I’m in a new relationship for almost 5 months now. My previous relationship was abusive, and I developed panic attacks toward the end during high confrontation. This was also a side effect from being hit a couple of times during that past relationship, however, I feel like I am carrying some unwanted baggage with me in my current relationship. It seems that when we argue I become overly sensitive to what’s being said. When we fight, I get manic and feel like the relationship is going to end, and I end up sobbing like a child. When something is said harshly to me, my mood swings result in this crying episode again. I used to be someone who would argue and talk back, and now I start crying and trying to explain how I am feeling to my partner. While I believe my discontinuing of talking back and arguing in my new relationship of 5 months is a positive attribute, I feel like I have traded out those traits by becoming overly sensitive which results in tears. If my last partner told me to “shut up and get out” I would have “fine your loss”. Now I just crumble to the floor into the fetal position and cry. I can’t explain that change. I also don’t know if I’m coping with confrontation in my relationship appropriately because little things are setting off the crying episodes lately. Example, partner says over the phone “you’re stressing me out with plans, I can’t talk to you, goodbye.” and hangs up. I cry and before I would have been angry. I can’t tell if depression and anxiety are contributing to my oversensitivity now. It’s as if the anxiety has risen in my life in the past year, and now my coping is to cry like a 5 year old child. I’m currently being treated for depression, anxiety, and seeing counselor monthly. I just thought a third anonymous opinion in this case couldn’t hurt. Any techniques to better cope with mood swings would be helpful. I have been prescribed Klonopin to help with bad panic attacks, but I would prefer to handle it without medicine.
The strong reactions you have described, are in all probability, directly related to the abuse that you experienced during your previous relationship. When you argue with your new partner, it may trigger many of the same feelings that you associate with the abusive relationship.
In addition, your reaction may be a sign of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after one has been exposed to traumatic experiences such as domestic violence, abuse, injury, or natural disasters.
One way to decrease the intensity of your emotional reactions is to force yourself to be as logical as possible. Focus on the reality of the situation. Try to think through what happened in a particular situation and ask yourself the question “does it warrant this reaction?” The answer, in the majority of cases, will likely be no.
You can also try to manage the situation differently. For instance, write in a journal or speak to someone, such as a good friend or a therapist, who can help you stay grounded in reality. Ask your therapist if he or she could recommend a self-help manual or a book. The Feeling Good Handbook, or any book by David Burns, might assist you in managing your mood.
You provided the following example: “partner says over the phone “you’re stressing me out with plans, I can’t talk to you, goodbye” and hangs up.” You are only five months into the new relationship and your partner feels that it is acceptable to hang up on you during a disagreement. I would characterize his behavior as inappropriate and disrespectful. I have very limited information about the relationship. That example may be the only time in which he engaged in that type of behavior. If your partner behaves that way on a regular basis, then you need to re-evaluate the relationship.
I would also suggest increasing your monthly therapy sessions to weekly sessions. You are having a particularly difficult time and increasing your therapy sessions might be what is needed. Additional therapy sessions might also decrease the potential need for medication. I wish you the best. Take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle