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Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

Hello everyone


I am new on here, so happy I've come across this forum! 

I am 24 years old, and have been dealing with anxiety and panic disorder since I was around 16.

I have been seeing a psychologist for a while but because it is such a long standing deep rooted issue, healing is taking so long.

I am almost always on the verge of panic attacks when I leave the house. Driving on certain roads (freeways), public transport, supermarkets, walking around in the city, being in large bright crowded spaces, are all triggers.

My anxiety/panic has developed to a point where I almost constantly feel as though I am out of body and 'dissociated' all the time. This is heightened and worse if I am sick or have had little sleep. It makes everything very hard. I almost always feel dizzy and faint, and as though I'm tilted over to one side. The dissociation is the worse because you feel so out of body, and feelings and voices feel foreign. I refuse to be medicated, and have not tried any anti-anxiety or anti depressants of any sort. 


I know that the more you do something the less sensitive you become, but I have been challenging myself to do things like go into the supermarket when I feel really calm, and as soon as I get down and aisle and see all the people and colours and bright lights, i start to get dizzy and faint and panic sets in.


My partner who i've been with for 3 years has been pretty good, but he doesn't understand it. 

He has had a couple panic attacks in his life but forgets how bad it is living in a constant state of fear.

I am very anti social in the sense of not enjoying going out to public places, bright loud places, etc.. However, I am still ok to go to house parties, friends houses etc etc.. This is causing so much trouble as I feel I have so much pressure on me. That I have to perform and be a certain way, because I am so boring, introverted, and not social. Truth is, I don't really enjoy going out to clubs and partying, I quit drinking alcohol, no drugs etc.. 


Can anyone please share their thoughts with me? As much as I love my partner, I feel sometimes he is a driving force behind why I am always feeling anxious and on edge, and he can be really really horrible to me about it at times too.


Anyway, thanks so much for listening.


Smiley Happy


Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

I forgot to add:


1. I am anemic, which has a big role to play in my fatigue/dizzy feelings. This is being rectified.

2. There's an element of PTSD as I witnessed a lot of gory human suffering as a young teen. (Psych is working mainly on this)

3. I have a chronic female reproductive condition which is extremely painful and pain can happen anytime anywhere to any degree (I see a gynae for this)

4. I regularly practice mindfulness techniques and do meditation and prayer

5. I'm on an extensive natural health protocol incorporating dietary changes, nutritional medicines, herbal medicines (mainly to rectify my deficiencies, improve energy levels, and decrease stress). 


Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

Hi Kaydea, welcome to Reach Out!


It must be incredibly difficult to live with that tilted feeling, but it sounds like you have taken lots of positive steps towards healing - practicing mindfulness and relaxation, getting support from a psychologist, looking after your diet and steering clear of stimulants like alcohol. Those are definitely things that can help with managing anxiety and panic attacks. What have you found that works for you in terms of suppressing a panic attack when it starts coming on?


Have you spoken to a doctor about your dizzy, tilted feeling? I know you mentioned anaemia but there may be other factors contributing to it as well. Have you also discussed it with your psychologist? I know that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can do great things for anxiety management, so it's worth checking if that is something your psychologist can offer.

Also, is there a reason you want to avoid medication? I'm not suggesting that is the answer but if you're at a point where you don't know what else to try it's worth discussing with your doctor.


Your boyfriend obvously loves you but it can be hard to understand something when you haven't properly experienced yourself, especially when you can only see how it negatively affects you. Do you think he would be willing to come to a therapy session with you so he can understand how real and challenging this is for you to live with? Sometimes it helps to hear it from a professional and get tips on how he can support you when you don't feel up to being in a crowd.


I'm glad you've found the other areas of our forum. I hope you can stick around and continue sharing with us. We're always here to listen!


Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

ElleBelle- thanks so much for your reply! Smiley Happy

Yes it's not easy and I'm doing as much as I can to be improving. I don't really know what helps suppress it when I feel it coming on. The 'scary' feeling can last a few seconds, and those few seconds can still make me feel really 'off'. But I guess there are things and places I avoid to prevent them from coming on.
About the tilted feeling, I don't experience it when I'm not anxious. I've experimented with it and know it's anxitety related. It's like if I am walking on a tilted sidewalk, I feel like the tilt is almost exaggerated. My psych links it all back to my hypersensitivity and hyperalertness about everything.
The reason why I am avoiding medicine is because, I know what a Dr would put me on, most likely an SSRI, and I know exactly how they act. They don't actually help you produce more serotonin, they just prevent your body from reabsorbing what serotonin is there. They don't work on the cause. I am extremely sensitive to all medication, I don't take any, and when I do, I respond quite negatively. I plan to ensure my natural medicine treatment protocol is aimed more towards the anxiety once all the nutritional deficiencies are fixed. I am actually a natural health practitioner Smiley Happy and my GP would also prefer if I didn't take meds. I spent 6 weeks rekindling myself earlier this year, it was a long holiday where I had very little pressure, I had lots of sunshine, lots of organic food, lots of pilates, prayer, reading, meditation, and by the end of the 6 weeks I felt like a whole new person. My threshold for anxiety was much higher. As soon as I returned back to 'real life' and all its pressures, all my symptoms returned.
Yes, we have been doing couples counseling for a while, it does get very $ though as I see someone on my own, then we see her together. We were seeing her consistently together for a while last year, however, I think he's pretty over it, and forgets a lot of the stuff she mentions. It's hard, but we'll get through it.
Thank you so much for getting back to me and sharing your thoughts. I'm loving this Smiley Happy

Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety


I think it's really great how pro-active you're being in tackling all of this.

When you're exposing yourself to the provoking situations are you alone? Have you got a step-by-step type of plan or are you tackling the situations as they come up?
Has your psychologist been to any of the places with you?
I know I feel a lot less anxiety in my places when I'm with someone.

It sounds like your rekindling was really good for you. Are you trying to recreate as many aspects from there as you remember being helpful?

Since your partner is forgetting the stuff mentioned, would it help if some general tips were written down for him?

Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

Hi Birdeye!

Thanks for your kind words Smiley Happy
YES, almost ALWAYS alone.. Anxiety is always the worse when I'm on my own. I always feel 1000X safer when I'm with someone who knows I get panic attacks. No I don't have a step by step plan.
I have been challenging myself lately in different situations though. SOmetimes it works, and other times I freak and bail.

What works for you?

Yes those 6 weeks were bliss but unfortunately it can't really be re created. I'm back to life/work which is stressful. Food isn't as good as I was pretty much having 100% organic. I still eat really well though.
My environment isn't the same, i was spending heaps of time in nature.
I think writing those things down to remind him would be really good! I hope he doesn't take offense to it :-s

Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

Could you talk to your psych, partner or anyone else who is aware of what you're going through/that you feel comfortable with and ask them to go along with you to these places?
Talking to them about setting up more of a plan could be really good as well.
e.g. You could go with x on a small public transport trip during a light time.
Then you advance to a longer trip.
Then when you're happy with the length, you start going busier and busier times. (you could again go back to shorter trips as you get used to it)
On one of the light, short trips, the two of you could separate to different ends of the carriage.
Then they could get off at a station before you.
And so on.

Do you think something like that would help?

I've found it's really important for me to know where I am at the time. So this involves how I'm feeling emotionally, how I'm feeling about myself and how well I think I'll be able to handle the situation. I know that if I go somewhere and end up freaking out/bailing that it's going to be 10x harder the next time I go to do it, even in much easier circumstances. I know I really need pushing to get back in to at those times.

Basically, I push myself slightly, but can't push myself too much.

Are there nature places you could go near to you more regularly?
I hope you'll find some things that help.

And good-luck with writing the things down for him! I wouldn't take offence. If you think he might, maybe you could write up a little list for yourself as well? So he feels like it's a general thing instead of something he's being ordered to do better.

Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

All I can give you is my experience.


I used to suffer from severe panic attacks and anxiety when I was younger. There was no single thing that helped but as I got older it got a lot better.


(1) I was a heavy smoker and I quit smoking, I truly believe cigarettes can aggrivate anxiety and it may takes months after quiting to see full benefits.


(2) I greatly improved my physical fitness by jogging, it took a while but my body seemed to be able to handle the anxiety better, it didn't make my heart race so fast etc. Improving fitness is a good idea,, but it took several months to make a big difference.


(3) I learned to face my fears and not avoid them. When you avoid things due to anxiety you are reinforcing your anxiety. I id'dnt get professional help but seeing a professional is a good idea, there are various medications which may help, but be VERY careful on benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax- these do help but are dangerous if you take too much, and highly addictive for some people.


Re: Partner doesn't understand: Panic disorder, dissociation and anxiety

Sounds like you've got lots of experience to draw from cybergenisis and it's great to be able to share it here. Thanks!

I did just want to clarify about the comment on benzos - i totally get that you are talking from your own experience - but we have to really think through advice about what medication to take or to not take as we can't give medical advice here (check out the guidelines if you haven't already). Cybergenisis is totally right about talking to your health professional about your specific situation when considering any type of medication

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