It was past one in the morning and I woke up to my husband’s nudges. He said he couldn’t sleep and he wasn’t feeling well. His palms were sweating and he could feel the acid move up to his throat. I’d convince him that we go to the hospital but he just gets more nervous.
The incident happened three times that week – 1am, 3am, and 4am. And I’m insomniac so I usually fall asleep after midnight. You can imagine my devastation when I awaken during those times.
Each time it happened, I would try to calm him down, tell him his mind’s working so fast, moving ahead of everything that he’s actually feeling. He would walk back and forth and rant about me not caring and trying to understand him, and I would be stroking his back and telling him that’s not true, but deep inside I wish I were not there with him.
After a fourth episode, I decided to bring him to the hospital. When his doctor came, he retold his side of the story and right then and there, the doctor smiled and told him, “You have panic attacks.”
Understanding the Symptoms of Panic Attack
“The biggest misconception about anxiety is that it’s to be feared and avoided at all costs,” says Noah Clyman, a licensed clinical social worker. Back then, I was unaware of the warning signs of panic attack, which was why I would get irritated and angry with my husband because I thought he was overreacting. Well, he was, but when he overreacts, his symptoms shoot up. Here are some of the most common symptoms that you and I should be aware of:
- Feeling numb in the hands and fingers
- Sweaty hands
- Chest pains
- Fear or worry that death is near
- Difficulty breathing
- Uncontrollable emotions
- Heart palpitations
- The feeling of choking
- Angry or upset
- Easily freaks out
Panic Attack and Heart Attack
One of the symptoms of panic attack is chest pain, which makes its course look similar to having a heart attack. However, doctors stress that panic attacks are not dangerous and are not a cause for alarm. If your physician is sure that what you’re suffering from is not a heart attack, then there is no need to worry, because they usually know the difference between the two conditions.
Dealing with my Husband’s Panic Attacks
I have been struggling to understand my husband and what he’s going through. Most of our arguments spring from his sudden outbursts of anger when he is overly anxious. It is where I understand “anxiety becomes unhealthy when its alarm makes no sense. Sometimes, people feel routinely anxious for no reason at all. At other times, the alarm is totally out of proportion to the threat, such as when a student has a panic attack over a minor quiz.” says Lisa Damour, PhD.
When he decided to talk to his doctor about his problems, he began to feel more relaxed because he knew what was happening to him. He was also prescribed anxiolytics to help him control his symptoms, although he has practiced some remedies like positive thinking that have greatly helped him calm down before even taking medications.
I also took it upon myself to learn more about panic attacks online, and I came across BetterHelp, an online resource that provides relevant information and advice about mental health issues. I learned that an episode of panic attack usually lasts for 30 minutes, and I shared this information with my husband so that he would be aware that if we found healthy ways to deal with his disturbing condition, then we could easily beat it.
My husband still suffers from panic attacks up until today. He gets it when he is pressured at work, if something bad happens, or even when he forgets to eat on time. But he is more patient now, knowing that panic attacks don’t last forever. I sit with him and tell him to remind himself that it’s nothing fatal, it’s just the panic working on him to destroy his day, and that we won’t let it do that to him. I believe in Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D said that “minimize any successes or positive changes and feel a pervasive sense of helplessness and inability to get better or change their situations.”
While we wait, he talks about how he feels (not shouts) and I listen. And we realized after a few more episodes, we have outlasted the symptoms of panic attack.