Fear causes every single symptom that those with panic attacks experience. Hormones shunt blood to some areas to make it more accessible for rapid response and away from other areas of the body causing all sorts of aches pains you name it. Example: your digestive system is slowed or shut down while your heart rate increase to be able to support muscles in the need to escape. And if that is not enough, the hormones increase to the amygdala which will store the danger in your memory so your body will be prepared for the next similar event. This fear deep inside you has the ability to impair how you respond to similar situations and can leave a person in an anxious state. The problem is that when stored there is no differentiation between imagined fear, potential fear and real danger. This small but mighty brain part has no reasoning! It just causes your body to react.
Definition: A tiny brain structure called the amygdala (pronounced: uh-MIG-duh-luh) keeps track of experiences that trigger strong emotions. Once a certain thing or situation triggers a strong fear reaction, the amygdala warns the person by triggering a fear reaction every time he or she encounters (or even thinks about) that thing or situation.
Let’s use the pulse as an example:
We have talked about ruts created in your thinking and when accentuated by fear your brain will react in predicable ways. When from frequently checking your pulse, leads to full-blown panic attack – when in fact your pulse was probably within normal limits to start with. Remember the pulse is constantly changing. Heat, cold, emotions, food drink, thoughts, activity, digestion, visual, auditory cues you name it – the pulse changes. Did I say emotions and thoughts….. your state of mind can radically influence your pulse and the stored memories in the amygdala can kick in and with no real threat to your well-being your pulse can start to race.
Because the fear and sheer terror created by a panic attack is stored in the amygdala any perceived change in pulse can set off immediate signals that danger is imminent. There is nothing rational about the process. Negativity sets in and therefore people may believe they MUST keep checking your pulse to catch any future attacks when instead they are just magnifying the problem ingraining that fear deeper and deeper into their long term memory and creating an automatic response of panic.
This is important:
When you experience something dangerous your brain takes a snapshot of everything around you at that time. Any of these things sights, sounds, odors, time of day, clothing, location, weather, colors, music, you name it can be then associated with the fear that you experienced. These can now trigger another episode of fear and terror. But because the snapshot was taken in the frenzy of terror they are blurred and may not be easy to identify. Any detail that surrounded the initial event can trigger a fear later. The activity becomes habitual often seen with the fear of driving or crowded places. Something from the past got hijacked by the amygdala and just shows up without any present danger.
How to Deal with Chronic Fear and Anxiety You may find this article from the university of Minnesota interesting.
Fear is built into us for survival, to keep us safe. Some fear is instinctive, some is learned and some in part is taught by repetitious negative responses.
Remember what you read here is only part of the picture. We attempt to tie in information as it pertains to panic and anxiety disorder. The more you understand where your fears come from how they have become ingrained in your thought patterns then you will start to be able to understand how to reverse the process.
FIGHT BACK FIGHT FEAR