Dating someone who suffers from anxiety requires open communication and endless reserves of empathy.
And at least one person out there is getting it spot-on.
Callie Theodore from Maine took to Facebook recently to describe how her boyfriend supports her through the insecurity and “irrational thoughts” brought about by her battle with anxiety (one of the UK’s most common mental disorders).
Theodore’s eloquent post uses the example of her partner Chris Briggs to illustrate how people in loving relationships should look after one another when it comes to panic attacks and other anxiety-related issues.
“It’s hard loving someone who suffers from anxiety,” she writes. “They will be over sensitive, they will make up scenarios in their head causing an argument, and constant reassurance is needed.
“Find yourself someone who doesn't make you feel like loving you is a job. Someone who will assure of you the little things. Someone who doesn't tell you that you're overreacting. Someone that will rock you on the floor in the dead middle of an anxiety attack. Find someone that no matter how hard you push them- they do not leave.”
Theodore is honest about the toll that anxiety can take on close relationships, describing how sufferers often pushed loved ones away because “they don’t want to burden you with their irrational thoughts and worries”.
“They try to push you away before you get the chance to leave yourself,” she says, quoting Thought Catalog.
But, she urges her readers to recognise that there people out there who will lovingly support you through your mental health battles, no matter what.
“There are people out there like that,” she writes. “People that calm you and bring you a sense of security- that will be stronger than any dose of medication that can be prescribed.”
Theodore's reassuring message clearly struck a chord, amassing over 130,000 shares at the time of writing.
Her post includes a phone screenshot that demonstrates the kind of everyday reassurance she receives from her boyfriend, when she’s struck by episodes of self-doubt. There’s nothing fancy or gushing about it, but it’s striking in its simplicity:
Theodore also shares a YouTube video her boyfriend has made, titled “We All Got Demons”, that expresses what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness.
Around 5.9 in 100 people in Britain suffer from generalised anxiety disorder, and 3.3 in 100 people suffer from depression.
Dialogue around mental health issues has opened up dramatically in the past few years, as part of a mass, grassroots effort to break its stigma via shared experiences.
A joint study released by Mind and Relate in 2013 found that two thirds of people who suffer from mental health problems said their partners “weren’t fazed” and were “really understanding” about it when they first heard the news.
The charities also discovered that the majority of people in relationships where someone has a mental health problem communicate openly about the issue.
Half of partners surveyed said dating someone with a mental health problem wasn’t as daunting as they thought it might be, mostly because they felt the problem in question did not define the person.
"We are really delighted to see that there is a culture of openness between people with mental health problems and their partners and, maybe because of lessening stigma, more people feel that a potential partner revealing that they have a mental health problem isn’t as big as an issue as expected,” said Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind.
Take a look at Theodore’s Facebook post in full, below.