On the outside your spouse or significant other probably seems like the most put together, high achiever, all around superwoman/superman they are. But deep down, they may be suffering with racing thoughts, or feelings of doubt, fear, anxiousness, and worry.
Dating someone with high functioning anxiety isn’t always obvious. In fact, it may even be surprising when someone who seems to have it so together suddenly seems so not together.
You might not even know that your partner experiences high functioning anxiety until well into your relationship—because they were doing their best not to show they were having problems with anxiety.
If you do realize that your partner is dealing with HFA, you’re likely one of the only people who knows just how much they’re struggling on the inside, despite being a shining star at work or the president of multiple organizations.
Either way, this can sometimes really hurt your relationship with them, either because they suddenly seem not themselves, they take on too much and sacrifice time with you, or depend on you too much to put themselves back together and put a strain on your relationship.
If you’re dating a person with high functioning anxiety, you may notice that they approach relationships a little differently.
Your partner may be reluctant to talk about how they feel or really let you in, which may lead to arguments or miscommunication. Or they may put too much pressure on you for support because you’re the only person who knows how difficult it really is for them.
Even as a high functioning anxiety coach, I still find myself struggling in my personal relationships with friends and family.
Dating with anxiety can be scary for those who struggle with high functioning anxiety because we often feel like we may not be measuring up to our partners needs. Even though we seem like the overachieving type, we are constantly overanalyzing every word or action in our relationships.
Some common signs that your partner may have HFA include:
The truth is, HFA is more than just feeling anxious. You may notice that your partner is highly sensitive to criticism or that you’ll leave them for minor things. Your partner could also seem very isolated and closed off at times because letting people in on how we’re feeling can open us up to judgement that we’re not ready to receive.
Despite being extremely loyal and loving to the most important people in their lives, those of us that struggle with anxiety can often feel underappreciated in our relationships. We often put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to make loved ones feel happy but often have a hard time receiving help or affection in return.
You might be surprised that your partner may be dealing with anxiety, especially if they don’t display the common symptoms of traditional anxiety. High functioning anxiety is a different type of anxiety disorder and requires a separate diagnosis because they aren’t the same.
Coping with stress and anxiety is different with high functioning anxiety. If you believe that your partner experiences HFA, you may notice that they have developed coping mechanisms over time that help them hide their anxiety or overwork to prevent rejection and failure.
Those with HFA might even believe that they have successfully developed coping mechanisms over the years to control their feelings of anxiety. But those coping mechanisms could be causing them to feel more anxious and stressed, which often has a big negative effect on their relationship with you.
People with anxiety tend to struggle with the ability to open up and talk about their feelings. People with HFA believe they are too much and that their thoughts and feelings will overwhelm their loved ones. Often they are afraid of letting other people down, so talking about how they actually feel can be challenging, which can hurt communication in a relationship.
Encourage your partner to be open with you about their feelings and be a supportive listener. People with HFA tend to think in absolutes so helping them pull back and see a bigger picture. People with HFA tend to think in absolutes so help them pull back and see the bigger picture. Remind them of their strengths and remind them that how they’re feeling in the moment is also okay. People with HFA may lack self compassion, so being compassionate and gracious in the moment can also remind them to do the same for themselves. Most importantly, do not try to fix the situation, although it is hard, listening with compassion and kindness is the most helpful.
If you feel that your partner is starting to close off or notice that they are isolating themselves more to create boundaries, remind them to A.S.K.
When you ask your partner how they are feeling, remind them to be kind and gracious to themselves and to take a moment to stop and acknowledge their feelings. It helps to be supportive and remind them that it’s okay, and very human, to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Sharing my podcast episode about the A.S.K. method can be a helpful way for them to learn how to cope with their high functioning anxiety more productively than the habits they’ve built up over time.
Even though we want the best for our partners and our relationships, we just can’t do it all of the time. A professional high functioning anxiety coach can help in the areas that you may not be able to and take part of the burden off of you too. Encourage your partner to seek advice from an anxiety coach to help them learn techniques to deal with HFA.
Dealing with HFA alone can seem like a whole new monster on its own, especially if you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it. Because those with HFA often won’t reach out for help on their own, helping your partner realize they need help and where to get it can be a huge step towards making your life together better.
I designed my coaching program to make it easier to talk through anxiety and learn techniques to deal with triggers of high functioning anxiety with Voxer support that your partner can use when they need—instead of having to always depend on you when things aren’t going well.