Anxiety affects family relationships, romantic relationships, and professional working relationships, and relationships with friends. Many people who experience anxiety do not know how far-reaching anxiety affects their relationships. Keep reading to learn about different types of anxiety, how they each affect relationships, and what you can do to minimize or stop it.
Types of Anxiety
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Social Anxiety
- Intimacy Anxiety & Avoidance
- Sexual Performance Anxiety
There are many more types of anxiety, but these four have a substantial effect on relationships.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Generalized anxiety disorder affects 3.1% of the US population, is twice as likely to occur in women, and only 43% of people diagnosed seek treatment. As its name indicates GAD sufferers experience excessive worry at work, at school, at home, and everywhere else. Anxiety can lead to depression, so it’s important to know the signs to watch out for.
Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Social anxiety is equally common in men and women and typically presents itself in the teen years. Social anxiety disorder, aka social phobia, affects 6.8% of the US population, and it can destroy relationships without treatment and counseling. People suffering from social anxiety have an intense fear of social rejection, performing poorly, or being judged negatively by others in social settings. A person with social anxiety is more likely to avoid activities with friends and even more likely to ignore emotional outreach from their partner.
Intimacy Anxiety & Avoidance. Fear of intimacy or intimacy anxiety is sometimes classified as a subtype of social anxiety. People with social anxiety typically shy away from emotional connections. When they find themselves in a relationship, their initial excitement and joy can turn into fear of rejection and disappointment. People with intimacy phobia will also avoid intimacy, physical contact, and seem to lose interest in sex and intimacy. Intimacy anxiety can also cause people to react negatively to praise and compliments, or harbor paranoia toward their partner for fear of infidelity.
Sexual Performance Anxiety. Many people assume that sexual performance anxiety only affects men. However, sexual performance anxiety affects both men and women. Just like customary performance anxiety that occurs with actors performing on-stage, people experience performance anxiety during sex because they fear they will not satisfy their partner. With men, this can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED), premature ejaculation, or intimacy avoidance. The expectation to perform sexually makes women anxious and fearful of rejection or dissatisfaction from their partner as well.
Anxiety in Relationships FAQ
If my wife ignores me sexually – does that mean she has anxiety?
There are a number of reasons that your wife could be feeling anxious sexually. Speak with her privately about your concerns over her intimacy avoidance or sexual anxiety and listen to what she has to say. You might find that she was not aware of the “ignoring” you perceived. In some cases, however, the anxiety may be caused by traumatic memories surfacing, stress, or other trauma.
My husband ignores me sexually and avoids physical contact – what type of anxiety could cause this?
Your husband may not even be aware of his behavior, so it is best to speak with him about it privately and openly. Sometimes we are so busy with our daily lives, we neglect our family and romantic relationships unknowingly. He may also be experiencing social anxiety, which can surface mid-life. It is also possible that he is experiencing male performance anxiety even if it was never an issue before. It’s also important to rule out any medical complications that can cause ED and decreased libido.
My spouse avoids me and doesn’t want to spend time with me – could it be anxiety or something else?
If your spouse has never experienced anxiety before, it’s important to rule that out first before jumping to paranoid conclusions like cheating or emotional infidelity. Sometimes just scheduling time for one another is all it takes to get the loving intimacy back again.
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- About ADAAA, Facts & Statistics. Retrieved September 29, 2019 from Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Retrieved September 29, 2019 from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/file_148021.pdf