The body’s fear reaction – The Stress Response
The symptoms that you experience during a panic attack are just exaggerations of what is considered a normal fear reaction – a stress response. For example, if you were up a ladder and it wobbled, you would consider it normal, and even familiar, to feel your heart racing. Once you realize that you did not fall and are safe, your body and heart rate return to normal – you are given a relaxation response. You accept this as just something that happens and you probably won’t think about it later or fear that it may happen again.
Symptoms occur out of the blue
It seems ok to accept symptoms such as a racing heart when it happens at the top of a wobbly ladder, but it is more difficult to accept if the exact same symptoms occur when there is no danger present. If, for example, you were watching TV and suddenly felt your heart racing, you will probably feel quite uncomfortable with it. If it continues to race, you may stop concentrating on your program and all your attention is focused on what is happening in your body. You may start to have chest pain and feel light headed. These reactions are now causing you to feel alarmed. You can read more about the symptoms of panic here.
The feeling of alarm often leads to frightening thoughts “something is happening to me”, “Something serious is wrong”. These thoughts trigger more symptoms and a vicious cycle begins.
Even after the symptoms have passed, you may find that you are worried that they might return, which of course they do, as your thoughts are now causing you alarm and you feel this, in terms of a stress reaction and your heart starts to race again. Our thoughts and feelings and connected.
Fear turns to panic
Your fear reaction – stress response (that was responsible for your racing heart on the wobbly ladder) is becoming very sensitive to your thought processes. The fear reaction is there to protect you from harm. It is now trying to tune in to your thought processes which are sending signals to your brain, that something very serious may be wrong with you. It makes sense then, each time you worry that the symptoms may return, you get a fear reaction or a stress response.
You are now on high alert to all symptoms in your body and start to notice, what may be normal sensations that are present often, but not paid heed to. You are monitoring yourself for possible signs of danger. When you feel something in your body, this sends a alarm, and you may start to believe that this is further evidence to suggest that something really is wrong. The vicious cycle returns.
There are ways to stop your body responding in this way. Find out how the Panic and Anxiety Program can help to replace your fear response with a relaxation response.