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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    Japan
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    8

    First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    My wife is 8 months pregnant. Never thought I would have children, but my wife convinced me. I have been experiencing back anxiety attacks. When my wife and I go out for a walk I have to sit down on the curb to gather my thoughts and get my breath-no I do not smoke, not overweight, exercise regularly...

    It is scary to see my huge pregnant wife not sweating at all to walk around the block and me paralyzed with anxiety that I cannot even go for a simple walk! Went to the cardiologist for a stress test and everything turned out normal. I have read that having a child is a big life event stressor like buying a home, marriage etc. Any other first time moms or dads had similar experiences?

    I am not sure how much this anxiety and fear is related to my past. I came from a fairly dysfunctional family, and like my 3 brothers and sister, thought marriage would not be a good idea since I did not want to go through the same pain as a child with the parents I had, nor repeat the mistakes they made. My oldest brother is married with no children. I married at 40, and my wife was able through persistent lobbying to convince me to have a child at 46. The fear and insecurity I am experiencing is overwhelming. I just don't believe I have my act together like friends of mine who knew they wanted to get married and have children. I am scared and confused...

    BZ

  2. #2

    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    I don't know about fatherhood myself, but a good book on panic attacks mentions that it's normal to be anxious about becoming a father:

    When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug ... - David D. Burns - Google Books
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    8,865

    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    The fear and insecurity I am experiencing is overwhelming
    When you visualize those situations or events that cause your anxiety, what situations are you seeing?


    I have read that having a child is a big life event stressor like buying a home, marriage etc.
    Anxiety is additive, so are there other major situational changes like moving to a new house, changing job, major move etc ocurring in your life at this time in addition to the arrival of the new baby?
    Steve

    Dum spiro spero....While I breathe, I hope

  4. #4
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    Dec 2010
    Location
    Japan
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    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    Hi Steve,

    I see myself all the times when I was unemployed, fired from jobs, looking for work, looking for places to stay; the stress and anxiety of "trying to survive" as a single guy in a big city. I see the pain of the household I grew up in with two alcoholic parents, the blame and guilt that was heaped upon me for their problems, and me doing the same to one of my kids...I see myself not measuring up to my high school and university friends/classmates who had their lives moving forward as they completed degrees and entered careers while I was in and out of university...I see my kids becoming an alcoholic and dysfunctional ACOA like me....

  5. #5

    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    .I see my kids becoming an alcoholic and dysfunctional ACOA like me....
    That's what the cognitive behaviorists call "catastrophizing" (which usually also involves "awfulizing" -- telling yourself how terrible/intolerable such a thing would be).

    Have you thought about seeing a therapist? As you may have noticed, there isn't usually much emotional support for expectant fathers otherwise, except from family.

    Since you are a guy, I'm guessing you are reluctant to see a therapist?
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    8,865

    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    I see myself all the times when I was unemployed, fired from jobs, looking for work, looking for places to stay
    How is the stability of your financial and employment situation at this time?

    I see myself not measuring up to my high school and university friends/classmates who had their lives moving forward as they completed degrees and entered careers while I was in and out of university
    There are many different ways to measure one's achievements and success in life, so it does not seem fair to compare yourself to colleagues and classmates using only one measure.

    Have you considered therapy, as Daniel has suggested to help you deal with some of these issues during this important time in your life.
    Steve

    Dum spiro spero....While I breathe, I hope

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Japan
    Posts
    8

    re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for the reply and advice. Yes, I am a guy, and yes, I have been seeing a therapist on-and-off from about 1997 when I lived in Vancouver while attending UBC and was able to do one full year of therapy-helped a lot. I am a teacher (EFL) and therefore have been living overseas on-and-off in different countries. Some places I was able to see a therapist and others could not...I have been taking antidepressants since 1997, but the alcohol addiction I have been battling makes it difficult for me. Therapy has pointed out things I have a bad habit of doing (i.e. catastrophizing), and I have done a lot of reading trying to understand better ways to manage stress, depression, drinking etc. My psychiatrist suggested I "get religion," and not worry so much. I am ashamed to admit these feelings of fear and insecurity. Several years ago when one urologist I saw suggested minor surgery to fix a compressed varicose vein, which he believed might have been the reason for my wife and I being unsuccessful in conceiving a child. I agreed to this "minor and routine" outpatient surgery, but when I went into the room to get hooked-up for the local anathesia, I freaked out and ran out of the room and hospital. I am not sure if these anxiety issues are my body's way of telling me that I really don't want kids, or am not ready? Since we were married in 2001 my wife has been vigourously lobbying to have children. I know that I should not let the past dictate my future (i.e. if you grew up in a dysfunctional family it need not determine your future), but I struggled so long as a single guy trying to get work, hold down a job, avoid homellessness etc. that when I did get married at 40, I was avery insecure guy with a lot of "issue" I had been dealing with; some that I had fixed and others still haunting me.

    Thanks A LOT!

    BZ

    ---------- Post added at 02:28 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:26 PM ----------

    Hi Steve,

    Financial situation is OK. Employment is precarious working in the Middle East where you can be put on a plane home very easily without any recourse (legally speaking)...

    BZ

  8. #8

    Re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    Quote Originally Posted by BigZen View Post
    My wife is 8 months pregnant. Never thought I would have children, but my wife convinced me. I have been experiencing back anxiety attacks. When my wife and I go out for a walk I have to sit down on the curb to gather my thoughts and get my breath-no I do not smoke, not overweight, exercise regularly...

    It is scary to see my huge pregnant wife not sweating at all to walk around the block and me paralyzed with anxiety that I cannot even go for a simple walk! Went to the cardiologist for a stress test and everything turned out normal. I have read that having a child is a big life event stressor like buying a home, marriage etc. Any other first time moms or dads had similar experiences?

    I am not sure how much this anxiety and fear is related to my past. I came from a fairly dysfunctional family, and like my 3 brothers and sister, thought marriage would not be a good idea since I did not want to go through the same pain as a child with the parents I had, nor repeat the mistakes they made. My oldest brother is married with no children. I married at 40, and my wife was able through persistent lobbying to convince me to have a child at 46. The fear and insecurity I am experiencing is overwhelming. I just don't believe I have my act together like friends of mine who knew they wanted to get married and have children. I am scared and confused...

    BZ


    Whatever the roots of your anxiety, you will not likely be able to pinpoint any specific recent trigger. This is usually due to relatively long term effects of the activation of your natural flight or fight responses, which typically arise from significant life stressors over a period of months or years. I went through this for years, and the medical profession was less than no help. Some ER docs handed me Ativan, maybe making a casual reference to anxiety as a cause, all with an attitude implying that your situation is your own doing, the result of some flawed aspects of character. My anxiety eventually resulted in full-blown panic attacks. My anxiety and panic episodes were usually preceded by some very jumpy heartbeats. I later, ON MY OWN, learned to prevent the progression to anxiety or panic attacks by responding to the jumpy heartbeats with slow relaxation breathing, or getting to some place quiet for a while. Being in busy public spaces often set me up for attacks. The jumpy heartbeats were likely caused by shallow breathing, which the relaxation strategy almost always fixed. I was forced to learn helpful strategies after my anxiety symptoms eventually broke through my prescribed Ativan (anti-anxiety med) I no longer have anxiety or panic episodes, but the root causes of those episodes eventually led to clinical depression, which I have had to manage with appropriate meds several times over a 12 year period. And, yes, despite repeated requests to address ineffective antidepressant meds outcome, it was not until this year that I found a doc who put me on 2 meds that now offer me some hope for being able to maintain long term efficacy in employment and social situations.

    Best wishes

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Japan
    Posts
    8

    Re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    Hi Pilgrim,

    Thanks for your reply and sharing. Yes, I have tried to practice better breathing (avoiding the shallow breathing from the chest) and it sometimes has helped. I have bought some books, one which was highly recommended: "The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook" by Edmund. J. Bourne, PH.D. I have read a LOT of books about depression. The Zen meditation I do helps as well as the yoga. I do agree with you that my anxiety did not suddenly come out of nowhere, but had ben building up over years die to life stressors. The same goes for my depression; though I am not a doctor, and could be wrong...

    Again, thank you for your thoughtful post!
    BigZen

  10. #10

    Re: First time dad experiencing severe panic attacks

    Sounds like you've gone through much of the usual stuff. I figure, if you don't, for whatever reason, make the life changes that can help lift you out of this stuff, the stuff often changes your life for you. Sometimes productively, sometimes not. My recent commitment to better eating and self care in general seems to be helping my situation. Best of luck in your journey through yours.

    Pilgrim

    ---------- Post added at 02:50 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:44 PM ----------

    PS, for some years, I've been coming to the point that I probably have ADD. Looking back over my life, I can't help but think of the multitude of negative responses from others to me just being me, the way I am built. I am sure these experiences have contributed to my current situation. If you think this may be a factor in your case, "Scattered Minds", written by Gabor Mate has turned on many lights for me, like no other source. The author is an MD with diagnosed ADD.

    ---------- Post added at 03:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:50 PM ----------

    PPS, sorry for the addenda. I should have mentioned that I am a mental health professional, no longer in practice, mostly because of the foregoing. My decision to leave the profession was catalyzed by the fact that, although I was going through a bad crash and burn, not one of my peers or supervisors offered any support, acknowledgment, or even professional practice advice or sanctioning related to my situation. The only response was that, upon taking sick leave, I was forced to complete every scrap of admin work no matter how irrelevant or redundant, or how ill and in need of respite I was. Our culture is woefully lacking in certain areas of response to and treatment of human ills.

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