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The Short Version: The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international organization that supports good mental health by funding clinical research and educating the general public about anxiety and depression. The nonprofit has helped millions of people better understand mental health disorders and seek treatment to alleviate their symptoms. In addition to comprehensive online resources, the site provides access to an online support group where community members can share their experiences and discuss solutions to relationship problems, everyday stresses, irrational fears, and other personal issues. If you or a loved one suffer from anxiety or depression, you can find an abundance of resources at your disposal through ADAA’s network of mental health advocates and professionals.
In “Turtles All the Way Down,” author John Green described the experience of going through an anxiety attack in excruciatingly painful detail. He followed his protagonist down a spiral of uncontrollable thoughts to give readers a glimpse of what it’s like to be a captive in your own mind. “True terror isn’t being scared,” he wrote. “It’s not having a choice on the matter.”
People with anxiety disorders, depression, or other mental health issues can feel isolated and overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings, but it’s important to remember help is out there, and no one has to face such emotions alone.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depressive, obsessive-compulsive, and other mental disorders. Since 1979, this nonprofit organization has furthered research into mental health issues and provided the public with educational resources that emphasize compassionate and consistent care for those in mental anguish.
If you’re in a relationship and you or your partner is experiencing anxiety or depression, you can turn to ADAA to gain a better understanding of what’s going on and find resources on local treatment provider referrals, self-help groups, and other useful information.
“We live in a time when life isn’t getting any easier for us,” said Debra Kissen, Clinical Director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center and Clinical Fellow at ADAA. “But we’re often stronger than we think, and we don’t have to let anxiety control us.”
Every year, over 25 million people visit ADAA’s website in search of resources on anxiety, depression, stress, and co-occurring disorders. Such disorders are sadly common in the US, affecting over 40 million adults (18.1% of the population), and yet a slim number seek treatment. According to ADAA’s stats, only 36.9% of those suffering from anxiety or depression receive treatment from a therapist or doctor.
Sometimes it’s just hard for people to admit they’re having problems and need help. Sometimes they worry about others judging them for seeking treatment. Romantic partners can play an important role in reassuring their significant others that they have a safe space to talk about their emotions and experiences. Having the support of loved ones can make a positive difference in how an individual tackles his or her personal challenges.
ADAA also offers online support groups where anyone can ask questions and find solidarity among people who have gone through similar experiences. These peer-to-peer forums reach over 13,000 members around the world.
“I just want to say thank for creating this platform for a sufferer like me,” wrote Reedz in a testimonial. “More space for us to live, talk, and share thoughts.”
The free informational resources on ADAA’s website give people (as well as their loved ones) suffering from anxiety or depression a place to understand what’s going on and what they can do about it.
“By getting some objective assistance and outside insight, you can create an action plan to move forward,” Debra said. “Information is good. Reading is good. But you should not wait too long to get help, because we all need and deserve human support.”
It’s not easy to know how to help a significant other recover from mental anguish. Do you give them space? Do you stay with them 24/7? How do you tackle issues with compassion and competence. According to Debra, “Step one is recognizing the symptoms of a mental health disorder and realizing when the levels of distress experienced every day are negatively impacting functionality and satisfaction.”
A romantic partner who sleeps a lot, expresses dissatisfaction often, and lacks energy for everyday tasks may be experiencing depression. A partner who avoids social situations, worries about everything, and has clingy dating habits may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. You can use ADAA’s screening tools or therapist directory to get results, find a doctor, and start a conversation about diagnosis and treatment.
Once you have identified the issue, you should have a conversation with your partner about what behaviors are helpful in decreasing symptoms or lessening any overwhelming and dysfunctional feelings.
“Primary caregivers are a good front line against anxiety and depression,” Debra said. “They are physically there for you, so you can talk to them about what you’re experiencing.”
Everyone responds differently to stress, so there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with mental issues. Some couples find it helpful to go to therapy together, so they can tackle issues as a team and devise strategies to cope with mental health disorders. Some couples prefer to talk to a therapist separately and then confer with one another afterward.
However you want to proceed, it’s important not to place blame or take your partner’s feelings personally. If they withdraw from you for an afternoon, it may not be because of anything you did. That may just be a coping mechanism for anxiety. As a supportive partner, it’s your job to be available to help when needed without compromising your own mental stability and happiness.
“There are limits for what you can do for another person,” Debra pointed out. “You can’t really make someone change unless they are ready and willing to start that process.”
In middle school, Bailey Kay would sob uncontrollably on the floor of her mother’s car because she felt so much anxiety about going to school. “I would cry over everything,” she recalled. “I would never leave the house.”
During her senior year of high school, Bailey overcame her fears and started participating in beauty pageants. She said she still deals with her anxiety and depression every day, but she does not let it stop her from volunteering and living her life to the fullest. Now, as an active member of ADAA, she raises awareness about such issues by talking openly and honestly about her struggles.
You can read inspirational stories, like Bailey’s, on ADAA’s testimonial page, which puts a face to anxiety and depression. People from all walks of life can experience emotional turmoil and mental health challenges, but that doesn’t have to be the end of their stories.
“It shouldn’t have to be hard on ourselves or our loved ones. But it is,” wrote Lulia Blanco in a testimonial. “Anxiety and depression can absolutely consume you.” Lulia now designs clothes to raise money for ADAA.
“Anxiety and depression are scary, but it’s real, and you don’t have to feel alone.” — Bailey Kay, An ADAA Member
An anonymous user in the HealthUnlocked forum said she’d been with her boyfriend for three years when she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Their fights had begun escalating to yelling matches, but she said she felt unable to stop herself from lashing out. “We both know that this is not going to be something that’s easy to get through,” she said. “I just need advice from anyone that’s been through something similar — because I just don’t know what to do to fix it.”
Within minutes, a community member responded to her cry for help, saying, “I have issues, my partner has issues, but we have to work on ourselves and come together as a unit. We both help each other to become better versions of ourselves through support and love.” Xan8851 went on to say that sometimes having key words to diffuse the situation and calm things down can be helpful for couples dealing with hot tempers and other insecurities.
“I have been through a lot of relationships,” responded a community member in the thread, “and the number one thing I wish I had done is sit down and explain what I go through in my head.”
The 16-year-old narrator of “Turtles All the Way Down” struggles to be a good friend, a good daughter, and a good person, but she often feels trapped inside her anxiety. She faces her irrational thoughts alone because she doesn’t think anyone can truly understand. “Everyone wanted me to feed them that story — darkness to light, weakness to strength, broken to whole,” she says. “I wanted it, too.”
Of course, there are people who understand and want to help those suffering from anxiety attacks, depressive moods, and other traumatic mental disorders. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America assists and supports millions of people dealing with anxiety and depression.
Whether you’re experiencing symptoms yourself or see the signs of a mood disorder in your partner, you can use the free educational resources on ADAA’s website to learn about the different types of therapy available and find solutions to help you manage and overcome anxiety and depressive disorders.
“It’s rewarding to help people get past the blips that mental health challenges create,” Debra said. “Conditions can be treated, and individuals can move past discomfort to live fully.”