Q&A: Help! A colleague is having panic attacks about her miner's contract work

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By psychologist Angie Willcocks

Q: I have a work colleague who's hubby works in construction in mining and she continues to have anxiety attacks, affecting her life and work performance to the degree that she becomes hyper-anxious when her hubby's work is about to finish up. I know that it's due to the feelings of lack of potential abundance, and I have tried to help her by talking things through and listening. Could you please help with any other suggestions. I am sure she would not be an isolated case and others would also feel this way. Thank you.

A: Thanks for getting in contact with me on behalf of your friend. She's lucky to have someone looking out for her. You would definitely be helping her out by just listening.

From your email it sounds like your friend's husband is doing contract work, and that your friend becomes anxious about finances when his contracted work is coming to an end. I hope I have understood this correctly - please email me again if I haven't!

Most of us would worry about money in your friend's situation, but having panic attacks indicates that she has gone beyond normal worry and into an anxiety disorder that requires treatment. Panic and anxiety are treatable so I would definitely encourage your friend to talk to her GP about getting a referral to a psychologist who will be able to help her get the anxiety and panic attacks under control. The treatment generally involves having a detailed look at what sorts of thoughts trigger the panic, and then some specific strategies to manage both the thoughts and the body's strong reaction. Sometimes medication is also prescribed, but your friend could obviously discuss her preferences around this with her GP.

Making the move to go and see someone like a GP or psychologist can be daunting and this is one area where you might be able to help out (obviously with your friend's permission) by making appointments and taking her if needed. Please also see a previous Q&A for more detailed information: when panic attacks strike ...

Also, have a look at www.beyondblue.org.au for more information on anxiety and panic.

I know that insecure work conditions are causing a lot of stress in the mining and construction industries at the moment. Your friend might want to have a look at a recent column I wrote on this very topic: Coping with bombshells like 'Don't come Monday'

I hope this helps, please do come back to me if you'd like any further information. 

To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.

Angie Willcocks is a registered psychologist with a private practice in Adelaide – for details about Skype consultations please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She’s an expert in tackling issues such as depression, anxiety, postnatal depression, child sleep routines and relationship difficulties. She has a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Psychology and a Masters of Counselling Psychology. She is also the co-author of The Sensible Sleep Solution: a guide to sleep in your baby’s first year, which can be ordered from her website www.angiewillcocks.com.