Panic doesn’t just affect how you feel; it also affects how you relate to other people. The closer the relationship the more panic can impact it. In this post, I will talk about how panic affects romantic relationships and then offer a few thoughts about what you can do to temper the effects of panic on your love life.
Do you feel like your partner doesn’t care about you? Does your partner ever complain that you don’t want to go out? Do you feel like your spouse doesn’t understand the struggles you go through just to make it through the day? These are all common worries that people with panic have with their relationships. It is tough having panic attacks and maintaining a relationship but if you are struggling you’re not alone.
Do You Feel Like Your Partner Doesn’t Care About You?
We expect our partners to know us better than anyone else but panic can often make us feel like those who are closest to use just don’t understand or care. This can be frustrating and add to the emotional burden that we already bear.
Panic is hard for some people to understand. It’s not just nerves; it’s feeling completely and utterly overwhelming, even like you’re going to die. My patients have often shared that their partners don’t get them and say things like, “How can giving a presentation make you feel like you’re going to die?” or “It feels like you’re intentionally shooting down every plan we make to go out?”
Sharing Your Feelings Can Be Challenging
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be understood. It just means you have to let your partner know how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. Although it would be easy to say that your partner is always at fault for being unsympathetic, sometimes you need to explain how you feel more openly. It’s important to share how you feel and, if you haven’t done so, let your partner know that you have panic attacks and what that’s like. You have to educate your partner. It’s not that you’re a little uncomfortable or a little anxious. When panic hits you, it’s like you’re going to embarrass yourself, pass out, or have a heart attack.
It’s not easy to share your feelings but panic lives underneath a veil of secrecy. Often, it’s uncomfortable to say how you feel because of embarrassment and fear of criticism. And part of that fear is the panic itself. One of the main culprits for panic is embarrassment about having these symptoms, fear of criticism for being weak, and rejection by others for being different. If you’re like many of my patients, panic doesn’t just make you afraid that something is physically wrong with you; it also makes you feel alone, helpless, and isolated.
Sharing Your Feelings Is An Antidote To Panic
But one of the best antidotes to panic is to open up about how you feel rather than closing down. By sharing your experiences, you do two important things: first, you show your partner trust and second, you prove to yourself that panic is nothing to be ashamed of. Sharing your feelings is actually a way to confront your panic, to stand up to it, and to prove that you’re not unworthy, crazy, or whiny because of you feel.
Sharing your feelings also creates opportunities to get support. Sometimes, your partner can empathize, give you a hug, share their love . . . If your partner knows, he or she can even help you. One of the best predictors of success in coping with panic is support. Why? Because that person can actually help you to change more than you could on your own.
I often enlist the help of partners when my patients are open to that. They come to session. We discuss what panic is, how difficult it makes things, and how to change it. Almost always the partners want to help. We find ways that they can. We discuss how they can encourage the patient, for example, going to someplace that is normally avoided. We also discuss when they can offer support, for example, being understanding if their partner is just too overwhelmed to do something, even though it might have been planned long ago.
Don’t Let Panic Intimidate You
Your relationship is one of the greatest sources of support. If it isn’t, then why the heck are you in it? Sometimes panic will try to intimate you into suffering in silence. Stand up to panic and let your partner know how you are doing, explain what your panic feels like and how it affects you. Discuss what your partner can do to help you. If you’re able to open up more to your partner, then you’ve taken one of the biggest steps to improving yourself, your relationship, and your panic.