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Topic: Partner with health anxiety/panic disorder, maybe agoraphobia. Anyone else?

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. Violet12
    Violet12 avatar
    4 posts
    1 September 2020
    Just looking to hear from others in similar situations with their partners.

    My partner has an anxiety disorder, disagnosed as health anxiety. His anxiety is completely focused around fear of his own bodily sensations, almost exclusively about chest palpitations and pains and fear of heart attack. He has frequent panic attacks, and has for many years.

    I convinced him to start medication a while ago and it helped a lot for a while but lately maybe due to being shut indoors due to covid, it's worse again. I'm trying to encourage, gently, for him to start therapy. He is resistant, on good days saying he will, on bad days saying it won't work.

    He is doing his best, I know it. I wish I could take away all of his anxiety, but I can't. Many days, when I not9cebhe is reaching for medication a lot to cope, is maybe not showering, is monitoring his heart, and generally really anxious, I have noticed my own body getting all tense and stressed, my mind having trouble focusing on whatever I was doing, etc. So I started therapy recently to help me deal with that and manage my response and my stress levels.

    I'd really love to hear from other partners in similar situations. Just to commiserate. It's really hard sometimes. Its heart breaking when he says he hates his life or wishes he was normal. It's bittersweet on good days when he talks about his goals and dreams and 'one day'. And it's hard to know for myself where the line is between his feelings and mine. I don't want to feel stressed and consumed along with him. It does nothing to help, and it makes me feel awful. I'd love tips on this too.

    All the best
  2. Croix
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    Croix avatar
    9106 posts
    9 September 2020 in reply to Violet12

    Dear Violet12~

    Welcome here, and thank you for giving such comprehensive advice to AshIII a while ago.

    Having read your post I get them impression you have two problems. The condition of your partner -and also your own.

    You may think you have a great many reserves of strength and can bear part of your partner's load when his symptoms are more pronounced, however it is a drain on you - often hidden but there nevertheless.

    I have, among other matters, an anxiety condition and when it was at its worst my wife had great difficulties in knowing waht to do, the uncertainties and worry over the relationship and if she was doing right or at fault. On top of htat my moods made her feel worse.

    When here mum came over thngs changed, my wife's stress levels went down, further helped by explanations from my doctor as to what were the expected symptoms.

    It is easy to drain yourself for someone you love. May I ask if you think your current medical support is doing the job? Franky I think your phrase:

    "it's hard to know for myself where the line is between his feelings and mine." makes me worry for you.

    I'd also like to ask if you have the same sort of personal support my wife had? A family member or freind perhaps who cares and will listen and offer perspective and maybe even practical help. This can make a huge difference.

    With you partner, as in my case, I would think the single best thing you can do is to persuade him to seek full medical treatment, which may be both medications and therapy, perhaps wiht a specialist psychologist or psychiatrist. Health anxiety can be hard to reduce, each minor bodily change bringing up fresh fears.

    How you do that I'm not sure, perhaps you have some suggestions as the person in the middle?

    To allow your partner not to feel excessive worry or panic may take time, but like most things the outlook is good with the correct treatment.

    I look forward to hearing from you again

    Croix

  3. Violet12
    Violet12 avatar
    4 posts
    22 September 2020 in reply to Croix

    Hi Croix,

    Thank you for your kind reply to my post earlier this month.

    After writing that post, I had more therapy sessions, and opened up more to my family about what I was dealing with. I realised I had been keeping it in, all of the mixed feelings that come with living with my partner when he is going through this hard time, and there are a lot of down days and not as many up days. So, talking to them helped, and I think I still need to do more of it. As you mentioned about support systems, they are mine. I just need to lean on them more I suppose, and let go of the fear of what they will think or whether it will change their opinion of my partner. All that hypothetical stuff isn't as important as my mental health and I know that.

    As for my partner, I completely agree with you - I think that therapy and medication combined could see him living a better life and being more in the drivers seat. At the moment he feels as if he has no control and is totally limited and helpless against his fear of heart problems. I have found a specialist psychologist, as you suggested. However, he needs to talk to my partner in order to set up an appointment. My partner has had his number for over a month now, and hasn't made the call. When he is convinced his problem is his heart, it's really hard to convince him that therapy would help. On the days when he acknowledges his problem is anxiety about his heart, he typically is resigned, says therapy won't work. And, on the really good days, when he is not that anxious, he is excited about future plans to do things and be active and social, and he acknowledges that these things are good for his mental health. It's just the therapy thing, I have brought it up probably 50 times now. I don't feel there is anything else I can do.

    Part of me is saying to myself, "he needs your help, he can't help himself." At the same time, another part is saying, "it's ultimately his decision and his life, he is not your responsibility." It's really a hard situation to be in... When he doesn't have hope, when he is down and fully believes there's no solution... And yet won't try the one solution that is most likely to help... I just don't know what to do. It feels there is nothing I can do. So... I just try to be a positive voice. Try not to get frustrated with his pessimism and inaction...

    It's like I've put a map in front of him but he won't look at it, and every day he complains that he can't see it, and I point to it, to no avail. Repeat.

  4. Croix
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    Croix avatar
    9106 posts
    23 September 2020 in reply to Violet12

    Dear Violet12~

    OK that was a bit more heartwarming to read, you have sought some support and let it be known the difficulties you have facing on a daily basis. If nothing else it might stop some feelings your husband was simply not pulling his weight.

    A couple of the very real problems of being with someone who has a distorted view, such as you husband, his concern over his health, and his conviction that nothing can be done is firstly one drains oneself in an effort to look after him. All your energy goes into him, not half in you.

    In the short term that's fine and to be expected in a relationship, in the long term you can end up ill yourself and require medical support. Plus it needs to be two-way, you look after him, later he looks after you.

    Secondly trying to do this by yourself leaves you without a sense of perspective, what is reasonable, what is acceptable, and an outside appraisal if both the situation and your own well-being.

    So starting to lean on others has to be an improvement.

    As for showing him the map and getting nowhere, I'm afraid that is one of the problems of a mental illness, sometimes the way our seems impossible (I know I've been there).

    So getting to make the appointment is a major problem, as will be sticking to therapy once started. How you approach that I do not know. Some use tears, some ultimatums, others find someone else with more chance of success.

    I guess you try whatever you can think of. Any thoughts?

    I'm afraid I cannot see the status quo with you looking after everything for him will last, you only have human strenght and you do have limit to your responsibilities too..

    Croix

  5. Seddie
    Seddie avatar
    2 posts
    26 September 2020 in reply to Violet12
    Hi Violet,

    I can commiserate with it being hard supporting someone in this situation. I have experience from helping my daughter through anxiety disorder. She would have panic attacks, and it developed into agoraphobia and was quite debilitating.

    This is a very treatable condition. Your husband should have faith he can recover. What does he have to lose by trying the therapy? If it doesn’t work he has lost nothing and it might help. My daughter has come through it stronger than when she started. She was forced to find techniques to deal with the high levels of anxiety and practice them. These days she undertakes things she would have been too scared to attempt if she didn’t have the skills she learnt to cure her anxiety disorder. Because now she knows how to tame the beast.

    Does your husband have a relaxation or guided meditation recording or similar? These are very helpful. It is a way to learn how to relax on demand. A practice he can control that can bring the anxiety level down. If you do it every day, it becomes a skill you can use when you feel the anxiety rising.

    My daughter and I had a rating system, 0 was totally calm, 10 was full blown panic attack. For my daughter, once the anxiety got to about 6, she couldn’t keep a lid on it and it would go to a panic attack. So when the anxiety would rise to about 4 which was an uncomfortable level, she would do the relaxation tape until she brought it down to a 2 or 3.

    And if your husband doesn’t want to do that, get a relaxation tape for yourself! They work really well!

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