Anxiety Issues

My partner has been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. On some occasions, he’s gone through panic attacks. I’ve never really had any experience with this sort of stuff.

During a panic attack, what am I supposed to do? I try to ask my partner but they don’t really know how I can comfort them during those times either.

Here is how my last panic attack felt to me.

https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=21011750&postcount=112

It’s weird going through it because your brain can’t decide on what to do. So you’ll ask questions about you should do to help them and they really can’t think of what they need. Their body is stuck in the flight or fight response and they know, logically, they don’t need to do either but their body is screaming at them, chemically, to do one or the other.

The best you can do is to reassure them that they are safe. They are in a safe place.

Remind them to just keep breathing. Deep slow breaths. That helps to slow the heart down.

Try to distract them with going for a walk and talking about stuff they like to talk about. Or putting on a favorite song or movie or TV show they like. Maybe try to distract them with a simple game they like.

It sucks for both you and them but keep reminding them that it will pass. That for now it sucks that they are going through this but eventually it will pass.

Nice work Drunky. I’ve not had a panic attack but your advice seems spot on mate. :slight_smile:

Thanks Matey. (Said Captain Crunch-ily.)

I know I have a reputation for dumb-itude and absurdity, but that’s because that’s what I find funny.

But, dang, panic attacks, are terrifying. At least if I was being eaten by a bear I could try and fight it off.

This.

Is all mental and body and when your mind and body are fighting back against you. It is teh suxxors, big time.

This works for my daughter, who has some anxiety issues - I just occupy her attention with inane questions like “What was the name of that thing we saw last week? You know - the guy had one - in that show we watched. They’re usually blue but the one he had was sort of pale blue. What was the show called? You know, the one with that guy in it? - what was his name? No, the actor…”

I once dated someone who had panic attacks. It seemed to help to be a reality check. Just being there and being normal, and calm, continuing with regular activities, slowly and with confidence, can be reassuring. The panic attack can feel like the sky is falling. If you, the non-panicking one, are very obviously not panicking, it’s reassuring.

The worst thing was what I did the very first time I saw one, which was to think something was physically wrong, and get a little panicky myself, ask if I needed to call 911, take a pulse, and basically seem really worried-- which I was, because as far as I knew, it could be the start of anything from a heart attack to anaphylaxis.

But I learned to recognize the panic attack. Sometimes I would even say “This is a panic attack; nothing is wrong. It will seem like a long time, but really, it will be over in a few minutes.” I would ask “Can I give you a hug?” Usually the answer was yes, and the pressure seemed to help, kind of like a thunder shirt on a dog. Once in a while, she just needed to keep moving, so the answer was “No,” and I left it without comment.

A couple of other things that helped were to lower the temperature in the room, and to minimize lights and noise-- basically reduce stimuli. I’m not sure why lowering the temperature helped; probably because her heart was pounding, and that made her hot, and set off a feedback loop, where feeling hot told her she needed to be panicking, and cooling off disrupted it. If we were in a public place, I’d take her to the quietest spot I could, or to the car, if that was available.

When she got a job with good health insurance, she saw a psychiatrist who put her on medication for them. It took several tries, but she finally found a combination of a very low dose of an antipsychotic (so low, it probably wouldn’t have helped if she’d actually been psychotic), and a tricyclic antidepressant. The tricyclic was unusual. They aren’t prescribed very often anymore because they aren’t the best medications for depression, but for her, it helped with this off-label use.

She also cut way back on her caffeine consumption. The tricyclic helped her sleep better, so she didn’t need help staying awake, and not getting as much caffeine seemed to help cut down on the panicking.

My daughter had a few awhile back, they were connected to a concussion she had and post anxiety about returning to school after a long absence. I would continue to tell her that she was experiencing a panic attack and it would pass because they really scared her. I would also remind her to breathe and to really try and concentrate to get her breathing levels to normal. I hope your partner is ok. I’ve had mini anxiety attacks but never a full blown one and I sympathize.

Yea, I get them. I just pulled myself up off the floor from having one as a matter of fact so here’s some real time advice :slight_smile:

Talking to them may work or it may not. If they’re feeling overwhelmed, they may just want you to shut the hell up. I guess that goes for all these things, try them and if they work, great! If they don’t work, try something else.

For me, having a glass of water is the best. And then another and another. The person will probably be too weak/shaky to get it themselves so fetching one for them will be very helpful. Likewise, a cool cloth to put on their face and neck helps. It’s similar to the lowering the temperature thing people mentioned above. If there’s a ceiling fan, turn it on high.

I’m a little hesitant to mention this one because it involves medicine. I’ll understand if the mods want to remove it but the main fear of a panic attack is that THIS TIME, UNLIKE THE LAST 50 TIMES, ITS A REAL HEART ATTACK . I get an aspirin and let it dissolve in my mouth cause that’s what you’re supposed to do when you have a heart attack. Just the act of doing that makes me think “Okay, even if it is a heart attack, I’ve done what I can to prevent it getting worse.” It’s all psychological trickery but it works for me.

I am a runner, if I am panicky I generally remove myself from that place. Someone could help by making sure I don’t run into traffic or not letting me drive. Taking me around the block or another place helps. I really don’t need to drive at the time of an attack. My head logically knows this but I am desperate to leave, Stopping me is not gonna happen. Helping me be safe is the best you can do.
ETA thanks Drunky.

Maybe I’m an outlier, but most of my anxiety is biological, not psychological.

I’ve had both, but they need different treatments. For the biological anxiety, you have to remove the underlying biological cause. This can include a wide range of endocrine disorders, stimulant usage, low blood sugar, a tumor on your adrenals, and other issues.

Having said that, I usually use drugs and an alpha binaural beats meditation CD. I start with propranolol and benadryl. If that doesn’t work (usually it does) I take a xanax.

Also as was mentioned earlier, the other person not having anxiety also helps. They can help ground you by showing you that you are ok and not actually in actual danger.

Ask them what they want you to do sometime when they are not in the middle of a panic attack. it differs from person to person. The advice to sit with them and be calm and remind them that is only a panic attack and temporary works for a lot of people, but it would make me want to wring your neck. I KNOW it’s only a panic attack. That doesn’t make it stop. It goes over about as well as telling someone who’s spitting mad that they need to calm down.

Asking when they’re already panicked will not be of any help. You can’t really think when you’re like that. Having to concentrate enough to answer questions, or try to, might be helpful, or it might be aggravating as all hell. No way to know.

All of these are great answers.

Because it differs from person to person.

And what situations that person is going through at the time.

And what they may be thinking and feeling at the time of whatever event that triggered them.

My last one just happened to be over deciding which yogurt to choose and for whatever dumb reason that my body decided turned into a life or death event. And I was frozen with indecision and fear.

But I have a family history of that happening.

And it manifested in me.

But thankfully not other members of my family closer in my age range.

Genetics.

Ain’t it a gift.

I apparently do not have a family history. Not that you could tell, they all are substance abusers, for the most part.
I think my anxiety is rooted in my personal safety. I feel like I am the only one who can take care of me. When I can’t I freak out.
I am like the others, talk to your partner about what they think they need from you in the midst of a panic episode.
ETA talk when they are feeling good and not panicked.

There is a wonderful book, it’s out of print now but it’s excellent for dealing with anxiety through behavior modification.

Its called “Stop Running Scared,” by Herbert Fensterheim.

Here’s a link to it on Amazon, if your library doesn’t have it

https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Running-Scared-Control-Training/dp/0892560347

I agree with Drunky Smurf. All of your answers are valid and I appreciate you all for sharing them.

I feel that not experiencing a full-blown panic attack myself makes it challenging for me to really understand what my partner is going through.

I panic when it comes to public speaking, but not to the point of not being able to talk at all. And I think I got better after aging a little bit.

I will read more articles about handling panic attacks and maybe advice my partner to seek professional help. I hope that we can sort out this together.

I keep chewable Gaba close at hand for when I start to feel my chest tightening. It really works for me.

Playing gentle music helped me.

I used to get panic attacks. They’re horrible. The one thing that really helped was, the book Peace From Nervous Suffering by Dr. Claire Weekes. It’s out of print but available used via Amazon. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and if you read the reviews on Amazon, you’ll see why. In part, Weekes says there are two stages to a full-on panic attack: anxiety, followed closely by panic over the anxiety. For me, it was along the lines of “Oh, crap, here’s that feeling again. I hate this! HATE IT! What if it gets worse and worse? What if I lose control and start screaming? What if I never snap out of it?”

Weekes explains how panic attacks occur and how to “float” through them. I generally loathe self-help books, but this one is a notable exception.

How do you deal with that when, say, you are driving on the road to a destination 2 hours away and you have 2 hours to get there? Or you are setting in a seminar that attendance is mandatory? There’s only so many times you can go to the restroom. :slight_smile:

Wow, talk about coincidence. Twice this week, I’ve had anxiety that started to morph into panic, because of a slight change in work schedule coupled with the stresses brought on by divorce. Fortunately, I knew what was going on and was able to go to a different location and do something to occupy myself until it passed. I feel bad for people that going somewhere else and doing something else isn’t effective or don’t have that option available to them.