Why Do We Fear?
How your actions or behaviour effect Panic attacks
Many people who experience panic often avoid situations where a potential threat exists. There are no tigers or prehistoric monsters anymore which are going to jump out of a bush and eat us. Today’s threats are psychological, such as your boss shouting at you, arguing with a friend, stressful news, etc. Panic attack sufferers often try to leave a place that is fearful, for a place they perceive as safe such as home or another person. A common action is for the sufferer to avoid a place which is likely to trigger attacks. Where this is unavoidable the person will undertake some action to try and make their life easier. For example if their legs feel wobbly they will find somewhere to sit and if they feel anxious in one place they will move to a 'safer' area.
It is not unusual for people to end up in Accident and Emergency out of total bewilderment. Having all these unpleasant sensations makes them think they they need professional help or something terrible will happen.
In short, Panic attacks cause intense fear and these in-turn produce uncomfortable body sensations such as a pounding heat and sweating. Accompanied with these attacks are racing negative thoughts which tend to exacerbate the situation. These thoughts include I need to escape or I’m going to die. The attack my last minutes or go on for much longer and leave the person feeling anxious and tense. The body also feels very drained of energy once the sufferer has calmed down and started to relax.
“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” ¯ MARILYN MONROE
Why do we fear?
As stupid as it sounds if your experiencing a panic attack your mind and body is not trying to harm you its try to protect you. What your experiencing is a fearful reaction to what your mind is interpreting as a danger in front of you. The problem is a person who is experiencing a panic attack is having an extreme fear reaction. This is because the person’s body has become extremely sensitized to certain things such as crowds, driving on busy roads, social interaction, etc.
The purpose of fear?
All animals (including humans) have built in fear instincts and this is how they survive and live to fight another day. If a mouse breaks cover out of the long grass into an opening and sees a shadow getting larger and larger over it from a hawk getting nearer, it would run as fast as it could back to cover to escape. If a wolf jumps out from a bush and chases a baby buffalo it will run as fast it can back to the herd and then the herd with gather together and charge at the wolf. The wolf will then in-turn run for its life. This is the ‘Fight or Flight’ response in action. In this situation our bodies take over and prepare us to run or do battle. The body will -
- Increase breathing so more oxygen reaches your muscles to help you fight or run
- Your heart will beat faster so more blood is carried around essential organs.
- Your muscles with tense up ready for you to spring into action to meet the challenge
- You will sweat as the body need to cool down your body when you exert yourself
- Your digestive system and salivation will slow down because you will not need to eat in this situation as your body concentrates on other things.
- The mind will tell you to escape a situation because of impending danger and you will not able to concentrate on even simple tasks.
- The pupils of your eyes will widen to let in more light to make you more aware of any danger close by. This often leads to the eyes becoming sensitive to light and visual things such as watching TV can make people more fearful.
The problem with the above is they help when you need a physical response when faced with a physical threat. But when you start to feel panickybecause your mind has dtermined there is a threat in a meeting, in the middle of a crowd or in a queue; these physical sensations are unhelpful and debilitating. When the body is panicking it gives you the best chance to run away. However when you can't move away because your in a meeting, social situation, etc, your mind floods your body with hormones with all sorts of uncomfortable side effects. This leaves a person irritable, feeling strange / peculiar, and avoiding situations you use to enjoy.
As shown above these responses are crucial if you need to fight or run. These physical reactions in your body have evolved over millions of years to protect you in the right situation. The problem is in the last few hundred years there has been a revolution in the way we live our lives. Before this time we would have lived in simple communities and the main worry would have been food and shelter. So venturing out to obtain these things may have been hazardous and required the 'fight or flight' response to escape other tribes or wild animals.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ¯ YOU LEARN BY LIVING: ELEVEN KEYS FOR A MORE FULFILLING LIFE
Nowadays people will spend hours sat in cars on busy roads, only to sit in a highly charged meeting. Or we will watch TV with non stop action and violence. We will go shopping in large busy shopping malls where we are bombarded with things. For leisure we may drink alcohol and queue for hours to get into a concert of thousands of people and then eat fast food on the way out.
If you have been under a period of stress, for some people, their bodies become sensitive to these situations and perceive these psychological threats as needing a fight or fight response. In other words our bodies are not working as they should and are firing off panic responses in allsorts of inappropriate places. This is of course happening at totally the wrong time and what the human brain is doing to our bodies is exactly what we don’t want.
It is worth mentioning that these reactions are completely normal if you think about them. They are completely needed in certain situations, such as if you need to save someone from drowning. A runner before a race would almost certainly feel nervous but he would use this to his advantage to run a faster race.
We are all unique and for some people periods of stress may not result in this response, but they may suffer some other form of reaction such as depression, inability to sleep, etc
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Panic and fear cannot last for ever and will eventually reduce as the body realizes there is no physical threat. Slowly but surely the fear reaction will stop. Although the body has produced lots of chemicals that make you feel bad, eventually the body will return to a calm state. Most people feel anxious for some time after, however the panic attack may only lasts a few minutes. Remember, Fear is there to actually help you in certain situations and is part of everyone’s design. Fear will get you ready when there are threats and once they have gone, fear will slowly die down.
So we have seen that fear is essential and very useful to us but why is fear so interlinked with panic attacks?
Panic attacks have been compared to a car alarm. If somebody is breaking into a car, the car alarm would go off and this would be a totally appropriate response. But if the wind blows the car or somebody walks past the car and the alarm activates then the alarm is too sensitive. Therefore the alarm is receiving lots of harmless signals but interpreting them as threatening and its being activated. Panic attacks are happening in the same way. It’s just a tired mind and body reacting inappropriately, and the mind needs retuning to a normal state.
These sudden feelings of fear have evolved over millions of years to save us from prehistoric monsters. If our bodies were to not to function like this then humans would have ceased to exist. Car alarms send signals to inform us there is a problem, they do not stop the car from being driven again. Panic attacks are like this. They are distressing, unpleasant and frightening but they do not harm the human body. Car alarms going beep are annoying and frustrating but they do no real harm to the car or anyone else. Sufferers with panic attacks do not go mad, there hearts do not stop and they do not harm anyone else. They are designed to protect you. A panic attack in the wrong situation will leave you irritable and tired and jittery, but your body will eventually return to a balanced state with the correct information, coping tools and mindset.
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway: How to Turn Your Fear and Indecision into Confidence and Action . One of the frist books I read in my recovery. Its very popular book. Even though its notreally designed for panic attack sufferers, the information is still very relative. How you live your life and lifestyle is crucial to overcoming fear.
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm
. Renowned Zen master and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, explores the origins of fear and offers detailed practises on how to deal with its often toxic presence in our lives...........
Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear One of the first books I read on panic attacks and still one of the best. I would say if your going to read any book first, read this one. First published in the 1960's its been updated many times, but some of the best modern-day books still have the same principles running through them. For first aid for a panic attack this is still the best book out there in my opinion. For a programme for recovery its not the best as we know far more on what contributes to panic attacks and how to cure them. For its time its was revoloutionary. Claire Weeks has sadly passed away but she did recordings and other books as well - Click Here .
Understanding Panic Attacks: and Overcoming Fear
A very thorough and popular book on panic attacks. The book is easy to read and has a lot of common sense techniques. It gives a great deal of information on the back ground leading to panic attacks and goes behind the biology of panic attacks. It focuses on cognitive behavioural therapy tools to help you and a lot of the practical advice I advocate is in this book.
Panic Attacks: What they are, why the happen, and what you can do about them: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them A book thats over ten years old but the same principles apply to day as they did then. A good book that covers what to do whilst having a panic attack and an interesting chapter on how to help others with panic attacks. It has some useful tips and will be helpful for anyone suffering with panic attacks, anixiety and agrophobia.
Anxiety and Panic Attacks - Their Cause and Cure An Amercian book and definately one of favourites. Fun, easy to read and has a stepped program to recovery. This book taught me some things I did'nt know about panic attacks and is written by someone who has gone through it. The author has also set up a very useful organisation that helps people recover. The book was written in 1993 but everything is still completly relevant.
How to Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks: A Simple Guide to using a specific set of Techniques to Stop Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Fear of Driving or Flying and Stress Written by a fellow panic attack sufferer who really has a personable approach to panic attacks. The book really goes in depth in the emotional and psychological factors. The description of panic disorder was exactly how I felt and you can definately feel empathy with how he describes the struggles involved. Geert (the author) also has produced good videos on you tube and a helpful program at ilovepanicattacks. Highly recommended.
Free Yourself From Anxiety: A self-help guide to overcoming anxiety disorders A book with a very caring attitude for anxious people with some great case studies of people who have various anxiety related issues. Lots of sensible, useful and practical information you can apply to everyday life.
Relaxtion / Hypnosis Cd's - A good way of calming your body down and reducing fear
Thoroughly recommend you read through the description of the Cd to make sure you know what they contain. Some techniques may work better than others for you, so taylor them to suit your needs.
Hypnosis Cd for Panic and Anxiety Attacks
A very good hypnosis Cd thats especially produced for panic attack sufferers. The more you use it and apply the techniques the more benefit you will get.
Control Stress : Stop Worrying and Feel Good Now I have included this in the Cd section but the bulk of the information is in a book format. Paul Mckenna is one of the most famous hypnotists, and this book/Cd gives sound practical advice on decreasing stress. The book has lots of techniques and tips which need to be applied and can bring a sense of reality when you might start thinking negative thoughts.
Glen Harrold hypnosis cds Glenn Harrold has produced lots of different Cd's from weight loss to inner clam. They certainly helped me in my recovery and I would recommend them fully. If you click on the link you can search through the Cd's he has produced and see if any catch your fancy.
Ultimate Relaxation A guided meditation by the well known Dr Hilary Jones (you have probably seen him on morning TV). Contains tips and techniques on relaxation.
Dream Surf If you like the sound of the ocean then this will be the Cd for you.
Body and Soul - Relaxation: Resting the Mind Reviving the Body If you like just gentle soothing music without any hypnosis, meditation or talking then I recommend this.
You can find some FREE meditation and relaxtions audios at excelatlife
If you want to record your own relaxation recordings then I have relaxation scripts/exercises you can record yourself. I good way to do this is record them on your mobile phone and listen to the exercises when you need to.
OTHER ARTICLES YOU MAY LIKE
Like what you read?
If so, please join to receive exclusive weekly tips & tools to overcome anxiety and panic attacks, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, How to Recover & Cure Yourself of Anxiety & Panic Attacks! Just enter your name and email