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DP directing aggressive panic attacks at me

(795 Posts)
Sapphire18 Mon 09-Jun-14 11:20:53

Sorry this is long - basis of it is my partner having panic attacks which are in the form of very aggressive behaviour. Here are the details:

I am looking for advice on a recurring problem with my fiancé. We have been together for 9 years and got engaged a few months ago. It was in the third year of our relationship (when we first lived together) that I first experienced him having a kind of panic attack in which he becomes very aggressive towards me. It has never got to the point of actual violence but this has happened several times and is always extremely scary, upsetting and leaves me feeling really shaken up and tearful. About two years ago it really got to the point where I gave him a sort of ultimatum and he did a stress management course. It seemed to help as he learned coping mechanisms like going for a walk when feeling stressed, and spotting the triggers / warning signs. Since he did the stress management course there have been considerably fewer of these incidents (e.g. once every 6-9 months?) however last night it happened again. The previous incident was 5 months ago.

To give you an idea of what actually happens – it’s usually triggered by his frustration that I am not listening to him / he can’t control or change something. E.g. the previous incident was his frustration at not being able to stop me feeling depressed. Last night it was that he thought I was not listening to him when he was trying to explain to me about a DIY problem we’ve been having.

He uses his physicality to stop me leaving the room when I am trying to end a conversation calmly or storm out in an argument. I have tried to explain I am using the same technique he learned in stress management but he thinks I am dismissing the conversation we’re having.

Last night I told him I didn’t want to talk about the DIY as he was using a very patronising tone with me (and it was almost midnight and I wanted to get ready for bed). He blocked me from leaving the room to go to the bathroom. I repeatedly asked him to move and he refused, saying he wanted to make me understand the DIY problem. I felt trapped and got up on the bed to get out of the room by a different route. He jumped up on the bed and held his arms around my legs so I couldn’t move. I told him he was hurting my knee (which is recovering from a bike accident) and he refused to let go. I repeatedly asked him but he wouldn’t so I pinched his ear and kicked him and hit him. Not hard enough to really hurt but as a warning / to make him let me go. He didn’t let go and got me down on the bed, I calmly told him I would count to 10 and then he was to let me go. I was really starting to panic but I thought if I do I will really lash out and then we’ll both get hurt, plus I am already injured from my bike accident. He let me go on 10 and I went to leave the room but he stood in the doorway and said he wouldn’t let me until I listened to him.

By now things were calmer and we were talking rather than shouting. I told him he must not ever use his physicality over me like that. He was still focused on our disagreement over the DIY and I told him that was so minor by comparison – what I was now concerned at was his bullying behaviour. I was quite assertive that he must never ever do that (but I’ve said that before). I thought we’d de-escalated things and then I can’t remember what happened but he flipped out having one of his panic attacks. When this happens he adopts a really weird tone of voice, sounds really unstable and a bit crazy; he told me I don’t love him, I want him to hurt himself, I want him to kill himself; he threw himself around the room and I was afraid he’d hurt himself or break something; he banged his head against the floor; ripped at his clothes until he was half naked; writhed on the floor and curled up in a ball with panicked breathing and sobbing; demanded I hold his hands to make him feel safe; refused my offer of rescue remedy but then took it. These behaviours are all absolutely typical of when he gets like this. I didn’t know what to do but basically took the attitude I would with a tantruming toddler – being firm yet supportive, and trying to get him out of it without showing any emotion. However I was really torn as I didn’t want him to think behaving in this way is the way to control me or get my attention. I couldn’t seem to do anything right, whether I went near him or backed away. I was desperately trying to calm him as I was afraid he’d wake our housemates and I know when he gets like this he doesn’t care who’s watching and has no shame.

In the end I left him curled up in a ball on the floor and told him I was going to the bathroom but would come back. I was really shaken and panicky and didn’t know what to do. He was begging me not to leave him. When I returned about 2 minutes later he was in bed sobbing, saying he was only asking me to hold his hands because he felt so scared and panicked, and making out I’d been really heartless. I told him he’d really scared me, it was unacceptable and he should be in control of himself. He told me panic attacks just happen – I have experienced them too but I don’t think they necessarily mean lashing out at someone else! Then he was very apologetic, but I couldn’t stand to have him hug me, it just made my skin crawl.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t stand being near him, so tried to go to the spare room. He told me I shouldn’t; that he should; took my pillows off me so I couldn’t leave with them; begged me to stay. We tried again to talk but I was exhausted by now and said we should just go to sleep. He told me I am the one who holds all the power in this relationship, and that he did touch me when he was stopping me leaving the room, but it’s the closest we get to any intimacy these days. Admittedly we do have less sex since moving into a shared house.

This morning he told me he’d been up most of the night having panic attacks, and had to go for a walk to calm down at 5.30am (I did hear him go out then). He was very apologetic, asked me for a hug then got upset when I couldn’t bring myself to. He protested that he hasn’t got like this for ages (it used to happen much more regularly). He suggested we do relationship counselling ‘before we make any commitments’ – i.e. marriage (we’ve talked of this before) and I think it might be a good idea. I am a bit worried at the cost at an average of £50 though, and a little scared at what we might end up saying to one another.

I just don’t know what to do. Whenever this happens I ask myself what I am doing in this relationship. It makes me feel so vulnerable and frightened, and I don’t know what to do. I think he thinks that because he stops short of actually hitting me, it’s ok, or that because he’s panicking when he does it it’s not his fault. When I call it abusive he says I’m exaggerating. I desperately want him to be able to promise me it’ll never happen again but he says he can’t. I am really happy with the relationship otherwise, and excited to be marrying him but I am wondering if this can be overcome or if I should go on accepting that effectively I am with someone who’ll blow up like this from time to time?

Just to confirm, I am not looking for advice to leave him. I am looking for help in managing / eliminating this behaviour and how to address this issue.

NoraRobertsismyguiltypleasure Mon 09-Jun-14 11:27:10

I'm sorry you're going through this. It honestly sounds abusive and controlling. I don't know what to suggest - it sounds like you could really be in danger of being physically hurt when he does this. He needs to go to therapy of some sort if he wants to genuinely stop the behaviour and you want to continue with the relationship.
I don't think you should marry him until his behaviour has had a marked and long-term improvement.

naicesex Mon 09-Jun-14 11:32:07

Your DP needs serious help OP, he sounds dangerous and unstable. You may end up getting seriously injured.

Why is he like this OP? What a rotten thing for you to be going through. YY to not marrying him until this is sorted.

Galvanised Mon 09-Jun-14 11:36:42

Those aren't panic attacks, that's himself working himself into an abusive frenzy.
Please don't get married.

LisaMed Mon 09-Jun-14 11:37:41

Why should it get better when he keeps being abusive and keeps getting away with it? (btw if you called the police about him not letting you leave the room I believe they would class it as domestic violence - and he was violent to you last night)

It's getting worse, now, that he's physically holding you and risking damaging your bad knee. Why do you think it won't escalate? Why shouldn't it escalate - he's got you running around after him. It's getting him what he wants - you are focusing on him and he is getting these panic attacks and making sure that they are all about his need for reassurance etc.

Did I understand it right? He was saying he wouldn't have these sort of attacks if you had more sex?

The NHS page about panic attacks is here. To be honest, it doesn't sound like a panic attack to me. I don't have any qualifications about mental health but I think it is not panic. Be careful of any label you put on it - and don't feel you have to accept the label he uses.

If you do not want to leave then I would accept that you will be repeatedly bullied for not paying enough attention to him and you probably will get hurt by him after a few more episodes. I hope that some of the more experienced mumsnetters will be able to help you best manage that. Good luck.

Galvanised Mon 09-Jun-14 11:37:53

No wonder your depressed. Please try to separate from him. You can help him, he needs professional help.

firesidechat Mon 09-Jun-14 11:39:35

It is not a panic attack. It is the behaviour of someone who can't control his anger and who is being abusive.

Why are you really together at all now?.

Any marriage plans need to be put on hold, permanently and you seriously need to consider your own future with this man. It also sounds like he managed to keep any latent aggressive behaviours hidden for the first three years of your relationship but it cannot remain hidden forever hence this now.

What do you know about this man in terms of background, family?. Does he have family, friends, a job?. Does he use drink or drugs to self medicate?.

Its not down to you to fix and or rescue him ultimately. He is responsible for his own self. He has to want to help his own self, you cannot help him and you are too close to the situation to be effective in terms of helping anyway. All his behaviour last night was completely OTT.

Has he done anything like these behaviours to outsiders or have these behaviour only ever been directed at you?.

Relationships should not be such hard work honestly.

Galvanised Mon 09-Jun-14 11:41:08

That should be - you Can't help him

fledermaus Mon 09-Jun-14 11:41:20

It sounds to me like he started by attacking/controlling you physically, and when this stopped working he flipped into controlling you emotionally with his tantrum/"panic attack".

I wouldn't characterise these outbursts of controlling/abusive behaviour as panic attacks at all, and I wouldn't let him minimise it in that way either. If he won't accept what he is doing then he isn't going to change, is he?

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Mon 09-Jun-14 11:41:30

Yes it is abusive, yes it is controlling.

He clearly needs help. But he is NOT simply a victim of his panic attacks - he is also violent and abusive - even when he was in his sobbing and 'being frightened' phase, he stilltried to forcibly prevent you from leaving the room - physically taking your pillows etc. That is abusive.

If I were being cynical, I'd say that he has a dangerously uncontrolled temper and is a violent man who has developed the tactic of 'having a panic attack' when the red mist lifts a bit and he realises he's gone too far, as a way of deflecting the blame and stopping you simply leaving him because he's a violent prick.

If I was being generous, I would say that he is highly disturbed and that you need to get away from him before he hurts you. Any resumption of a relationship should be after a long period during which he gets medical help and you are clear that he has dealt with his issues.

I'm quite a cynic I'm afraid.

This was over DIY, remember. Long before it became a 'panic attack', it was simply him getting angry because of DIY.

That isn't acceptable.

Leave him.

Fairylea Mon 09-Jun-14 11:42:17

My dh suffers from panic attacks. This is not a panic attack. Without meaning to sound patronising have you even looked up online what they are and what the symptoms are? Because that would show you these are not panic attacks he is just abusive. Plain and simple.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Mon 09-Jun-14 11:42:25

This isn't panic attacks, it's aggressive abuse. Nobody will advise you on how to manage it, you can't. If you stay with him you will end up getting badly hurt.

Paq Mon 09-Jun-14 11:46:58

I've also posted this on your thread in mental health:

You can't manage his behaviour.

Only he can manage his behaviour.

You can either decide that you are happy living like this or you can leave.

It makes me feel so vulnerable and frightened, and I don’t know what to do. I think he thinks that because he stops short of actually hitting me, it’s ok. When I call it abusive he says I’m exaggerating.

Just imagine if your sister or your best friend or your daughter said this to you. What advice would you give them?

MonkeyDLuffy Mon 09-Jun-14 11:51:50

This must be terrifying to live with brew

Sorry, but it sounds to me like he's violently abusing you rather than having panic attacks (as PP have already said). Personally I would not go to relationship counselling with him.

Take care of yourself.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 09-Jun-14 11:52:53

I don't think those are panic attacks either. What you're describing are violently aggressive and manic rages triggered by what sounds like fairly normal interactions. He's either choosing to behave this way deliberately in order to scare you in which case he is abusive, or he's completely out of control mentally in which case he needs urgent and immediate psychiatric help. Not stress management courses and certainly not relationship counselling. Either way I think you should get yourself safe rather than take any more chances. Womens Aid 0808 2000 247 might be a number worth keeping. The police DV unit can be contacted on 101

Please tell me you don't have children together.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 09-Jun-14 12:01:27

"When I returned about 2 minutes later he was in bed sobbing, saying he was only asking me to hold his hands because he felt so scared and panicked, and making out I’d been really heartless"

In a 'normal' abusive cycle violent or aggressive episodes are often followed by emotional manipulation to get the victim to stick around. There is often false apology, statements of self-hatred, promises to reform, threats of suicide, accusations that the victim is just as much to blame (when they were goaded into retaliating as you were) ... What you're describing is a very extreme and very alarming version of that cycle where the whole thing happens in a short space of time. Whatever his reasons are for behaving this way you are in enormous danger.

Lweji Mon 09-Jun-14 12:09:10

Listen to the pps here.
He is being abusive.

Read about panic attacks. They should not be about violence or anger.

Even if he was actually having panic attacks, it's a dangerous situation for you.
But it's not about panic attacks. He was already dismissive and patronising during the discussion, wasn't he?

You didn't mention children, but this would be a terrible environment to raise them in.

You should leave now before it gets worse and you actually marry him or have children. Such abusive behaviour is likely to get worse in both circumstances.

AnyFucker Mon 09-Jun-14 12:14:10

I agree with everyone else...these are not "panic attacks"

he sounds like an abuser and a master manipulator

I advise you to exit this relationship. For god's sake do not bring children into this toxic atmosphere. If you marry him you will seriously regret it and take the risk of being one of the two women a week killed by their partner for such trivial reasons as a disagreement about DIY

You have been warned

mamadoc Mon 09-Jun-14 12:25:44

Have these 'panic attacks' been diagnosed by a GP, psychiatrist or psychologist or are they a self diagnosis?
I think it is of no consequence or excuse how he behaves AFTER he attacks you. No mental illness is an excuse for violence to a partner.

He got upset and emotionally out of control afterwards but he sounds like he was very much in control of his physical violence towards you. You sound as though you were terrified as I'm sure anyone would be when being held down. You say you were worried you would be seriously hurt.

What is so good in your relationship to make you feel excited to be marrying a man who physically abuses you and denies and makes excuses when you call a spade a spade?

You say you don't want advice to leave but that is the only responsible advice anyone could give.

Maisie0 Mon 09-Jun-14 12:27:50

I also agree with the point that this is not a panic attack. It is suppressed feelings and desire, and there is an element of attachment laced together between the two of you. I genuinely think that both of you need to break up. Seriously. The poor man is on the floor, sobbing, because he had to act out in a mania way. You need to break up. So that he can recover on his own, and find new ways to live again.

*When I call it abusive he says I’m exaggerating. I desperately want him to be able to promise me it’ll never happen again but he says he can’t. I am really happy with the relationship otherwise, and excited to be marrying him but I am wondering if this can be overcome or if I should go on accepting that effectively I am with someone who’ll blow up like this from time to time?

Just to confirm, I am not looking for advice to leave him. I am looking for help in managing / eliminating this behaviour and how to address this issue.*

You need to let go of him too. You sound too controlling. He is a grown man. This is NOT love. How can you be happy "otherwise" when you just told us that the interaction between yourself and your partner ended up in a situation whereby he is on the floor sobbing and hugging himself for security ?

You know what you need to do, and I cannot believe that you are still excited at wanting to marry him and all the rest. Don't you feel bad that he actually had to hug himself that way ? You guys do not work, so just let go.

fledermaus Mon 09-Jun-14 12:30:27

She's controlling because she doesn't want to be aggressively attacked? Amazing.

McButtonwillow Mon 09-Jun-14 12:31:05

I have panic attacks op, as others have already said these are not panic attacks. He sounds extremely manipulative.

mrstigs Mon 09-Jun-14 12:32:32

I'm speaking as a layperson here with no mental health of domestic abuse experience, so I'm a little concerned about saying the wrong thing, but I couldn't ignore this post. OP I agree this sounds nothing like a 'panic attack' and much more like a total loss of control, more akin to a toddler temper tantrum. Being the focus of such rage and controlling behaviour from a full grown man must be very frightening for you.
I really can't see how you can 'fix' this problem, he is choosing to behave this way to get what he wants and you don't have the ability to change someone's personality. He does sound like he needs intervention from somewhere though, his behaviour is far from healthy.

EhricLovesTheBhrothers Mon 09-Jun-14 12:33:14

If he was truly unable to control his behaviour he would be mortified, trying to fix himself and not minimising the fear that you experience at his hands. Not telling you you are exaggerating.

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