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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: Panic Attacks and Anxiety about Relationship

 ModestGoddess - Sun May 13, 2007 9:27 pm

Disclaimer: Sorry, I've been posting a lot of different things, been having quite a difficult time lately.

Anyway, I am a 23 y/o female, diagnosis uncertain (I've been considered to have PTSD, depression, anxiety, among other things in the past), currently prescribed Cymbalta and (very recently) Klonopin. I was sexually abused by my cousin, 12 yrs older than me, from ages 3 to 6. I told my family when I was 15 and was rejected/criticized/abandoned by most of my family (except my parents, who believed me). I was in an abusive relationship (mostly emotional, some physical later into it) for almost 5 years from age 15-20-- a lot of different things happened, but one of the worst was him using my sexual abuse and family drama against me. After I ended it, I dated a little here and there, and then two years ago, was raped by a guy I had been dating for a month (he had been emotionally abusive before that, however). I never even defined it as rape until about a year ago.

I've been in therapy off and on since I came out about the sexual abuse, and all of this has had more of an effect on me at different times in my life. Right now, I am working with a lot of clients with trauma histories (social worker in substance-abuse agency), and its really triggering my own stuff. Also, I am living with my parents again, and I am in my first healthy relationship ever, both of which is triggering a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with emotion, but its hard to describe what exactly it is. I don't think it's a panic attack-- I like to describe it as an "emotion attack." During these "attacks," I feel like I'm being abandoned (or will shortly be abandoned), I want to be alone yet I am terrified to be alone. I feel so lonely, empty, and scared. I feel terrified that something awful is going to happen. My heartrate/breathing might increase somewhat, but it's not like in a traditional "panic attack" where you feel like you are having a heart attack or going to die. I often start crying uncontrollably. I want to scream at the top of my lungs, and throw things and break things. I don't actually throw or break stuff but I often do go sit in my car and scream (its the only place I feel I can have privacy). I feel somewhat immobilized. I feel dirty and disgusting and like my body isn't my own. I feel an intense sense of guilt and shame, over everything, even things that clearly arent' my fault-- I feel guilty about having these feelings in the first place. Sometimes during this I feel self-destructive, though I don't act on it. I have cut myself in the past (haven't since HS), and I find myself fantasizing about this, wishing I could do it, but knowing it's not healthy and wont make me feel better anyway (i'd just feel guilty about cutting). I haven't felt suicidal outright but have wished that I were dead during these "attacks." It's weird because I don't feel depressed generally-- I get pleasure out of things, feel optimistic and hopeful, am generally content, have a decent appetite and energy level. So why am I wanting to hurt myself or be dead? And what do you attribute these "attacks" to? Is it panic attacks, flashbacks, miscellaneous emotional responses to the memories, or what? I've been having a lot of nightmares lately, too.

There's not really any particular time limit on these "attacks"-- a lot of time, getting in my car and driving will make me feel better, seeing my boyfriend will help me feel better. I try "rational thoughts" and deep breathing, but when it gets to this point,sometimes I can't even implement those things, I'm too far into it. I have very limited social support right now. Basically, my boyfriend is my only support. I can't talk to my parents about these things for various reasons (they believe me but aren't necessarily supportive of talking about it). I have no female friends (I recently moved to a new area and have had trouble meeting people). I am between therapists. I go to a group, and they are supportive in the moment once a week, but not something I can rely on when i need it. I feel guilty dumping all of this crap on my boyfriend-- i feel embarassed and ashamed for how emotional I get. I feel like I'm jeopardizing my relationship by being so needy. He's been great so far, but I'm afraid he's going to get sick of it and break up with me. I don't want to over-rely on him, but I also feel like I need someone to reality check with. I don't know what to do. I take medication, I go to a sexual assault support group, I exercise and eat fairly heathily, I journal and write, I read self-help books, I'm in therapy (I had to switch therapists but have gone to a new one for the past week, who seems good), I'm making efforts to meet people. What can I do, and how can I keep this from ruining my relationship?
 Marceline F, RN - Mon May 14, 2007 11:15 am

User avatar Dear ModestGoddess,
Wow, I feel horrible for the awful things that have happened to you throughout your life. I wish I had brilliant things to say to you to help you through these dark days.
It seems to me that much of your life has rotated around the trauma you experienced as a child. I hurt for you that you have had so much pain experienced in your young life. The relationships you have chosen as depicted by your post indicates that you have continued to seek after guys that use you. You learned as a small child to equivocate love, esteem, and caring to violence in making you vulnerable to the wishes of a dominate male. Hence your chosen relationships contained at least one element of that original violation. Now you have chosen what appears (at least on the surface) a caring, enabling boyfriend, and you are frantically fearful of losing that relationship. I suggest you ask your psychiatrist or counselor about regression therapy, where you can go back and disect the early trauma in your life and find a way to put it all way behind you. You deserve a healthy future, and I commend you for trying all outlets to find resolve for your deep emotional distress. I fervently wish you well in your search for emotional health!

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