Supporting your partner with anxiety and panic attacks

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My partner has been experiencing increased symptoms of anxiety lately. However his symptoms are at night time only. He once woke up with heart palpitations, heaviness in his chest and difficulty breathing as well as nausea. This was after he has already fallen asleep. I panicked too and took him to a&e. They checked his vital signs (blood pressure etc) and his bloods and all came back perfectly normal and healthy. Recently he has had a few episodes where he wakes up in the middle of the night and says it feels like a lump in his throat and breathing is difficult. Then he stays awake for anything between 1-3h after.

He has a fairly stressful job and personal life is quite full on at the moment with a few big events coming up. He is normally a very confident, sociable and a very likeable person and hasn't shown any anxiety symptoms at daytime.

My question is how can I support him?

When he does have an episode I try to talk to him keeping my voice calm and soft (not to alarm him). I ask if there is anything I can do but I'm usually told to go back to sleep (not dismissive, more like 'one of us might as well get some sleep'wink. He usually just puts a film on (this is his usual way of de-stressing) and then tries to go to sleep after. He does not want to use any medication and his episodes are sporadic at the moment.

Any advise from either people experiencing anxiety or partners on what i should and shouldn't do to support my partner?

Thanks in advance!

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12 Replies

  • Posted

    Hey CocoPop

    There could be any number of causes to your partners symptoms and as we know...panicking about them can make them worse (and having a stressful life doens't help either). Do get the symtpoms investigated further but in the meantime with the actual attacks...learn to do abdominal breathing (thats breatthing from your tummy rather then your chest). There's plently of  videos im sure online of different abdominal breathing techniques...practicse these when there are no attacks around and then you can try them during the attacks.

    I have a general anxiety disorder (mostly brought on by life circumstances) and annoyingly I keep holding my breathe whilst doing everyday simple things (even caught myself holding my breath typing this just now!) But i've been practising abdominal breathing and it is making things better.

    Keep us all posted!

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  • Posted

    I am experiencing pretty bad anxiety lately and I have felt pretty much any possible symptom known to earth. Well maybe not really, but a lot of them.

    The best you can do to your partner is that you are a good support for him. Anxiety feels really really bad. You feel like trapped and it feels like it will never end. Try to not force him into anything too much because it can get really overwhelming for him. Try to not tell him to calm down. We want to calm down and we would if we found a way. Usually we dont see a simple switch to feel calm. Somebody telling us to calm down makes us feel worse because we realize we cant actually do it. Listen to his problems. The most important thing ! Talk, talk, talk. Let him feel the way he feels. The worst thing he can do is trying to hide his emotions. Let his thoughts go out. Try to do something he loves to do. It can be anything. Maybe he has any hobby that he loves. Again dont force him into anything. Don't tell him that you know how he feels, because unless you have anxiety yourself, you can't know. Let him know that you still love him even if he is not the same person than he used to be right now. He really needs that. Encourage him to start with meditation, yoga, breathing exercises. Go for a walk. Moving is good for anxiety, but let him do it as much as he can. Simply ask him what could you do for him. Maybe he knows something that could help him. Don't give him the feeling that he will ruin your life because of his problems.

    Maybe consider professional help. He might not like it, but it is nothing wrong to seek for help when you need it. People are scared of getting professional help, because they think that they can solve their problems, but sometimes you can't. Like you can't cure every single physical illness yourself.

    I wish you and you partner all the best smile

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  • Posted

    Thanks for your replies jen30things and happy guy.

    My partner isn't the most mindful person and unfotunately sees mental disorders as a sign of weakness. As a result he is reluctant to seek help or talk about it and when I try to talk to him he gets irritated. It's a very fine balance between me trying to talk to him but trying not too bring it up too much which could bring on further anxiety.

    I have done a lot of research and have suggested things like meditation, walks etc but again he is reluctant.

    I will try to encourage him to look into breathing exercises. He has an app on his phone which plays relaxing music and you can choose different sounds like waves, rainfall, white noise etc but this didn't seem to help him.

    I never tell him to calm down so that's good. I try to softly ask if there's anything I can do to help, offer a glass of water or hold his hand but sometimes he pushes me away and says he just needs his own space. That's why I feel quite helpless and feel like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders but he is trying to deal with all of it himself.

    That's why I thought I ask as I have never really experienced panic attacks and I cannot relate and maybe leaving him to it is the best thing. I don't want to give up on trying to help him but there's only so many times you can be told to let it go etc. Also I am worried that because he bottles up his emotions and tries to deal with it himself, one day it might become too much for him and he could do something silly.

    Thank you for the help. I will carefully try and encourage him to try your suggestions and talk to him about professional help. Hope both of you have support from friends and family to battle your anxiety.

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  • Posted

    Have him try stress relation music before going to sleep. There are a lot of stress relaxation music on Youtube. He can select any music he likes. Put ear phone and let him listen on a very low volume. I hope it helps.

    Good Luck

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  • Posted

    There are many things going of here one thing could be His work 

    You say you have a busy intense period with family as well, that could also be part of the problem.

    You say you took Him to A and E where they took tests, Have any appointments been made for to see  His GP. It does not mean He needs medications 

    Be firm and kind, If you are in need of support we are here


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    • Posted

      It's just quite bizarre that all his symptoms are at night time only. I have heard of anxiety and knew a bit about it but never knew you could have a panic attack while sleeping!

      We went to a&e a few months back, that's when it he had a first panic attack. He saw a consultant who kinda laughed and said that it was a panic attack. He had an appointment with gp who prescribed a course of sleeping/antidepressants tablets for a week and said to come back if things didn't improve. It's only recently the night the anxiety has returned but not full blown panic attacks as such.

      Thanks for kind words.

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    • Posted

      Hello Cocopop

      If you can find out what is going on here, some CBT may be an idea if you can persaude your GP

      You mentioned some activity in the family could that be the problem

      You also could try and discuss His work situation

      Good luck with this, you know where we are 


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  • Posted

    Im sure you got great advice already..all you can do is let him know you are there for him if he ever needs you and anytime. I would say he should also just be sure he doesnt have gerd relfux. Stress would make that even worse and can also cause a lump in the throat sensation. As he wont view that as a weakness maybe see if he will see a gastroenterologist for an exam. Double win either he has it or the gastro will explain it to him.  For you dont feed him anything heavy or rich for dinner and have him drink a full glass of water after he eats. Best of luck 
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  • Posted

    Thank you for all the great suggestions and kind words.

    I'm sure it is not GORD. I tried giving him some of my omer azole before and that didn't help at all. The work is stressful as he is a manager but it has been quiet over the summer. Nothing atypically stressful happened and with personal life there we are planning our wedding etc which can be stressful but it is a good even as such. Not like it's stress due to tension in the family etc.

    We talk about work everyday over dinner and about anything else that was good or bad that day. I tried to see if there are any tendencies or triggers but the episodes happen at workdays or weekends and there have been a lot of stressful days where he had no episodes also.

    I am just trying to understand why those episodes are happening I guess. I am quote a logical person and I try to seek patterns, reasons etc so that they can be a addressed.

    Last night was much better for us thanks to some relaxing music and a massage.

    Thank you!

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    • Posted

      What a lovely person you are. He is a lucky man. Even though he probably feels overwhelmed and a bit scared at least he has someone so compassionate by his side. 
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  • Posted

    Thank you for the very kind works. I work for the NHS and I mostly work with people who experience physical health problems but there are a lot of people out there with underlying mental health difficulties.

    I just can't imagine how people cope if the support is lacking. That must be extremely difficult and unfortunately the formal support for mental health is heavily under estimated and difficult to obtain.

    Once again thank you everyone for all the suggestions and encouragement. We are getting somewhere and with agreement from my partner I will be making an appointment with a gp for some professional opinion and maybe an onward referral.

    Good luck to everyone out there fighting with their daily struggles.

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