Hi everyone,

I am seeking help as a husband with a wife who has suffered with anxiety for a few years. I am writing with the hope that someone can offer me guidance on how to help. She has seen a psychologist only once for this issue, and it was quite helpful, but we could never afford to go back. Also due to that, I don't have a lot to go off of in the form of any clinical diagnosis, so I'll attempt to describe our situation here.

The psychologist did help by identifying that my wife has PTSD from two sources; the sudden, violent death (hit by a train. She was the last to see him) of a friend when she was 18, and rape when she was 19 (she is 24 now). Since then she has been able to keep things together about 1/3 of the time, but the other half is often spent in crippling anxiety.

When we got married, I had to check in with her every time I went to or from anywhere. If I didn't, she would often go into a full scale panic attack with uncontrollable sobbing and difficulty breathing. In every situation, her mind immediately jumped to the worst possible outcome. Even worse was that she knew it was irrational but could not control it. Since then she has gradually improved, to the point where if I forgot to text her, her first thought was not that I was dead, but that I had simply forgotten. Intimacy was difficult at first, but over time we managed to (most of the time) enjoy being intimate without activating any of her triggers.

Now, things have changed again. We had beautiful baby girl last Saturday. The nurses were especially sensitive to her being a rape survivor and she had a minimally traumatic birth experience (nothing more than the ordinary). However, her anxiety has (understandably) heightened with the arrival of our daughter. A few nights ago, I fed our daughter about 15 minutes past when she was supposed to eat, and my wife went into a tailspin, with a full scale panic attack. Each day she grapples with thinking the baby has stopped breathing, that my mother or her sister are going to drop her, or that she's not gaining enough weight. Our daughter is in fact perfectly healthy and happy. It kills me to see see my wife like this, because she can barely function. She's on the verge of dropping out of her part time vet tech program (where she is the top student) because when she can't have her eyes on the baby because she worries so much that her mind can't focus. When her mother is taking care of the baby she rests easy, but her mother has to go back to work eventually and cannot be a permanent caretaker for us. She knows we will need a caretaker for the baby but the idea of this also sent her into a full scale anxiety attack.

How can I best help? Should I suggest she see a psychologist? A psychiatrist? And how can I bring this up with her without damaging our relationship?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.