We’ve all experienced it at some point. We’re in front of a crowd, or we’re chasing a deadline we know we can’t meet. And it just happens. Suddenly, we find it hard to breathe, or it feels as if everything’s going to consume us. We can’t move and we’re paralyzed. Before we know it, we’re having a panic attack.
If you’ve experienced a panic attack, you may have somehow developed your own “steps” to identify it and sometimes even calm yourself down. However, in order to fully understand your panic attacks and find better ways of treating them, it’s important to understand the way these attacks affect the mind.
Is This Common?
Experts from Medical Daily assert that panic attacks are common things that happen to us in our lifetime. Some of us experience one or two panic attack episodes in our lifetime
– possibly more. These generally happen when we anticipate for something we know we cannot control.
However, before we go into the deeper parts of panic attacks, we have to be clear on what it means. Mayo Clinic defines a panic attack as something that the mind associates with fear even if we don’t have real danger happening to us.
This makes panic attacks scary, as we tend to feel like losing control over something that isn’t going to harm us. Unfortunately, the body thinks these things will do us harm, so it fires up our nervous system when there’s no real reason to.
A General Sense
According to Scientific American, panic attacks often have similar “signs.” These include the feeling of choking, or the feeling of about to blackout. These are similar indicators of stress, and affect what we call the sympathetic nervous system, then followed by action by the parasympathetic nervous system.
- The sympathetic nervous system is the part of the body that becomes “active” by releasing energy.
- This “activity” from the sympathetic nervous system helps the body ready itself for action.
- It’s the parasympathetic nervous system’s job to stabilize the body into a much calmer phase.
- If the parasympathetic nervous system is unable to do this, then the body remains “fired up.” This is what people generally associate with panic attacks.
The Specific Parts
In recent research, scientists have found out that there are also certain regions in the brain that become tad a bit too active during panic attacks. The amygdala is a part of these regions. This is the part of the brain that focuses on fear. In turn, some parts of the midbrain also become affected, such as those that handle our pain experience.
Specifically, the part of the midbrain that is called the periaqueductal gray is affected. When we experience panic, it forces our body to adopt a defensive response. These include running and freezing. By studying these regions, scientists can help understand how we’re exactly affected by disorders associated with anxiety.
When you feel symptoms of panic attacks, always remember that these can be treated with medication and other forms of therapy such as treatment from a psychologist. Always consult a doctor first before taking medication. Some lifestyle changes can also give tremendous effects to those that have regular panic attacks. If you want to try them out, you can do the following:
- You can try to engage in physical activity, such as a hobby or exercise.
- Always try to get sufficient rest, so your body and mind is in top condition.
- You can try methods of relaxation such as yoga and meditation.
- Talking also helps! Feel free to speak with a friend with similar issues as well.
If you feel like your anxiety issues are starting to take a toll on your general outlook in life, it may be time to consult with a therapist. They know a great deal about how to deal with these issues, and they may help you develop a personal “plan” of sorts that can help you cope up with your issues without interfering with your daily life.
Now that you’ve read about the way panic attacks occur in the mind, you now have a better understanding of how panic attacks work. It may also help if you consult a psychiatrist or your therapist in order to get a more personal assessment of how this new knowledge can help you overcome your panic attacks.
If you have any questions and inquiries, feel free to comment and share your thoughts below!
Janice has a wealth of experience and training. She holds a Diploma of Education, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Master of Arts (Counselling), Diploma of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ASH) and is a Registered Psychologist at Psychologists Southern Sydney. She’s also a member of the Australian Psychological Society.