Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How We Overcame General Anxiety Disorder,Panic Attacks and Hypochondria

Aug 2015
It all began six months ago when my husband (BH) was declared a diabetic.It was a major downturn in our lives.The medicine he was prescribed did not agree with him.We got it changed and also amended our lifestyle (which was not much bad earlier),but his health continued to deteriorate.

He complained of various physical complaints.It was not long before I realized that he had become a hypochondriac--it is an awful affliction,believe me.There is no enemy to fight,it is all so nebulous.He began writing his various symptoms in a journal and it was crystal clear that his symptoms changed hue every day because there was no biological basis for them.But this did not set his mind at rest.

I had daily counseling sessions with him.He listened attentively and also read material about his condition on the net.I gave him constant company and tried to engage him by yapping about this and that.But there was something troubling him which spiked his anxiety.

Soon he began to have panic attacks and my son was asked to fly down immediately.He was a great help but BH gave up whatever little he had been doing to keep the household running,and began to depend entirely upon him.More spare time meant more rumination and more rumination meant more anxiety.He became worse than ever.

My son stayed with us for 18 days.BH was not ready to let him go but I prevailed upon him so that he could take up the reins again.Soon my daughter came and again the same story.He lost his weight,stamina and confidence at a fast pace.We all tried our best to talk him out of it but understanding that he was being unreasonable with his complaints did not in any way help him to mitigate them even though our GP too,gave him a clean chit.

Soon my daughter too,went and slowly he picked up a few of his duties.He began driving once again.His favorite physician checked him time and again,followed by numerous tests;to rule out any disease,but BH was never convinced.The complaints began to mount.We consulted ten doctors but he still feared that he had a serious disease.

I realized that he was suffering from A feeling of insignificance.He had been very healthy and active all his life but failing health and empty hours were taking their toll even when there was no other problem in our lives.He had no occupation and no hobby.He is a very good singer but not once did he try to play any music.Even when I did so,it failed to engage him.He has a background of agriculture but he even gave up supervising our gardener's work.The only thing he did keep up was,walking,but mostly on our terrace.He did not feel comfortable meeting people.

Now what can you do in such a situation?I tried to involve him in growing vegetables on our terrace but I ended up doing most of the work.Then I asked him to talk to some laborers who were working at a house nearby and ask them to send their children to our home for studying.Three kids started coming over.I went and bought the required stationary for them and we started the classes on our balcony. BH took up the eldest child who was smarter than the other two.He was well occupied for at least one hour in the morning.I think he liked this diversion.There was a goal to be met,and something to look forward to. 

Then a friend of mine suggested we send them to a government school where they will get free books,uniform and mid-day meal too.We did so and now those kids are going to a school and they are very happy.We are both very glad that they are receiving formal education but we do miss their visits --i.e,I hope BH too misses them;because he rarely expresses his feelings.

Feb 2016
It is now one year since all this started.My sessions with him continue,he listens carefully but he is just not prepared to accept the changes which come attached to advancing age.He is very sad at these changes in his personality (if you smell narciccism here,you are not off the mark).He has numerous physical complaints which I suspect,stem from his anxiety.Some days are good,some are not:(.

Oct 2016
He tries very hard to free himself from anxiety and it is showing results.Given below are the various factors which have helped him to recover :--

Our GP was a great help.He prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and also something for insomnia.The medicines were just enough to give him relief,and not make him drowsy all day long;which he would have abhorred.

Our children's support has been very reassuring.

Our counseling sessions have continued alongside.

He goes for daily walks on the road and meets neighbours.

*Does stretching exercises.

Also does 'pranayam' and meditation.

Goes to the market to fetch groceries etc,does not take the help of a driver.

Listening to devotional songs has eased his anxiety to a large extent.

Tearing a rag to shreds when the anxiety was extreme helped to cool his mind.

*Going out and visiting friends has also helped a lot.

We tried to play board games but this did not interest him much.Neither did painting or coloring.

The whole purpose of narrating this story is to share with you how difficult it is to extricate someone from an anxiety disorder and what are the various steps that can be taken.Eventually,sustained efforts do show results,as they have in our case.I hope we will soon be out of the woods.

Dec 2016
Nearly two years have elapsed since BH's health problems started.Today he is completely cured.What a journey it has been!He has quitted the sleeping pills as well as the anti-anxiety medicine.

Jan 2017
I am always alert for any signs of relapse--God forbid.BH has been a model patient,he not only listened to my advice but also put it into practice.Wht's more,he resumed his stretching exercises,pranayam and meditation as soon as he was able to.My being a counselor who was in constant attendance too,was a lucky coincidence.

In the absence of a psychiatrist,or an able family physician or a counselor,it is the family which has to
bear the maximum responsibility for the patient's welfare.Even if the patient is getting proper treatment,there are certain do's and don'ts which the family members should be aware,of when they take care of a mental patient.Later on,when the patient is well enough to join the mainstream,he needs to be coaxed and inspired to take baby steps towards normalcy.Along with the requisite treatment;love,empathy,encouragement and companionship of a family too,are therapeutic.It is a tough journey,but very much worth the toil.


  1. When I saw the heading, I thought it was about one of your patients. Of course your BH was too, for a while. What a journey you have had together. Wasn't he lucky to have such a patient counselor as his wife! It is so important to have some hobby or interest in life which can be either continued from younger years or taken up in old age. Seva is always the best solution as it gives mental satisfaction as well as being socially productive.

    I have one doubt. You have written about shredding a rag to overcome anxiety attacks. Can you please explain it?

    1. Yes Zephyr,a hobby is very beneficial-it comes to rescue when one is bored or disturbed.
      About that stress-buster-he was very pent up one day,did not know what to do.So I gave him an old piece of cloth and asked him to tear it up.It used up his surplus adrenalin and he calmed down-really.Even tearing up a paper to bits helps,just like pumelling a punching bag does.
      Thank you Zephyr for your sweet words.

    2. The article was very thought provoking and the questions and answers of Zephyr and Purba added a silver lining. True, any interest keeps the mind going adrift

    3. Thank you Rahul.
      Yes Purba and Zephyr stated pertinent points.

  2. Its always great to read about such experiences,wish you both a happy life ahead.

    1. So nice of you Jyotirmoy. Love and blessings from both of us.

  3. Indu, I can't even begin to imagine how stressful it must have been for you.

    This what I keep telling my parents from both sides - keep yourself occupied, busy and keep learning something new.

  4. Hugs for understanding Purba.The antidotes mentioned by you are simple but very effective.

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  6. I suffer from anxiety.....the biggest hurdle I crossed was acceptance, denial would have made it difficult. Working out, being busy really helps me and support from loved ones keeps me going :) It is so nice that you are standing strong with your husband and that it self would make things easy in a way :)

    1. Dear Shweta have you been able to nail down the cause of your anxiety?It is good that you have loving persons to support you.
      Like you I also believe in the efficacy of keeping myself busy.
      Thanks for stopping by.
      Love n hugs.

  7. The best thing about this post is positivity. Right from the start you have been so patient and positive. Off late my father is also going through this face. He does'nt much friends and even no hobby. Your post is surely going to be a big help. Thanks for the share

    1. Mansi this is the best outcome of having shared my experience online and this is why I did it too.I sincerely wish your father gathers himself and concentrates on the positives in his life.It is a strenuous journey but sustained efforts do produce results.


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