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Anxiety Due to Abuse

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From Canada: I’m currently in a BA degree and my question is – what should I do if my professor reminds me of my abuser?

I’ve been emotionally and verbally abused for 10 years and I’ve never received any counselling for it. I’ve always had anxiety but lately it’s been a lot worse. Whenever I am in the class my heart races and I shake tremendously and last class I even broke into tears. This happens whenever my professor walks around and particularly when he comes near my desk. He always stands over my desk during lectures, and I get incredibly anxious.

I don’t know what to do about it, whether I should talk to him about it. I’m worried that it will lead to explaining why I’m anxious around him and I don’t want that to occur.

I can’t drop the class because he is the only professor who teaches it and it is a required course. What do you recommend I do?

Thank you for your help.

Anxiety Due to Abuse

Answered by on -


I wish you could drop the course. Ideally, you should get some needed treatment before you will be ready to deal with something like this on a daily basis. Is there any way you can put off taking this particular class until another year?

If not — here are some suggestions:

  • Change your seat if you can. Sit with your back to the wall and near a door. You will feel safer.
  • Practice breathing techniques to calm yourself. Tell yourself “Then was then, now is now. I’m safe in class.”
  • Find a friend in class and sit next to him or her.
  • Focus on taking very detailed notes. There is no need to make eye-contact with the prof.
  • Count down the weeks. You will not be in this class forever. Remind yourself when the class will be over.

If all that doesn’t work, you might want to try to talk with the prof. You don’t owe him any explanations. You can simply state that you would prefer that he not hover near you. If he presses for information, thank him for his concern, reassure him that it has nothing to do with him and restate that you prefer not to go into it. Then say a polite thank you and leave.

You said you have never had treatment for the abuse. I imagine there is a counseling service in your school. Please take advantage of it. Recovering from 10 years of abuse is generally not something a person can do on their own. You deserve the support and guidance of an experienced counselor.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Anxiety Due to Abuse

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Anxiety Due to Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 7, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 19 Nov 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.