I have a question I would really love to ask. My wife has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I love her with all my heart and I want to make her happy. What is the best thing to do when she is upset and having an attack? How do I handle her and what are the does and do nots so I don’t get her more mad? Please help me SOS. I love my wife.
Our Clinical Psychologist’s Reply
Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be helped in many ways. Here are some does and don’ts based on my clinical experience:
- Try to identify the early signs of increasing anxiety rather than wait until she becomes very upset. Look for pacing, physical signs of anxiety, loud voice, tense facial expression, etc. At that time, talk to her in a calm, reassuring voice.
- Remember that an anxiety attack or upset period passes. She may just need to get away from the situation, go to a different room, etc.
- Encourage her to give you a signal when she feels anxiety building. When around other people, including children, if she can give you an alert sign (“I think I need a break!”), you can calmly move her out of the situation, take over the situation with the children, that kind of thing. Early warning and early intervention helps the most.
- Research the internet for helpful hints on dealing with anxiety.
- Arrange details and events to make her feel safe. If going shopping, for example, have a plan to use if she becomes anxious.
- Support mental health treatment, including antianxiety medication and/or counseling or therapy.
- Tell her to calm down when upset — that tends to prolong the situation.
- Ask her what you can do to help…but that’s about all. Don’t flood her with conversation.
- Ask what is upsetting while she’s in the middle of an anxiety attack.
- Discuss her situation with family and friends without her approval.
The Internet has a variety of resources on anxiety, including this website. Study anxiety and use the practical hints to manage anxiety on a daily basis.