likely that ROCD is playing a large role.

“Are they cheating? Do they truly love me?”

The other common facet of ROCD revolves around trust. You might find yourself dissecting every word and action, looking for signs of infidelity or disinterest. An offhand joke or a day spent apart can spiral into a vortex of anxiety and insecurity. Often, this leads to compulsive behaviors like seeking reassurance or snooping through personal items, which only serves to fuel the anxiety further.

 

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Acknowledging ROCD: The First Step to Healing

Realizing that these overwhelming thoughts are driven by ROCD is crucial. They are not reflections of reality but distortions created by anxiety. Understanding this can empower you to begin effectively addressing these intrusive thoughts.

 

Changing Your Inner Dialogue

When dealing with ROCD, the typical response might be to seek reassurance or to combat intrusive thoughts with counterarguments that emphasize your partner’s positive traits. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “Do I even want to be with them?” you might instinctively respond with, “I DO want to be with them. They are kind, funny, and I enjoy spending time with them.” This is a form of self-reassurance that, while comforting, can be counterproductive.

Instead, a more effective approach involves leaning into the uncertainty of your intrusive thoughts. Rather than trying to convince yourself of your feelings, consider responding with, “Maybe I don’t want to be with them.” Similarly, if you find yourself thinking, “That person is much more attractive than my partner,” resist the urge to immediately counter this thought with, “But my partner has a great personality.” Instead, acknowledge the thought: “Maybe that person is more attractive, or maybe my partner isn’t as attractive.” This strategy involves agreeing with the intrusive thoughts, which might seem counterintuitive, but it helps to lessen their emotional impact over time.

The same principle applies if you’re stressed about potential infidelity. Instead of reassuring yourself by checking their phone or recounting their affectionate actions, try to accept thoughts like, “Maybe they are cheating on me. And if they are, that’s okay. I’ll manage.” This approach doesn’t mean you believe these scenarios are true, but by accepting the possibility without judgment, you reduce the urge to engage in compulsive checking and reassure yourself, which ultimately diminishes the power and frequency of these intrusive thoughts.

Moving Forward

Leaning into your fears and accepting intrusive thoughts without immediate counterarguments allows you to deal with them more rationally. It reduces the urgency and anxiety surrounding these thoughts, making them less intrusive over time. ROCD can be a tough wave to ride, but with awareness and proactive coping strategies, navigating it can become more manageable. Remember, seeking professional help like therapy can also provide significant support in dealing with ROCD. Schedule an appointment today.

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Children of Divorce: Preparing for Changes

Divorce and separation is difficult for children. Everything they know to be true about the world can change in an instant. They no longer get to see both their parents at the same time. They may have to move to a new home or meet new caretakers. In some instances children have to spend more time away from one of their parents than they ever have before. 

Topic: Transitioning To and From Houses

Because routine is so important to kids, this break in their routine often brings up strong and difficult emotions. Children might become overwhelmed when they have to transition from one home to the other. They may even refuse to go to the new home or become flooded with emotions, have more outbursts or be defiant on transition days. To help prepare your child(ren) for this day, I suggest reading a book like Two Hug Day.

Two-Hug Day

This book is written for 0-6year olds and can be found for free online. It was created by the makers of Sesame Street as part of their “Sesame Street In Communities” initiative. The book is hosted on their “Dealing with Divorce” page. What I love about this book is it’s heartfelt way of viewing the transition day 

from one house to the other. The authors give it an affectionate label, “Two-Hug Day”, a day when children of divorce get to hug both parents. The one whose home they are leaving and the one whose home they are going to. The other great thing about this book is that in reading it, you and your child(ren) can come up with some ideas to ease the struggle of switching between homes. Since it is part of the Sesame Street family, there are also endless resources available for free to be used alongside this terrific book. Read this book with your child(ren) often, as you begin to discuss divorce, especially in the time leading up to the first “Two-Hug Day” and those to follow.

Suggested activity: The Two-Hug Day Ritual

As you plan for the first “Two-Hug Day”, read this book with your child(ren) and create your own “Two-Hug Day” ritual. Make sure it is something that can be repeated every “Two-Hug Day”. This can be as simple as picking out a toy or stuffed animal that goes with them every time. It could also be more complex, including food, books, dancing or music. The book offers some suggestions as well. The key is to involve your kids. Extra points for making it fun and creative.

If your child is struggling to work through a recent divorce or separation, it is also important to know when to get help. You do not have to support them alone. Counseling can be a great way to help your child cope with big feelings that divorce and separation bring up. I am here to help. Contact Ellie Today!

Children of Divorce and Separation: Blame

When two parents decide to separate it can be earth-shattering for the kids involved. As a result, kids might feel angry, sad, lonely, or confused. As parents, it can be hard to help kids understand what is going on and why. One strategy I find helpful as a therapist is to use books to help young and elementary-aged children talk about the difficult topics surrounding divorce. 

Topic: It’s Not Your Fault

Many kids blame themselves for their parent’s divorce. As a result, they might feel more on edge and struggle to enjoy time with one or both parents. To tackle this misperception, consider reading a book like, “Was It The Chocolate Pudding?”

Was it the Chocolate Pudding?

Written for kids ages 3-7, this book can support or help you and your partner initiate conversations with your child(ren) about divorce. The young boy in this book thinks his parents divorced because of the mess he and his brother made with chocolate pudding. As he begins to understand his feelings and some of the changes that happened when his parents divorced, the reader is clued into words and emotions that come up when divorce happens. Another wonderful feature of this book is a “Note to Parents” from  Dr. Jane Annunziata, a psychotherapist specialized in supporting parents in divorce situations. In her note, she speaks about the emotions of small children when divorce happens including, Explaining Separation and Divorce to Children, Helping Your Child Cope, and On Healing and Recovery. 

Suggested activity: I Love you Snacks

After reading this book with your kids, make an “I love you snack” together. 

I Love You Chocolate Pudding Flower Cups 

1 package of instant pudding.

2 cups milk or milk alternative

1 cup cookie or graham cracker crumbs

4 flowers on stems or lollipops or other stemmed item

Green Sprinkles

Instructions:

  1. Make pudding according to instructions on box using the 2 cups
    of milk. 
  2. Divide pudding into 4 small dishes. 
  3. Layer each pot with additional ingredients in order. As you and your child(ren)add each new ingredient name how it adds love to your pudding flower cup. For example, you might say, “We are going to make an I Love You Pudding Cup Today. Each time we add a new ingredient, let’s name the love you need in your pudding cup today.” You might start the process by labeling the pudding itself as a big pudding hug. The crumbs might be kisses crumbs, the flower might be a playful flower and the sprinkles could be laughter sprinkles. 

Of course sometimes love looks a little different and it requires us to witness crashing crumbs, prickly flowers and sprinkles of tears, just so we can get them out in the open and talk about them. No matter what type of love goes into your flower pots, provide space for your kid(s) talk and ask any questions they have about your divorce/separation while you eat your yummy snack together. 

If your child is struggling to work through a recent divorce or separation, it is also important to know when to get help. You do not have to support them alone. Counseling can be a great way to help your child cope with big feelings that divorce and separation bring up. We are here to help. Contact Ellie Today!