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How can I support my DH with his anxiety?

(30 Posts)
Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 07:11:01

Hi, NC for this, but hoping someone can help me with some advice and tips about how I can best support my DH, who is experiencing a period of severe anxiety.

He is seeking counselling and is open to discussing how he's feeling, and he really wants to be well again, but I feel like I'm failing him by not knowing how best to help him at home and day to day.

Briefly, his anxiety relates to very low self esteem, work stress, issues from childhood where he experienced bullying, and he is also experiencing mini panic attacks. He also does something which is not quite self harm, but a habitual issue along those lines - not eyelash / hair pulling, but similar in nature and effect (don't want to out myself or him).

We have a good relationship, and I love him dearly, but I feel like I could be better supporting him, so if anyone is in a similar situation and could share some wisdom, either as the person experiencing similar issues, or the partner supporting them, I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

Haggisfish Mon 08-Jun-15 07:14:01

Get the matt haig most recent book-he writes incredibly well about what it's like to suffer anxiety and how you can help. Ask dh what he needs you to do yo help (ie my dh reassures me and listens to my worries for ten minutes. He does not tell me I'm daft or, worse, stupid nor look at me like I'm an idiot). He has had to learn this.

Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 07:30:43

Thank you haggis, great tip, I will look that up.

AnathemaPratchett Mon 08-Jun-15 07:58:29

I suffer from anxiety. Dp gets incredibly frustrated especially as a lot of it is irrational. I understand and empathise that I must be difficult to live with. However, he doesn't help by getting cross and dismissing.

What would help me would be
1. Helping arrange daily time for my self help mindfulness exercises. I currently only get child free time from 10pm when I'm too knackered.
2. Listening without judgment or indeed reassurance. I KNOW it's irrational, please just hear me out anyway without storming off.
3. Hugs


gamerchick Mon 08-Jun-15 08:05:23

Has he been to the gp for beta blockers yet? Those will get him on an even keel while he sorts out his feelings.

Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 11:52:02

Thanks for these answers, I really appreciate it.

Thank you for sharing your experiences Anathema - I admit I am guilty of getting frustrated with him - for me it is because I feel like I can objectively see that the awful things he says about himself and his abilities aren't true. So it is useful to hear that listening to him and hearing him out could potentially help him.

If you were happy to share, I'd love to know which mindfulness exercises you use? No probs if not, of course!

Gamerchick - he hasn't looked into medication much yet, but is in principle open to the idea, however he has said he's keen to look into talking therapies first.

We've heard good things about an approach called ACT, does anyone have any experience of that?

Thanks again!

gamerchick Mon 08-Jun-15 12:01:22

See that makes no sense to me. It's like wanting to try and cure physical pain by talking it through first before
Taking a painkiller that enables you to get through the day.

It's a beta blocker not ads, you take them when needed and it allows you to function and deal with the emotional stuff more easily.

Still I know what it's like to get a dude to take pills.. Best of luck.

pocketsaviour Mon 08-Jun-15 12:06:23

Your DH may want to try several methods to get ahold of his anxiety when he is having an attack.

For example he may want you to just sit and listen quietly as he talks about what's bothering him, maybe using reflecting phrases ("That must seem very scary") so he knows you're supporting him.

Or if his anxieties centre around "What if THIS disaster happens" scenarios, it may help if you can prompt him to think of things he could do to avoid the scenario or what to do if it did happen.

If it's something that has to happen (such as a presentation at work) he could work out some things to do beforehand to help calm his anxiety, e.g. give you a call or text 5 mins before, practise some self-affirmations, do some deep breathing.

My DS has anxiety and now he is living away from home it's been very difficult for me to step back into a more supportive but hands-off role. It's very tempting to want to "fix things" when you see your loved one suffering, but your role here must really be to help him help himself.

pollycazalet Mon 08-Jun-15 12:07:45

Agree with gamerchick - medication can help him while he gets counselling sorted.

Don't forget the basics - eating healthily, limiting or cutting out alcohol plus exercise.

Some people I know with anxiety have found taking magnesium also really helps.

gamerchick Mon 08-Jun-15 12:20:20

Ooh and exercise helps. I find I can miss a pill after a half an hour of getting sweaty.

Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 12:26:47

Some really helpful stuff here, thank you!

In my ignorance, I thought beta blockers were anti depressants - something I can read up on!

The magnesium is an interesting idea, and it's really useful to hear that exercise helps. His counsellor suggested exercise and he was keen to give that a go.

AnathemaPratchett Mon 08-Jun-15 12:27:57

I was given the Ruby Wax book on mindfulness and mainly use a few grounding exercises from there - just being conscious of touch sensations for a few minutes. I also have an anxiety mindfulness app which just mainly talks through relaxation exercises with a few self affirmations thrown in grin breathing exercises are very unhelpful for me as I get panicky about breathing!

I know everyone is different but I found talking therapies and CBT in particular made my anxieties worse. I just need to be listened to reflectively for no more than 10 mins. More than that and it actually feeds it!

Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 12:33:26

Thank you Anathema, I heard a lot about Ruby Wax's show she did about mental health, so will look up her book.

Haggis, I had a look for Matt Haig books - is the one you were talking about called 'Reasons to stay alive'? a sort of a memoir?

GooodMythicalMorning Mon 08-Jun-15 12:36:14

Just listening, hand holding, patience and being able to talk through anything.

MsJJ79 Mon 08-Jun-15 12:36:22

ACT is a third wave cognitive therapy that aims to de-fuse or detach from anxious thoughts rather than challenging them which is a more traditional cognitive approach. Most counsellors these days use a mixture of approaches but if you're accessing one through the NHS they will more likely only be CBT trained although not necessarily.

FlumptyDumpty Mon 08-Jun-15 12:42:40

I found ACT really helpful, where traditional CBT didn't touch the sides.

Also, of all the self help books I read the most useful was a really old one - 'Self help for your nerves' by Claire Weekes. It can sound a bit old fashioned, but the advice is really good. Can be picked up second hand on Amazon and the like for very little.

Haggisfish Mon 08-Jun-15 13:18:05

Claire weekes is great.

Haggisfish Mon 08-Jun-15 13:18:29

Yes hipotle, that's the one.

Haggisfish Mon 08-Jun-15 13:20:20

Beta blockers stop the action of adrenaline on the body, so you don't get the rAcing heart sweaty hands etc. antidepressants and anti anxiety meds work on the neurotransmitters that we think cause clinical depression and anxiety.

Ohbollocksandballs Mon 08-Jun-15 13:32:06

I currently take AD's, beta blockers and I am awaiting talk therapy.

When I get anxious I find that I want to be alone which I realise isn't helpful at all, but I feel like my mood changes and I just want to sit and distract myself, other than have other people try and distract me. Beta blockers are brilliant they take away that feeling of dread, which does help the rational side of your brain get through. flowers to you both. It isn't easy living with anxiety, or seeing a loved one live with it.

Hipotle Mon 08-Jun-15 14:30:23

Thanks for these suggestions, and for the clarification re. ACT and beta blockers, it is really useful to know the distinction between them and ad's, and they sound as they might be really useful.

You're right Ohbollocks, it is so hard seeing him like this. I just want for it to be gone, and for him to see that he has so much to offer, and that we value what he does for us so much, and that he's not failing at work. But I know that him simply hearing those things from me does not, sadly, negate or lessen his feelings of negativity towards himself.

With regards to the physical aspects of his stress, in terms of what he does to his body (it's hard, I realise, for people to give help when I can't be more specific, but let's say that eyelash pulling is probably a useful equivalent example), I try and alert him when he's doing it, often with a jokey kind of 'oi!' or with a subtle hand movement or look if we're in public. He says that's helpful, but it by no means works all the time, and he is getting 'worse' in this aspect of his anxieties, which causes noticeable physical symptoms and damage to his body. Can anyone advise on how I might help him with this?

Thanks again to all of you who are sharing experiences, knowledge and tips. It is so useful, as we are really experiencing a hard time and I want to do the right thing by him.

GooodMythicalMorning Mon 08-Jun-15 14:40:45

I think you are doing the right thing. Counselling would probably help best for the obsessional behaviour.

TheGirlOnTheLanding Mon 08-Jun-15 15:04:05

Sorry to hear your DH is going through this.

Re. the stress related behaviour - have you considered tapping? It's been recommended to me to stop me using what sounds like a similar stress-release behaviour (again not hair pulling but similar in that it's mildly uncomfortable and ultimately mildly harmful.) It involves tapping on particular points on the hand and to focus on that to defuse the emotional build up whenever you're aware of the emotion or the urge. Don't know the science behind it yet but might be worth looking into.

I can also recommend the Headspace app for mindfulness exercises (ten sessions free then small monthly subscription).

AnathemaPratchett Mon 08-Jun-15 15:54:08

I used to self harm and found a hair band or elastic band on the wrist helped somewhat - you "ping" it and focus on that for a bit. Also when at home holding ice cubes really really helped.

Hipotle Thu 09-Jul-15 18:22:07

Hi. it's been a month or so since I've posted on this but I got some great advice before so I hope I can come back after all this time...

My DH has gone through a slightly better phase recently but now is very low, and the physical aspects of his anxiety have got worse.

He really wants to get better and I want to be proactive (although obviously not unilateral!) in supporting him - he also feels this is useful (in case it seems like I'm trying to 'fix' him with no involvement from him! a lot of what I'm asking here comes from our discussions and I'm posting with his knowledge and consent).

I wondered whether anyone had any advice on whether it's worth trying medication eg beta blockers, and talking therapy at the same time? He's trying the tapping thing too although only half heartedly (that's not really the right term as it sounds negative, but can't think of a better way of expressing it). Is it better to try one thing at a time, or can a holistic approach work? I just want for him to have some kind of definite source of support to try and we're not sure what the next step should be, and we don't want to end up flitting from one thing to another never properly giving anything a go...

Any advice on that or the issue generally would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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