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Author Topic: How to diffuse an argument during a panic attack before it turns physical?  (Read 425 times)

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Offline Jumbelly

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I am the spouse of someone with anxiety. We are married for 16 years, the anxiety/ panic disorder started about 7 years ago.  I can often tell when he is starting to have a panic attack before he knows it from his face and sounds he makes.  I understand the difference between his "true" behavior and his "panic" behavior, which makes him behave very differently. Panic episodes that escalate into fights between us will cause him to "verbally obliterate" as necessary in order to regain control of the situation.  He doesn't back down, he will not take a break to cool off even though he has expressed in the past that he knows this is a problem.  Sometimes it becomes physical.   
I would like some advice from an alpha male out there can identify the behavior above in themselves.  I need some suggestions on what I can say during these escalations that might get him to back off enough to put a safe distance between us when I start to fear for my physical safety.  I have had years for trial an error and I clearly still havenít found something that works.  Yesterday I tried something new, while he was yelling at me with me backed against a wall I asked him to please go take one of his Xanax and give it a couple minutes before we continue talking because I could see on his face what was happening and I started to get afraid that he was going to hurt me.  That was the wrong thing to say.  When I tried to walk away he swept my leg to stop me, my knee made a loud snapping noise and I dropped to the floor in extreme pain.  I ended up in the emergency room because I was afraid my knee broke.
So the lesson I learned from that experiment is donít tell someone who is having a panic attack that they are having a panic attack.  At that moment, that is not the thing they are willing to hear.  But in that moment there is literally nothing I can say.  And staying silent also makes him angry.  He physically doesnít allow me to move away, and staying in place makes me afraid for my safety.  I feel very hopeless right now.  Any advice would be appreciated.


 
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Offline Cuchculan

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Dare I suggest something a little different. Because that is what we seem to need here. Nothing else seems to work. Record him. Be it on video with a camera already set up well in advance. You could have it recording all evening. So it won't be like you are running to switch it on. Or even voice record him on a dictaphone. They are cheap to buy. Then what to we do? When he is in a nice calm mood we let him see and hear himself. To be honest there are thousands of people out there who suffer from panic attacks and worse and none of them would get like your husband gets. That can be a bit rare. A few might get angry. Want to blow off steam. But they don't do it on the wife or girlfriend. They find other ways to do it. But apart from recording him I would suggest getting him into therapy. So he can learn ways to better deal with his anxiety. What he does is not acceptable. Panic attacks or not. You are a good woman for staying with him and looking for ways to support him. But he needs to learn other ways to deal with his anxiety. He can't just keep exploding on you. I think we can accept that much. Let him see on the tv what he is like and talk him into getting some real help. You should never have to keep putting up with his temper out bursts. If he only saw himself it may be an eye opener for him. He may accept the therapy option more easily.
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Offline Jumbelly

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That is a good suggestion. There is often enough time when I can see the direction things are going that I may be able to grab my iphone and use the recorder. Though, honestly, if I thought I thought I could accomplices lush that my choice would be to grab my car keys instead and leave for a while until it blows over. It just isn't always possible.
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Offline i960

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You don't need to be putting up with this from anyone - regardless of what their ailment is. His actions have no excuse.
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Offline Jumbelly

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Has anyone out there every had any luck using a "safe word" system, maybe? These are very rare occurrances. I know I don't need to put up with it. I make plenty of my own money and I am not trapped. But I am also empathetic and I know this is a chemical problem that manifests intermittently and it is not his true self. Unfortunately it is unpredictable, though in retrospect I can see that currently there are multiple work stressors at the same time, plus allergies are causing him breathing problems. He is very susceptible to breathing problems triggering a panic attack and I should have seen it brewing. Believe me, I know I don't have to stay and I know he is lucky that I choose to stay. I have a hard time throwning away 99% good due to 1% bad, especially when the 1% is due to panic disorder. I'm sure everyone reading this understands the state of mind during a panic attack--all the normal rules of polite behavior are off.  Has anyone ever heard something helpful while in the midst of a panic attack that made you agree to take a break?  Because now I know that the last thing to tell someone having a panic attack is "you are having a panic attack." It is like saying that whatever angry feelings he has at that moment are illegitimate, which made him angrier.
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