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I am sorry to hear about the problems you are experiencing. Anxiety can certainly impact all areas of life, including relationships. Millions of people (an estimated 15% of the population) suffer from devastating and constant anxiety that severely affects their lives, sometimes resulting in living in highly restricted ways. These people experience panic attacks, phobias, extreme shyness, obsessive thoughts, and compulsive behaviors. The feeling of anxiety is a constant and dominating force that disrupts their lives. Some become prisoners in their own homes, unable to leave the home, work, drive, or visit the grocery store. For these people, anxiety is much more than just an occasional wave of apprehension.
Common symptoms of panic include:
• Racing or pounding heart
• Sweaty palms
• Feelings of terror
• Chest pains/heaviness in chest
• Dizziness and lightheadedness
• Fear of dying
• Fear of going crazy
• Fear of losing control
• Feeling unable to catch breath
• Tingling hands, feet, legs, arms
Generalized anxiety disorder is quite common, affecting an estimated 3 to 4% of the population. This disorder fills a person’s life with worry, anxiety, and fear. People who have this disorder are always thinking and dwelling on the “what ifs” of every situation. It feels like there is no way out of the vicious cycle of anxiety and worry. The person often becomes depressed about life and their inability to stop worrying.
People who have generalized anxiety usually do not avoid situations, and they don’t generally have panic attacks. They can become incapacitated by an inability to shut the mind off, and are overcome with feelings of worry, dread, fatigue, and a loss of interest in life. The person usually realizes these feelings are irrational, but the feelings are also very real. The person’s mood can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. Feelings of anxiety and mood swings become a pattern that severely disrupts the quality of life.
People with generalized anxiety disorder often have physical symptoms including headaches, irritability, frustration, trembling, inability to concentrate, and sleep disturbances. They may also have symptoms of social phobia and panic disorder.
Most people who suffer from anxiety disorders begin to feel better when they receive the proper treatment. It can be difficult to identify the correct treatment, however, because each person’s anxiety is caused by a unique set of factors. It can be frustrating for the client when treatment is not immediately successful or takes longer than hoped for. Some clients feel better after a few weeks or months of treatment, while others may need a year or more. If a person has an anxiety disorder in combination with another disorder (such as alcoholism and depression), treatment is more complicated and takes longer.
While a treatment plan must be specifically designed for each individual, generally a combination of individual therapy, often in conjunction with medication can be quite effective. I would not recommend simply taking medication without individual therapy since the underlying issues will not be addressed in this way.
In addition, sharing information with your wife about anxiety, rather than talking to her in an anxious way, may help her to understand the role that anxiety is playing in the marital problems.
I hope this answer is helpful. Please let me know if I can clarify further.
It is only marginally helpful.. My wife has had an affair which kicked off this crisis, and she has not officially ended it (only suspended it) . She has shown some interest in reviving our marriage but has limited patience for any discussions involving "serious" issues re: our marriage. She has shown a little interest in my comments about GAD, but how do I assure myself that is in fact what I have and how do I get her more "engaged" in the process of seeing how solving this might help revive our marriage ?
I am sorry to hear about the affair. It is important to understand that affairs are often a way of trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings, so this way be a way for your wife to avoid issues that have been uncomfortable, either coming from the marriage, or other things in her life. Unfortunately, unless she ends the affair, it is not possible to truly work on the marriage. This may be one reason that she is not willing to discuss your anxiety.
The best way to discover what your diagnosis is would be to schedule an appointment with a psychologist. If you do have an anxiety disorder, then seeking treatment, whether it is helpful for the marriage, or even if it is too late to help with the marriage, will certainly be helpful to you. You deserve to be able to live life free of overwhelming anxiety. Treatment should be as much for you as for the positive effect that it may have on the marriage.
I hope that your wife chooses to end the affair in order to be able to work on the marriage. Unfortunately, you cannot make her decision for her. However, you can work on becoming healthier and happier, both of which will give you the best chance of improving your marriage if she decides to work on it. Please let me know if I can clarify further.
My wife's therapist (who is also our joint marriage counselor) has told her to end the affair several times, but she continues to "nibble at the edges" of it by calling this person (who lives across the country).. So far as I know they are not seeing each other again, but there is no assurance of that. I agree with you that ending this is essential to addressing our marriage issues, but every attempt I make to find out if she has ended it is greeted with hostility and defensiveness. Our therapist has recommended I not even mention this issue to my wife further. Any thoughts ?
I would wonder if it makes sense to continue marital therapy while she has not ended the affair. Personally, that is my practice, to suspend marital therapy and have the individual work in individual therapy until the affair is truly ended. I would agree that you cannot be the watchdog of whether she has ended the affair. What you can do is to work on you, addressing your anxiety issues and seeking treatment for them, focusing on healthy things for you including exercise and eating right, etc. You should be able to tell if she ends the affair and is ready to work on the marriage if you see changes in her mood, emotional availability and behavior. It is also not always best practice to have someone's individual therapist see the couple for couples therapy as well as this can sometimes feel like a conflict of interest for one or both members of the couple. I hope this is helpful.
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