Panic attacks are an unbelievably frightening anxiety disorder. In a way, calling them an anxiety disorder may not even be fair. While anxiety is certainly involved, panic attacks are almost entirely a physical experience. It’s an intense fear that something is horribly wrong, often with your own health. As someone that has suffered from panic attacks, I can tell you that no matter how much I know about them and how confident I am that they’re panic attacks, when I’m actually going through one I legitimately believe that I am about to die. It’s that frightening.
But while I know how hard panic attacks are for me, I also know how hard they can be for my partner. She’s never dealt with someone that suffered from panic attacks before. At first she was actually a bit angry/annoyed, not because she didn’t care about me but because the idea of panicking uncontrollably over one’s health when nothing is wrong sounds kind of ridiculous to an outsider. Later, she simply became a little depressed, as though she should be doing something but was caught helpless.
Dealing with a panic attack is difficult enough, but knowing that these panic attacks affect our relationship makes them even tougher. I’ve connected with many others whose panic attacks have caused stress on their relationships, which is why I’d like to give the following three tips to those whose partners suffer from panic disorder:
- · Learn About the Disorder – The most important thing you can do for your partner is learn as much as you can about panic disorder. It’s not as simple as the word “panic” implies. There are very serious, sometimes painful and always frightening psychosomatic issues at play. Your partner can feel like they’re about to die because they’re experiencing symptoms that – had they been related to a health problem and were not mostly in their head – they would probably be about to die. The more you know about panic attacks, the more you’ll be able to understand what your partner is going through, and that understanding is important.
- · Don’t Try to Solve It – The other thing to remember is that you can’t solve their panic disorder, because panic disorders are generally uncontrollable (outside of treatment) and irrational. Telling someone with panic disorder not to panic is like telling someone whose crying that they’re not sad. It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s often a good idea to avoid bringing the topic up altogether unless your partner brings it up, because thinking about panic disorder can actually create panic attacks, and if your partner isn’t suffering from one it may be a good idea to avoid reminding them about it.
- · Be Willing To Listen – Finally, one of the most important things you can do for your partner is be willing to listen to them talk about their panic attacks before, during, and after a panic attack. When your partner feels one coming on, it’s often the only thing on their mind. They can’t turn it off no matter how hard they try. If they try to hold it in because they’re afraid to worry you, the panic attack will be worse. If you let them share their thoughts and talk to you about the panic attack, it’ll help distract their mind and make the panic attack less severe.
Panic Attacks and Relationships
Panic attacks are tough on relationships, both for the person suffering from panic attacks and their partner. When you love someone with panic attacks, it can be tough – and at times frustrating – to watch your partner deal with such a strange disorder. But learn more about it, avoid trying to solve it, and make sure your partner knows they can talk to you about it whenever they need to and as long as your partner is willing to seek out treatment, the relationship will heal, and the panic attacks will go away.