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Relationships between partners and friends are typically a source of pleasure and comfort. However, some people may experience persistent anxiety when in a relationship. This article will explore the s and causes of relationship anxiety, as well as some treatment and management options for couples. Relationship anxiety involves feelings of intense worry about a romantic or friendly relationship. Unlike other forms of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorderdoctors do not have specific guidelines to diagnose or treat relationship anxiety. Relationship anxiety encompasses some features of social anxiety disorder.
Learn More. Although adults with anxiety disorders often report interpersonal distress, the degree to which anxiety is linked to the quality of close relationships remains unclear. The authors examined the relational impact of anxiety by sampling the daily mood and relationship quality of 33 couples in which the wife was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Associations were moderated by anxiety-specific support. Findings are discussed in the context of existing evidence on the social costs of anxiety disorders. Intimate relationships are a primary context in which adults express and manage personal distress. In comparison, we have far more limited knowledge of how anxiety disorders operate in close relationships.
How can anxiety impact your relationships?
Little is known about the impact on the ificant other of living with a partner who suffers from persistent and chronic anxiety. Given the degree of social and functional impairment often accompanying these disorders e.
Population studies point to strong associations between an anxiety disorder in one partner and perceptions of poor marital quality by both partners e. A longitudinal analysis of 4, married couples indicated that baseline marital quality was a strong predictor of the onset of an anxiety disorder over a subsequent 2-year period Overbeek et al.
Recent data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication have also demonstrated that marital distress is ificantly associated with increased risk of having any concurrent anxiety disorder, particularly social anxiety disorder SADgeneralized anxiety disorder GADand posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD; Whisman, Moreover, adults with anxiety disorders may engage in interpersonal behaviors that elicit poor reactions from others or jeopardize opportunities for support and intimacy e.
Prior research in this area has taken a predominantly nomothetic approach, in which associations between anxiety disorders and marital quality were examined across a group of individuals.
These data tell us that, on average, adults with anxiety disorders are likely to experience poor relationship quality. However, it remains unknown whether a person affected by an anxiety disorder is more or less likely to experience relational difficulties on those occasions when he or she experiences elevated anxiety.
Tennen, Affleck, Armeli, and Carney cautioned against using cross-sectional, between-person associations to draw inferences about how two variables are related within the same person. It is possible, for instance, that adults with anxiety disorders experience improved relationship quality during episodes of heightened anxiety because of increased support received from an intimate partner at this time.
In developing theoretical models and deing interventions, clinicians and researchers rely on idiographic formulations of how these processes unfold for a given person. Over the last decade, there have been ificant advances in the procedural and analytic tools available to People with anxiety in relationships idiographic processes over time. In particular, the daily diary method has proven to be a useful way to examine how two processes e.
In the present study, daily diary reports were used to determine the within-person association between anxiety and relationship quality among adults with anxiety disorders and their partners. One limitation of prior literature on anxiety disorders and relationship quality is the inconsistency across studies in how relationship quality is defined.
Daiuto, Baucom, Epstein, and Dutton argued that it is important to distinguish relationship satisfaction i.
How does anxiety affect relationships?
The utility of this distinction is supported by studies showing that aspects of relationship adjustment e. Exclusive reliance on global evaluations of relationship satisfaction may therefore miss clinically useful information about areas of relationships more or less disrupted by anxiety. In the present study, we used a measure of anxiety-specific relationship adjustment to provide a contextually sensitive assessment of relationship functioning. We hypothesized that anxiety-specific relationship adjustment would be more informative in predicting the strength of the association between anxiety and daily relationship quality than would a measure of global relationship functioning.
Yet data on the concordance of anxiety in dy is sparse. However, most studies in this area used nonclinical samples and did not examine these phenomena in the context of intimate relationships.
Adults who meet diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder may be more likely to show dyadic concordance in distress than nonclinical groups, perhaps as a function of the severity, chronicity, and perceived unmanageability of their anxiety e. We were further interested in specifying conditions that strengthen this concordance in distress. Studies examining familial responses to a relative with an anxiety disorder have identified response styles that may contribute to shared distress Calvocoressi et al.
Geffken et al. In the present study, we examined whether adults with anxiety disorders were more likely to transmit distress to their partners when their partners featured certain habitual response styles, such as hostility and rejection, or symptom accommodation.
We observed associations between anxiety and relationship quality RQ among couples in which one partner the wife was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. We used a daily process de to improve on prior studies that relied on cross-sectional, between-person analyses. Specifically, we hypothesized that:.
We hypothesized that associations would be stronger for couples with lower anxiety-specific relationship adjustment. Exploratory analyses examined how often husbands were perceived as contributing to the a reason for anxiety, b worsening of anxiety, or c alleviation of anxiety. Exclusion criteria included evidence of psychosis, risk of self-harm, partner abuse, alcohol or substance abuse in the last 6 months, an organic mental disorder, or a history of bipolar disorder. Couples were excluded if the diagnosed partner met criteria for a current major depressive episode to minimize the potentially confounding effects of comorbid depression.
The average age was Participants were predominantly Caucasian None of these variables were ificantly related to mean aggregated scores on daily measures of mood or relationship quality or baseline measures of relationship adjustment. Couples who met study criteria and provided informed consent were given baseline questionnaires and 14 diary reports. Partners were instructed to complete diary reports separately at the end of each day, to refrain from discussing their responses, and to return each report in a prestamped envelope after completion.
Compliance was monitored in two ways: a Couples were phoned once at the end People with anxiety in relationships each study week to remind them to complete questionnaires separately, give them an opportunity to ask questions, and encourage consistent mailing of reports; b on each diary, participants were asked to indicate whether they completed the report on a day other than the one deated on the form.
Of 34 couples i.
The mean of data points provided was Baseline questionnaires were completed by all participants. One couple was eliminated because more than half of their reports were noncompliant completed on an incorrect day.
Rather than eliminate their data, we omitted from our analyses their noncompliant days 19 total. Our final sample was therefore 33 couples. In this study, anxiety, mood and substance-use modules were administered to determine diagnostic status as well as the presence of comorbid disorders.
Interviewers were advanced doctoral students trained to the exacting standards specified by Brown et al. Interviews were audiotaped to avoid observer drift and half of the interviews were randomly selected for rerating by the investigator. The CIQ, a measure of anxiety-specific relationship adjustment, inquires about the degree of communication, understanding, and support perceived by wives when they experience anxiety.
Total scores range from 0 poorest relationship adjustment to 30 highest relationship adjustment. Craske et al. Alpha in our sample was. The PRS is an item questionnaire assessing family hostility, a central component of expressed emotion and a People with anxiety in relationships predictor of relapse Hooley, Husbands were asked to rate the frequency with which these statements apply to them on a scale from 0 never to 2 often. Items were summed to calculate a total score.
What does anxiety mean?
Husbands completed two additional questionnaires assessing levels of anxiety, depression and general psychological distress:. A item scale used to assess the degree to which People with anxiety in relationships feature a stable tendency to experience anxiety and depression. The trait scale of the STAI has been shown to have high convergent validity and test—retest reliability Spielberger, A item measure of psychological symptom distress in the past week, with each item rated on a 5-point Likert scale from 0 not at all to 4 extremely.
We used the Global Severity Index GSIa mean score of all responses, to reflect levels of general symptom distress among husbands. Raw GSI scores of 0. Alpha was. The DAS is a widely used item measure of global relationship quality. The summed total score, which ranges from 0 to higher scores reflect better functioningwas used to characterize global relationship functioning.
All standard deviations reported below and in Table 1 for the diary measures represent within-subject variation, not a combination of variation over days and participants. The reliability of these scales represents within-person consistency reliability of change; Cranford et al.
See Table 1 for means, standard deviations, and reliabilities and Table 2 for intercorrelations between daily measures. Standard deviations of diary measures reported here are the within-person deviations. The ABS is a multidimensional mood and affect measure consisting of 40 feeling words that cluster into specific emotional domains.
Each subscale consisted of five items, each rated on a 4-point scale ranging from 0 not at all to 3 very much.