Knowing the underlying causes of anxiety and panic allow you a way of understanding what you are doing that makes your symptoms worse. We do know that anxiety attacks, or panic, can easily be “set” in humans even after just one experience of being overwhelmed. This one time can set a “habit” and now can become automatic and your body can respond this way on a regular basis.
Some people have “Anxiety Sensitivity” which suggests that some people are more prone to anxiety and panic attacks because of fact that they are just more “sensitive” types of people. Being “sensitive” can be an asset and allow you to be intuitive, creative and bright. However, this asset can also be a liability because you tend to “pick up” too much and may not know how to “filter out” some things that you should not pay attention to. Anxiety sensitives also tend to “feel things” more acutely, and at lower levels, than others making them very sensitive to things that happen around and to them. Anxiety sensitives also have an increased “high autonomic arousal” where their automatic nervous system quickly responds–much faster than others–like they are in a crisis and it “warns them” that something is happening.
Having a high arousal potential can be good and bad. It can keep you keyed up unless you learn to focus what you are doing and filter out some things. We do know that those people with an “excessive autonomic nervous system arousal can quickly change and be quite reactive to any stimuli. We also know that those people with panic disorders have a sudden and consistent relative drop in cerebral-vascular brain blood flow with just movements of lying down to getting up. This may make one feel “strange, dizzy, see ‘stars’, or feel faint” thereby bringing on a sense of panic. This is only temporary and will are turn to normal in a very short period of time if you don’t panic over it.
Some people have a “mitral valve prolapse” problem where a valve in the heart does not function properly causing “skip beats,” “thuds,” “rapid heart beats,” and an increase awareness of one’s heart. This is not serious and you will not die from it. However, it can make people prone to panic attacks.
Knowing these physical factors can help you feel in, and regain, control over your body, fears, worries, etc. It helps to explain more what is going on with you. You are not crazy or going to die. Something real is happening but you can control and manage it better with the following points and the above knowledge.
Instability of the Autonomic Nervous System
The Autonomic (or “automatic”) nervous system operates by itself and is called upon when the person has to deal with any crisis. It is designed to “get the person ready” to handle the situation by “sending adrenalin,” and other chemicals, into the body to “activate it.” It can cause a large number of seemingly unrelated symptoms affecting many different systems of the body including one or more of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest & muscular pain with no apparent physical cause.
- Migraine and tension headaches.
- Dizzy, spacey feelings.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Balance problems, vertigo (Dizziness).
- Insomnia, sleep disturbances.
- Hyperventilation, shortness of breath.
- Palpitation of the heart, skipped or irregular heartbeat.
- Panic attacks with pounding heartbeats.
- Hypersensitive startle reflex.
- Cold sweats.
- Cold feet and hands, tingling, numbness and tightness of of fingers and toes.
- Stomach Upset, irritable bowel syndrome.
- Diarrhea, constipation.
- Difficulty Swallowing.
When the Autonomic Nervous System is activated, it can trigger and amplify emotional and physical responses. Over time, the repetition of disturbing symptoms can cause a sort of feedback-loop that can “condition” the person to a “habit pattern” of responding and make the symptoms even worse.
People who anticipate the symptoms develop a dread and start to associate them with all sorts of situations, feelings and experiences. The person becomes so fearful of the symptoms that they “anticipate” them and become afraid to do anything. As a result, the panic anxiety attacks develop a “life of their own” and the person starts to wonder “what is wrong with me.”
This only makes them “more of a victim of the problem” where the person feels helpless. This only makes things worse because the only way to change things is for the person to “take charge” and start to develop a plan to regain control through learning to “manage the problem” rather than searching for “the cure,” which only keeps the person tense and anxious as they “search.”
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