Anxiety in New Relationships is Normal: Therapy Can Help
When new relationships emerge, many people experience excitement and increased anxiety. Some anxiety makes sense and may be unavoidable whether the relationship is platonic, romantic, or professional. But if uninhibited, fear can overtake joy.
Online therapy gives people tools to label passing thoughts and fears as transitory without letting the thoughts overwhelm them.
Here are a few tips to keep “new relationship anxiety” at bay.
Common Anxieties Many People Share in Relationships
It is vulnerable to share time, hobbies, and your body with someone new. It also hurts to be rejected. As a subcategory of fear, anxiety serves a purpose and “wants” you to take action and prevent harm.
Common anxieties in new relationships may stem from questions like, “Does this person enjoy spending time with me? Does this person like me? Does this person want to continue this connection? Are they attracted to me?” These questions are understandable.
It makes sense that while bonding with someone, people want to make sure the connection flows both ways. Some of the above questions do not warrant any action: they are passing thoughts that may diffuse with time. If these questions occasionally occur, you can disregard them. If these thoughts are frequent, you may be experiencing high anxiety.
High anxiety robs people of the present moment. It can cloud one’s mind with endless concerns and in extreme form, cause panic attacks. Having a therapist can help reduce anxiety and help you recognize thought biases.
With Anxiety, Some Thoughts Are Simply Not True
Every day, the human brain processes 70,000 thoughts using over 100 billion neurons. With these numbers, it makes sense that of these 70,000 thoughts, there will be occasional distorted thoughts. Distorted thought patterns obscure the truth and do not always serve the person producing the thought.
How do distorted thoughts relate to anxiety experienced in a new relationship? Here is one example: imagine a new romantic relationship between two people, one of whom does not respond to texts quickly. If one has cumulative experiences of rejection, the neutral observation of “this person is not responding within five minutes of my text” might morph into catastrophizing.
Catastrophizing is a common thought distortion where one imagines the worst-case scenario. Maybe while waiting for the text reply, the person with high anxiety assumes, “this person is no longer interested in me. I should end things before they do.” While the latter may not be true, if one starts to believe that thought, it will influence the course of the relationship.
Thinking “outside the box” can help when anxious thoughts happen. In this case, what are other reasons that person might not be texting back quickly?
Mindfulness Activity for Anxiety: Picturing Thoughts as Clouds
Picture each thought as a cloud passing through your mind, carrying a statement. In the same way you might watch the clouds while lying on a field of grass, you can watch your thoughts float across your mind. In other words, do not accept every thought as a fact, just watch it move across your mind and diffuse into the air.
Remember that it is not possible that every thought–of the 70,000 thoughts per day–is based on objective truth. Thought distortions are biases that turn an observation into a perceived “truth” based on someone’s prior experiences and anxiety. Remember that it takes time to develop long-term trust in any new relationship.