5 May: Q&A with Dr John Nehaul

I am a mother of three young children and unable to cope with any crisis that affects them or in fact anybody else that I am very close to.  Over the last few years we have had the normal childhood incidents – broken bones, broken teeth, stitches etc etc. Each time, despite trying desperately to remain calm, I become hysterical and even after the event, when everything is fine, I have panic attacks. It takes me days to ‘get over’ each incident and leaves me feeling drained. I realise that the hysteria is because of fear but I really don’t want my children to inherit my anxieties. Is there anything I can do to help myself respond to crisis situations in a normal ‘rational’ manner or do you think I should seek professional help? If so, what kind of help is available?

Dr John Nehaul, Consultant Psychiatrist:

What you are describing is anxiety when a member of your family or a close friend goes through a ‘mishap’ or crisis. This anxiety continues after the event. You mention panic attacks. These are attacks of severe anxiety where your heart races, your chest may feel tight and you may sweat. You may feel as though you are going to pass out. These attacks are very common and I would be surprised if you did not have friends who have had a similar experience. Young children may learn this behaviour from their parents. However it would be worth having treatment for your own good as well. If you need professional help you may need a therapy called ‘cognitive behaviour therapy’. This ‘talking therapy’ must be given by a trained therapist and you should be able to access it through your doctor’s surgery. Ask your doctor or practice nurse to refer you although there may be a waiting list to access treatment through the NHS. If you decide to pay for it yourself you should look for a therapist who is a member of the ‘British Association of Cognitive Behaviour Therapists’ and a registered Cognitive Behaviour Therapist (www.cbtregisteruk.com).

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