Everyone has moments of panic, but there are people who suffer so often with reasonable panic that their life becomes almost unbearable. But there is hope, and with help – life can become great.

Panic is a natural terror-filled reaction to something that is alarming and/or unexpected. It is also usually accompanied by a physiological reaction – perhaps a racing heart, a feeling of illness or the typical fight-or-flight response. When a person driving a car sees a huge truck suddenly swerve into their lane, they will feel the sensation of panic. Or if a person who is scared of spiders sees a huge spider crawl up from the sink, she may feel panic as well. In these cases, sometimes logic goes out the window and the emotional terror may cause irrational behavior. The driver may swerve into the ditch, putting herself and her passengers in danger. The lady who is scared of spiders may run out of the house into a snow storm without putting her shoes on.

When Panic Becomes Unhealthy

In a person suffering from unhealthy levels of panic, they start to feel extreme terror and physical symptoms of the panic emotion but do so without any logical reason or external stimuli. Imagine, for a minute, how you would feel if you were driving down the highway and saw a huge truck suddenly swerve in your lane. Your heart would start racing, your breath would become heavy, your palms may become sweaty and you would feel that old familiar flight-or-fight reaction. Now imagine that you are sitting at home watching TV and all of a sudden you start having that same feeling of panic and the physical reactions as when avoiding a car wreck. It would be awful – wouldn’t it?

These are called panic attacks. They can occur without logic or explanation and can be quite devastating to those suffering from them. If they repeat over and over again, the person could be suffering from panic disorder.

For someone who has had a panic attack, the cycle can become debilitating. Once a panic attack occurs somewhere, the person may start to avoid the situation or place where the attack occurs. He may quit going to the grocery store or may quit going to work. He will do whatever he can to stop the next one from starting. In the meantime, he will also start feeling extreme anxiety of the next attack. The thought of being out of control is horrifying. In this case, the panic attack and the worry over the next panic attack can eventually incapacitate a person from living their daily life. In severe cases, agoraphobia (the fear of leaving their house) can set in, leaving the sufferer housebound.

How Panic Affects a Marriage

No marriage is perfect and many couples are used to weathering the storms. However, when one partner is also suffering from irrational panic or the daily anxiety of a panic disorder, it can lead to breakdown of communications and sometimes – the marriage itself.

When a panic attack occurs, the other partner may wish to help. Unfortunately, logic doesn’t have a lot to do a panic attack. So if the sufferer is experiencing tremendous fear and the physical symptoms associated with panic, the partner may try to give helpful advice, such as “Just tell yourself it’s not scary” or “Just stop thinking about it”. Unfortunately, this seemingly helpful advice does more harm than good. The sufferer starts to believe he’s misunderstood and the partner becomes frustrated. The breakdown of communication starts to occur and a nasty cycle can begin. When communication breaks down, there is overwhelming level of stress that can fill the marriage life and cause unhappiness and feelings of frustration.

When one partner has a panic disorder, he will wish to avoid any situation or place that he thinks might trigger the next disorder. This means that the other partner must pick up more of the day to day household chores. She may have to be the bread-winner or assume more of the daily responsibilities, such as picking the kids up from school or going to the grocery store. She may start to resent her partner because she feels the situation is unfair. The partner may become extremely frustrated at his own lack of ability to meet his responsibilities and the sufferer may start to become very depressed. The stress continues to compound until it is almost unbearable.

How Therapy Can Help

The great news is this: panic disorders are highly treatable and just about anyone who seeks help can get better. Therapists can provide knowledge regarding the triggers of the attack, techniques for managing the attack, understanding of the root cause and effective treatment programs. Therapy can treat not only the sufferer but also the family and partner affected. There is no time like the present to restore your sense of peace.

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