How generalised anxiety affects relationships

Generalised anxiety affects relationships by fuelling disconnection through negative thought patterns and beliefs that seem larger than life. These erode connection and affect the ability to trust. In EFT we may see the generalised anxiety (GAD) as attachment distress and part of a protective response.

In EFT we see all behaviour as a person attempting to meet needs, for example a desire for connection, safety and security. Including GAD.

How commonly does generalised anxiety affect relationships? You could easily underestimate the frequency of generalised anxiety (GAD) and how it often it affects relationship. It’s most likely females will present with this – in fact fully 62% of those suffering from anxiety identify as female. 

Generalised anxiety affects relationships through excessive worry about everyday situations, trouble controlling feelings of nervousness, knowing they worry more than they should, having a hard time concentrating, feeling irritable or on edge, headaches, stomach aches, unexplained pains. 

GAD is a very strong experience and impacts both people in the relationship. Many people with this are also on medications which can affect libido, weight gain and have other difficult side effects. The partner with GAD tends to seek familiarity and comfort rather than being adventurous including with sex.

How can EFT help when anxiety affects relationships? 

We can start with being aware of GAD, so we’re listening for it and making it safe for people to share this condition with us. Include it in intake forms and understand how the person with GAD experiences and handles their GAD. Perhaps you will notice a history or current predisposition for self soothing for example with substance abuse. This can be an unhelpful and yet understandable coping mechanism for handling GAD that becomes part of the disconnection cycle.

In the first two steps of the EFT tango include GAD and acknowledge it as it’s showing up right now. For example observe, reflect, validate  and empathise.  This may also help the partner to normalise it and be more empathic. Or alternatively it could also trigger them, as they feel that the GAD regularly takes over the relationship space.

Put all of this into the EFT Tango as you map the disconnection cycle.

Remembering that the GAD person and their partner are possibly used to avoiding or distracting themselves from the GAD as much as possible, and put the ways they do this into the cycle as well.

We are specifically tracking the disconnection cycle and how GAD influences it in stage one. So also look at what is the cue / trigger for bringing on or for heightening the GAD?

What are the physical / emotional sensations and what do they both do when they experience this?

We don’t want to pathologize the anxiety, so it’s important to very carefully and impartially hold the couple and their cycle. Ensuring we don’t fuel the demonising of GAD.

What’s your experience with GAD in your therapy practice? Perhaps talk with your EFT supervisor about your Self of Therapist in relation to GAD. It can be unsettling for you as a Therapist!


Written by MCEFT members and certified EFT therapists Mukti Jarvis and Marg Ry