When Your Partner Has Anxiety: A Meltdown Guide

What do you do when your partner is having a panic attack or extremely depressed?

It is really scary and super frustrating watching someone you love have an anxiety attack, especially if you don’t know how to be helpful.

Mental illness can be rough on any relationship. And it’s no one’s fault.

You do not have a responsibility to be superhuman and protect your partner from every little thing, including themselves. And it’s not your partner’s fault that they are struggling.

This Meltdown Guide was created to help people who are in love with people who struggle with anxiety and depression so they can feel helpful when their partner is spiraling.

This guide was also created to inspire those of you with anxiety and depression to communicate with your partner about what you need when you are spiraling, while you are in a better place.

Please take, leave, amend, and rip this list off to create a guide of what you think might work for you.

Adapt it over time, make sure you talk about it with your partner, and bookmark it. And remember to let it evolve as your relationship and your anxiety and depressions changes—because it will.

What to do when your partner has anxiety

So, your partner is having a meltdown.

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

Stick to the following guide and they will calm their shit in no time. The rewards will be tremendous and you will be rolling in the perks that come with a grateful and calm partner if you just follow these simple steps to help them keep their fucking cool.

Understanding anxiety: A metaphor

It is important to understand that because of the neurological connections in your partner’s brain, that have been fired consistently, maybe for their entire life, your partner may respond to stress by exhibiting symptoms of PTSD.

Think of this reaction as akin to hiding in a bomb shelter: They can’t live in there forever but it is safe.

It is protection from a real or imagined threat or stressor on the outside. It allows one to periodically peer out through the periscope, assess the situation, and deal with it in pieces.

But it also makes it very hard to make real decisions or take real actions.

In these situations, think of your relationship as the ground that the bomb shelter is built in and surrounded by.

If you fall away or retreat, it may make your partner feel exposed or threatened. The threat has nothing at all to do with the surrounding earth (aka. you). But there will be emotions, regardless.

Under no circumstances are you, the stable bedrock, responsible or accountable for the threat. You are an innocent third party.

If you assume responsibility, then you embody the threat. I know, it is counter-intuitive, but it is like the earth that surrounds the bomb shelter falling inward and crushing their safe haven.

And everybody dies. That’s no good.

Reacting to your partner’s anxiety attack

One of the safest ways to deal with a partner’s depression, anxiety, and panic attacks is to treat them like they have just been launched off their bike into a gravel pit.

It hurts, and it’s gross and can be a bit frightening, but it will pass. Wounds will heal, and it’s not a big deal.

Except for right when it is happening.

Getting upset about it does not make it go away. It has already happened, and now it is time to take care of business. Get your partner to a safe space, and start wiping up the blood, and picking out the gravel.

5 things to remember when your partner is having an anxiety attack

No matter whether you are with your partner or not at the moment of crisis, these five tips will help get you both through it.

1. DO remain calm.

You are a fucking champion. These experiences and the skills you gain will help you in every relationship, intimate or otherwise, that you will ever have, for the rest of your life.

2. Don’t ask them to make decisions.

They may be incapable of making any at all. Whether it is deciding if they want to go to bed, what they want for dinner, or if they want a glass of water, assume all decision-making faculties have been thrown out the window.

3. DO take control.

This can mean telling them to brush their teeth, put on pajamas, take a shower, eat their dinner, etc. Taking off the pressure of having to make decisions and having the foresight to complete simple tasks like plugging in their phone is HUGE.

4. Don’t assume they can ask for what they need.

Also, don’t assume you have to be a mind reader.

You don’t, just try your best. You know your partner.
5. Try the suggestions below if you are unsure of your next step.

What to do if your partner is having an anxiety attack

Disclaimer: Always ask for consent when touching a person who is having a panic attack.

They may not be able to answer fully, but be aware of their body language and the subtle cues that they don’t like what you are doing, or that touching them is making it worse.

  • When touching, I find that skin to skin is best, face to face.
  • Alternate between whole-body holding/constricting and light back circles with head petting.
  • Blankets in a quiet, warm, and relatively low-lit atmosphere can be soothing.
  • Platonic-ish kissing is good but mostly appreciated on the forehead, head, and upper back and upper arms. Neck kissing is too sensitive and sticking your tongue in their mouth will be overwhelming and inappropriate.
  • Keep your voice low, either quiet or whispering.
  • Extra special holding technique: Think holding a baby.
  • Distractions can be good once the initial episode is over and it is time to recover. Music may be too emotionally triggering. I find cartoons are best.
  • Read to them, anything.
  • Bath or shower.
  • Do not fucking fall asleep. They will hate you forever.
  • Tell them about your day, or a mundane topic. Dumb facts about penguins or elephants work here. Do not expect a high level of participation but they are listening, and they do care. This is super helpful and can be very soothing.
  • Start with a glass of water, and if that is good, move to warm beverages – NOT alcoholic, or super creamy or sugary.
  • Encouraging words, “It’s okay.”
  • Breathe together.
  • Make sure they have eaten in the last 3-5 hours.

When you can’t be there

You can’t always be there when the shit hits the fan. That is not your fault nor is it your responsibility to babysit your partner.

When you can’t be there, here are some great tips to get you and your partner through it.

  • Be available. You’re in a relationship, and if you were going through stuff, you know they would be there for you. If you don’t want to make yourself available, you probably shouldn’t be in this relationship. Obviously, if you are at work, this is an exception, but don’t decide it’s not your concern. You are partners so act like it.
  • Hearing your voice can be soothing. If they don’t answer the phone, leave a message. If you don’t know what to say or talk about, just talk about yourself or your day.
  • Send a photo of wherever you are, or whatever you are doing. This relays that you have stopped to take a picture to send it to them because you are thinking about them.
  • You can also send a picture of yourself making stupid faces, or take a picture of a horrible drawing of a whale you just did. Anything that brings them back into the moment with you. You get the idea.
  • Use affirmative statements.
  • Make a plan. Don’t dwell too much on what is happening but tell them what is going to happen NEXT.
  • Don’t ask for help making the decisions. Take the initiative to make the decisions about what is going to happen with the rest of their day. This will give them something to look forward to and is extremely helpful. Knowing that they will be taken care of is almost as good as being hugged right at the moment.


Now you know the basic steps to help the prettiest or handsomest, sweetest, and loveliest person in your world handle their shit.

This list is in no way exhaustive, but it is a really healthy start.

Every person is different, and what they need in the moment is going to vary – so talk about it, gosh darn it.

Remember that everything you do is deeply appreciated and it is strengthening your bond in ways nothing else could.

You are also learning a lot about nurturing and being a better friend and lover. It’s not pretty, but it’s important.


If you or someone you know is struggling to have these conversations, please consider seeking professional help. You’re not alone, and no matter how ashamed or weird or fucked up this makes you feel, there are people trained to help you work through it and get on with your life. 

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If it wasn’t already super obvious, I’m not a mental health care professional.

 I have an entire team of healthcare professionals that help me.  That’s right, a team. Like a lot of healthcare professionals.

The insight for this Meltdown Guide only came after working with them and on myself.

This is not medical advice. If you experience anxiety or depression, please seek help from a professional you trust (doctor, counselor, veterinarian, whatever). It is the most important thing you can do for yourself.



231 thoughts on “When Your Partner Has Anxiety: A Meltdown Guide

  1. Thank you for this blog, this is exactly where I find myself, and this blog has helped me understand my partner better… Lots of good wishes!❤️


  2. I clicked on this article by chance and I am amazed by it. I suffer from social and generalized anxiety. I also have panic attacks and there is some PTSD and depression thrown into the mix as well. If anyone reading this article does not have anxiety/panic attacks themselves and has any doubt of this being helpful… It absolutely is. No one person reacts them same so the advice to use this as a guide while talking to your partner is 1000% perfect. Customize the list and start a conversation. If you know friends that have partners with anxiety share this with them or tell them what helps for your relationship! This was well articulated and I am so happy this exist. Kudos to the author!


  3. I really appreciate this. As someone who experiences anxiety, I know it can be stressful on my partner when I am anxious. I think his first instinct is to ask what I want or what he can do. It is so so helpful when he just makes decisions instead.

    One thing that was super helpful for us was when I got a list of what to do in a panic attack. Step one was to recognize it was happening and step 2 was to realize you can’t stop it, and let it happen. It seems counter intuitive, but taking out any blame (i.e, I’m so sorry I am having a panic attack) and just getting through it really helps it to go away faster.


    1. Thank you so much for posting this, I have read many articles and this has been the most helpful, I’m struggling to help my partner and feeling useless. Knowing the basics to help is a great start and I hope I can help him in some small way.


  4. This is so brilliant! It’s just unfortunate that most people don’t even think (bother?) to search for help, or any information at all about something so disruptive in their partner’s, and by extension their own, lives. If I have to tell or suggest something to my husband then he won’t do it because he says it makes him feel like he’s only doing it because I told him to. Even something as specific, important, and not everyday info such as this.


    1. Fantastic words and reaffirms what I’ve been doing is on the right track 👍

      Good days are Devine bad days suck and are rock bottom but I love her to pieces and will work through it regardless


  5. My girlfriend of 7 years just left me. / sad breakup comment post begins /

    Sucks. We were both each others first love… She’s had panic attacks since I met her. Over 7 years I never did really figure out what to do. I’d say most the time I freaked out too. Which is why she left…

    What I learned:

    1. Tell them nice things. I’d tell her how she has helped me in my life. Why she was so important to me. Many times I’d cry and let her know that she had nothing to feel bad or guilty about, that life can be overwhelming for any of us and that I was there for her and always would be.

    2. Don’t touch right away. I would try to make sure she was calming down first, then gently pat her on the back.

    3. After the panic calmed down, some tea, some tv, facebook, instagram, anything distracting. Many times we’d make love and fall asleep together while I caressed her back lightly.

    4. Realizing when she was starting to panic, giving her a big hug, and showing her that everything was okay and that I loved her. That helped sometimes.

    But I only ever managed to do all this half the time…. The other half I would panic myself. She would hit herself, I would hold her down and plead for her to stop. Which made things worse. Or I’d get overwhelmed and stare, which would make things worse. Or I would leave, not for long, but to calm down, which made things worse.

    Finally, she decided she would be better of alone. As much as it hurts, I think she is right. Sucks as my dad is dieing from ALS, my mom is crippled, I’ve received a wonderful ringing in my ear that never leaves (tinnitus), now my best friend, lover, and partner in all things ridiculous is gone. Maybe time to become a bad song writer?

    After 7 years I never managed to figure it all out. I would think I’d do better, learn more, try harder, but it didn’t happen.

    I’ll always be there for her, always be a friend, always be someone she can call. Just wish I could have been the person I wanted to be, the person she needed.

    We all need help and none of us should feel bad about that, of course we will feel bad (it’s one of our hobbies as humans), but oh well.

    Just try to take actions based on love, not fear. Easier said than done :-/

    /end sad breakup comment post/

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your words. My husband is really struggling and I’m doing everything I can think of to be his support system Your ‘guide’ reaffirms that I’m doing the right things. Thank you and please pray for us.


  7. This 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼 I suffer with anxiety/ptsd and I do go into self destruct mode! My husband and I are trying to get through this and after having a melt down today (which was probably one of the worst I’ve had in a long time!) I was so happy to see my thoughts in black and white and explainable so I could send it to my hubby! Thank you 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼


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