The experience of a panic attack is unlike anything that can be described in words. Panic attacks occur when your body starts reacting as though it is in severe danger, even when no danger occurs. While it is in many ways irrational, the fear itself is not only real – it is considered to be identical to the reaction that a person would have if faced with some type of event.
The complexity of panic attacks makes them very difficult to live with. But they can also be difficult on the person’s partner. If you’re the partner of someone with panic attacks (PPA), you’re probably filled with a range of different emotions, including:
- Empathy – You can see the fear and sadness in your partner’s eyes.
- Frustration – You can see that nothing is wrong and they are worried about nothing.
- Confusion – You can’t always tell what to do and say, or how you can help.
Being a PPA is difficult, because your partner is struggling with something that literally (not figuratively) affects the chemicals in their body, and can cause them to think differently, feel differently, and struggle with an issue that not even they understand.
Tips for Being a Good PPA
Panic attacks have a lot of similarities, but they can also differ. Some people experience almost entirely physical symptoms, and feel as though they’re having a heart attack or they’re about to die. Others experience more mental symptoms, which – although followed by physical symptoms – cause more mental stress than it does physical stress. Some get irritated, some get depressed, and some move on like nothing happened.
There is no perfect strategy for being a good PPA, but you can consider the following tips:
- Let Your Partner Talk About It – For those struggling with panic attacks, the greatest enemy is being inside of your own head. Make sure your partner feels safe to talk about their symptoms and issues with you, because if they start to hold it in, the panic attacks can get worse or become more frequent.
- Don’t Bring It Up – Although it may sound strange, you should also not bring up panic attacks unless your partner asks you to. This is because panic attacks can actually be triggered by concern over panic attacks. If you bring up your partner’s panic attacks while they’re feeling great, it could cause them to start fearing panic attacks and bring one on.
- Be a Source of Positivity – It can be hard to be a PPA, but your partner needs you to be as positive as possible – at least while it is occurring. Show them you still love them and that you care about them, so that they know you’re not changing how you feel about them just because of their high anxiety issue.
It’s okay to be a bit frustrated at times. See if you can talk about it with your partner when your partner brings it up. If it is causing significant stress on the relationship, you can also consider couples counseling with a Long Island Psychologist that understands both relationships and anxiety, so that you both can get the help that you need.