Is this Love or Relationship Anxiety?
Love can feel a whole lot like anxiety
If you’ve ever been in love, you know there’s no feeling quite like it. In the beginning, there is no shade or barrier. We don’t need any tinted glasses let alone rose-tinted ones as everything is smelling roses. We’re looking for the best in this special person and they’re looking for the best in us. The formula couldn’t be easier. It’s a match made in heaven. Right? So what’s relationship anxiety about?
When you’re in love, euphoric love experiences even come complete with bodily reactions. Your immune system is improved, your body is working at an optimum. Niggling pains that once annoyed you, miraculously disappear. And it’s not magic or imagination. It’s all in your hormones. So what’s the downside?
We Walk a fine line to Relationship Anxiety
Our hormones teeter-totter with a new relationship. We can feel on top of the world one moment and the next moment our stress levels can go through the roof. There is a revolving door between the joy of love and the fear of not being loved.
And on the dark side of the door to falling in love live the ugly step-sister, insecurity. The thoughts go something like: What if they’re just not as into me as I am into them? What if I’m not lovable? But it’s not just the thoughts, the body takes part as if to confirm your darkest fears. So the churning begins in the pit of your stomach. The nervous runs to the toilet. And these symptoms are very much like the ones you get when anxiety is talking.
This kaleidoscope of emotions that come with relationship anxiety can be difficult for many people to handle.
Love can feel a whole lot like relationship anxiety.
There is a fine line between excitement and anxiety. They’re on opposite ends of the scale on one hand and yet close bedfellows on the other. It is less than one degree from feeling excited and experiencing anxiety and sometimes it feels like a knife edge.
The symptoms of relationship anxiety are:
- Not being able to eat,
- being preoccupied,
- unsettled, nervy, or jumpy, and
- obsessive thinking.
But here’s the catch, these are symptoms of both anxiety AND excitement.
Relationships without the Anxiety
Indicators you’re falling head over heels include butterflies, a racing heart, and flushed skin. These are the early indicators that you think this is the one for you. It’s exciting and you feel great all the time. Physical and sexual attraction take this feeling to another level.
It’s when you’re apart from your new partner, that the symptoms of either anxiety or excitement come to the fore. You know what it’s like. You’re thinking about them all the time, creating a life in the future, feeling excited so you don’t need much sleep (just like when you were a kid on Christmas Eve). You even forget to eat. That’s excitement and the endorphins are rampant. This is when you’re at your most creative, loving and inspirational. (So start using it.)
Relationship Anxiety Happens to Everyone at Sometime
But the flip side also happens. If they miss one of our calls, or we haven’t seen them when we thought we would or they’re out with their friends. Up comes the anxiety. What if they don’t like us as much as we like them? What if this isn’t what we thought it was? What if they want to cool it? That’s when that one degree turns on a knife edge. The excitement becomes anxiety, stress and runaway fear with all the physical symptoms. The endorphins have stopped in their tracks and now the dopamine that is being released is running along with the stress hormones.
This is when things change. Stress changes everything in the brain and that changes our biology.
Stress creates a readiness for the fight or flight that our body thinks it’s going to have to do at any moment. Our brain does not know the difference between a real (physical) threat and what’s imagined, so it reacts as though we were in threat of being eaten by a wild animal. This means we’re not hungry because it’s not a time to eat. We don’t sleep because we need to be alert for the perceived attack. But unlike excitement, it’s not a time for creativity, nor is it a time for relaxation. This is stress and it has us ready to fight, flee or hide. We become obsessed with imaginative thoughts of our new love, either with somebody else or not loving us anymore. This happens because stress causes the depletion of another hormone, serotonin and our mind seems out of control.
And how you know that it’s anxiety and not excitement is that you want to argue or berate your partner when they finally call or turn up for making you worry. That’s the physical manifestation of the fight response and it’s a natural side effect of stress under any circumstance.
These anxious reactions are usually nothing to worry about unless they turn into anxious thought patterns where you’re constantly worried about your loved one leaving you, without even having any evidence. This is more likely to happen if past relationships have ended in heartache with you feeling unloved and that’s why your own runaway thoughts can trigger anxiety that you’ve experienced before.
But it’s not all bad!
The same dopamine hormones that cause stress and anxiety, also accelerate excitement and euphoria. It’s a similar feeling to drugs such as amphetamines, alcohol, and cocaine in our brains.
So falling in love affects our bodies and our brains in a transformational way. It’s just that the ‘falling in love’ affects usually only last for a honeymoon period. That’s not to say that you’re not still in love, you’re just a little more grounded and more likely to notice the faults in somebody now as well as the assets.
In fact, falling in love can make you feel as though you are jet lagged without even crossing the border. You can feel a bit disassociated from everyday life. Other people’s lives seemed bland and uninteresting in comparison. That’s why you prefer to spend the time with just you and your special one. When you’re in love even the scent of your partner can arouse you to a higher state.
Love may be like a drug but it is also fun and makes us want to be vulnerable and yet we feel safe. It makes us want to be the very best version of ourselves for both us and our partner and it’s a feeling of bliss that is etched in our memories. Feeling loved creates that smiling feedback loop. You know, where you’re smiling for no reason and strangers smile back at you.
There can be some unexpected symptoms as well.
The feeling of being in love is so addictive that people can go looking for their high. From one relationship to the next and the next, continually looking for their relationship fix. This happened in my first marriage where my husband said he just wanted that ‘in love’ feeling and left. (He went through 3 marriages like that.) And that’s the addiction. Needing to stay in that feeling of being on a love high.
And many people think that their relationship has lost that loving feeling because they no longer feel ‘in love’ as they did in the beginning. But everything evolves, including relationships and giving up relationship anxiety for a more secure, sure relationship is a BIG PLUS!
Attachment Panic is a Type of Relationship Anxiety
Spending time apart from your loved one is normal. There is work, social engagements, sport and sometimes family, because they had a life before you, so it’s not logical that it would just cease. But if that temporary separation causes ‘attachment panic’, anxiety or deep loneliness, then the feelings of anxiety will be triggered all over again. But when you know that this type of anxiety has to do with something from early childhood, such as being lost from your parents at a supermarket, then you can begin to make the association and allay the fear. Take note of the increase in stress levels, the worrying, headaches, upset stomach, chest pain, insomnia and find somebody to talk this through with if it becomes uncontrollable.
Relationship Anxiety happens in the Early Stages of a Relationship
But relationships develop. Anxiety is mostly in the beginning stages. The more the relationship progresses, the more love can become a calming process. Once it’s established you can move to the next stage. The heady, exciting, even neurotic stages of ‘in love’ give way to a more giving, deep, secure and loving relationship.
This is the time to take the relationship to a new level. (I don’t mean getting married or buying a house necessarily.) It’s time to decide what we’re going to give to the relationship and what we expect. This is the business side, if there is one. And it’s something we decide for ourselves. Because once the relationship is more mature, the panic gives way to calm, peace and security. Physically you change too. Your heartbeat slows from the panic inducement of early stages and makes way for a relaxed familiarity around your partner.
This means that you’ve shifted your relationship from one of passion and sexual attraction to one of mateship. Where mutual respect, trust and affection play a larger part. It doesn’t mean the sexual attraction dissipates, it just means that it’s not the glue that holds the relationship together. There are more important structures that support a loving, lasting relationship.
Is love worth it?
When we hold hands with somebody we love, we release stress, anxiety and tension. We are also protected from feeling physical pain thanks to the release of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. This effect is amplified when we have a happy relationship.
And there is nothing more beautiful in the world than sharing your life with somebody who cares, loves and adores you. Especially when the feeling is reciprocated.
Who am I?
I’m Gayle Maree, creator of Spiritual-Soulmate, author, mother of 7 and Spiritual Counselor (for over 23 years).
Someone once told me (a well-respected mentor) that people need “experts” to find love in their life… and I didn’t believe them.
I thought everybody could do it on their own. I mean, I did. I figured out what didn’t work in my first marriage and then I changed it. Actually, I changed me.
Not because I was trying to impress others or I had something to prove to people who thought I was lousy at relationships, but because there were aspects of me that I didn’t like. I wanted improvements.
And I knew that if I didn’t make changes I could expect more of the same types of relationships. So, I set about what would be a continuous, amazing journey.
My second marriage has been over 30 years now and we still work on it, but it’s not the relationship that needs the work, it’s us. It’s me.
Now it’s your turn
This is the same path I used to make the changes that led to a happy. loving relationship and you can use it to find success in love too.