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Scaring Yourself with Your Fear

answered 12:02 AM EST, Thu June 28, 2012
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anonymous anonymous
My wife started having panic attacks last year and now she only feels OK outside of the house when she is with me and right close next to me. This is hard for both of us since she doesn’t want to go anywhere or do anything without me and because I work long hours and it can be very tiring to have to do everything with her after work. How can she get a little more confidence back so she can start going off on her own again?

David Johnson Says...

Panic Disorder often deteriorates into agoraphobia, which is basically the fear of leaving the house or going out in public. A panic attack often feels like having of a heart attack or suffocating. Obviously, experience of feeling like you're dying is terrifying and hard to forget. It takes considerable effort to face this issue consistently over the time it takes to treat the problem. However, by avoiding what she fears, the risk of a panic attack, makes the problem worse. If she starts avoiding all the situations that might trigger a panic attack, like leaving the house, then her life shrinks down to a bare minimum of activities. Living a life so small is crushing to self-esteem, promotes shame-based thinking, and puts her at risk for depression. 

Your wife has backed herself into a corner from which it is very hard to get out. The fact that she clings to you suggests that she may also be insecure about the relationship. She needs counseling for her anxiety disorder, and marital counseling with your participation to address the relationship. The problem in the relationship may be related to your long hours and your reactions to her clinginess. Be supportive, but don't take the role of coaching her, that will feel like parenting and it will be hard on her self-esteem and the relationship. She needs professional help, and you will likely need help to keep you from contributing to the problem.

Treatment of anxiety disorders is usually successful as long as treatment involves all aspects that are contributing to the problem. I wish you both the very best.

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Page last updated Jun 28, 2012

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