Living with an anxious person

He (she) moped up, always expecting the worst … How to help him, when we share his life with him, without letting himself be contaminated? Responses from psychiatrist Christophe André.

“Always obsessed with the idea of ​​death, I meditate constantly. I never stop wondering if there is a later life, and if there is one, can you make me change for twenty dollars? ”

Not all anxious people are as funny as Woody Allen can be, but all of them impose on their entourage this explosive mixture of metaphysical concerns and worries about everyday life. Living alongside them can be a source of misunderstandings, conflicts, and attrition. But it can also be wealth, and an opportunity to ask some useful questions about yourself and the meaning of life…

Hear their quest

For the anxious person, there are two certainties: the world is full of potential dangers, and one can only survive with maximum precautions. Anxiety, therefore, pushes us to constantly anticipate difficulties, to develop constant and excessive vigilance, in the unrealistic hope of approaching zero risks. From the outside, this quest seems illusory and expensive, but how to explain it to the anxious? How not to get irritated by his reactions and dialogue more effectively with him? No need to deny the problems imagined by him, they are always “possible”.

Because anxiety is not delirium, but an amplification or anticipation of real difficulties. Better to discuss with him the cost of his anxiety and his attempts to avoid the worst: “On vacation abroad, you can be fooled by a careless taxi driver or restaurant owner. But wandering for hours in search of the safe address, isn’t that going to spoil our vacation much more than being fooled from time to time? ”

Patience and tolerance

Despite appearances (and despite what anxious people believe or want to believe), anxiety is not a neutral and rational vision but rests on an important emotional and subjective base. If you want to make the anxious think about its excesses, you will, therefore, have an interest in avoiding, if possible, talking hot, during flushes of anxiety, and in preferring to speak calmly after the fact. Be patient and tolerant: it always takes time to change, and your efforts are long-term investments. It is also always useful to question your own motivations to help an anxious to be less so: are they selfish, so as not to let themselves impose life habits that we do not want? Altruistic, so as not to let a loved one sink into worry? Both, so as not to see the anxious person move away and isolate themselves? In any case, the dialogue will only be useful if the anxious person feels respected: “I know that you see things this way, but I perceive them differently”, and not judged: “You have a problem, listen- me. ”

Very often, the anxious people feel that their worries are well-founded, that the non-anxious people are oblivious to the real problems of existence. It is useless to transform the dialogue into part of ping-pong of arguments and counter-arguments on the harshness of existence, and the difference between anxiety and lucidity.

Intelligence often needs experience to be convinced: it is necessary for the anxious to test in vivo new ways of doing things. For example in hyper control: anxious people are literally allergic to uncertainty – in their eyes, it can only hide threats and risks – and to improvisation. Rather than urging the anxious person to “trust life”, we can offer him to take the “risk” of giving up his habits and doing small tests: receiving friends without having prepared meals for several days. in advance, go on a weekend adventure without having booked … What happens then? Are there any problems? If so, are they disasters or incidents? Can we survive it?

Anxiety is good too

Know, finally, recognize the benefits of anxiety. Because it can have advantages: attention to detail, perfectionism, anticipation of problems, all this can be of service (especially in a professional environment: the bosses like employees who are slightly anxious). It is legitimate to verify that you do not rely too much on the anxious person to free you from stressful tasks: child-rearing, financial management … Do not be a perfectionist in the pressure that you put on your anxious loved ones, because there is a “good use of anxiety”.

This is the goal, moreover, of the treatments that are prescribed: it is not a question of eliminating it (which would be unrealistic) but of controlling it. Useful anxiety is one that draws our attention to problems, makes us act to avoid them, and then lets us enjoy life. And as such, anxiety is precious: it reminds us that life is not a long, calm river, that adversity lurks and that it is urgent to take advantage of good times.


Olivie r, 36, painter: “Far from appeasing her, I only fed her fears”
“Sometimes, I really blame Laura for spoiling our lives, when she is the first to suffer from his anxiety. Not only does she see everything in black, but very often she is so convincing that she manages to worry me. Three years ago, at the start of our common life, I returned to her “game” to reassure her. I called him as soon as I hit the road, I did blood tests at the slightest little booze … Until the day I realized that, far from appeasing him, I was only feeding his fears. So, I wanted to try the electroshock version.

Last August, I made Paris-Marseille in the night and did not want to call it until after having quietly taken my breakfast on the Vieux-Port. I did not have time. Her sister had left twelve messages on my cell phone: Laura had just had an anxiety attack that had paralyzed her to the point that they had to call the doctor. I was split between the fury and the pain I felt for her. For the past few months, she has started therapy. I cross my fingers so that it relieves her before we start a family because I have no desire to raise a child in permanent anxiety.

Like it? Share with your friends!