Anxiety & Panic Attacks
Panic attacks share many of the same symptoms as generalised anxiety, however, the difference is that the symptoms are present for a discreet period of time only. There is a beginning, middle and end.
People suffering from such attacks find that they begin abruptly, build up quickly over a period of about 10 minutes, during which they can become extremely distressed and frightened. Often the presence of one symptom can lead directly to another (e.g. palpitations lead to fear of having a heart attack).
Humans evolved to be anxious. Anxiety and nervousness kept us alive during primitive times. This instinctive mechanism is known as the 'fight or flight' response. To learn more about this mechanism click here.
It is an emotional response, and it can be triggered if the perceived threat is real or imaginary.
Anxiety levels range from mild worry to sheer panic.
Problems occur when the wrong degree of anxiety begins to occur at the wrong times in a habitual way.
Anxious people tend to misuse their imagination to conjure up all sorts of doom and gloom scenarios. Thoughts and worries running away with themselves triggering off the anxiety response.
Anxiety can end up controlling the way in which a person lives his/her life. Lots of missed opportunities ensue.
The symptoms of anxiety are many and varied and include:
- heart racing
- sweating, trembling, shaking
- dry mouth, feeling of lump in throat
- difficulty swallowing
- shortness of breath, difficulty catching breath
- chest pain or discomfort
- stomach churning, nausea
- feeling dizzy / faint
- fear of losing control, going mad
- hot flushes, cold chills, muscle tension
- restlessness, inability to relax
- feeling keyed up or on edge
- difficulty thinking clearly and poor concentration (mind going back over the worry)
- sleep problems through worry
Fight & Flight Mechanism
Problems start to occur when the 'fight or flight' response keeps 'going off' inappropriately, like a faulty car alarm. It is then people notice that their health begins to suffer.
When we are stressed or anxious the body goes into this type of attack/survival mode and as such prepares it to efficiently stay and fight, or run away and escape. Along with surging adrenaline into the system, one of the first things the body instinctively does is to divert blood flow away from secondary body functions and into the legs and arms. This has the effect of feeding the muscles with the strength and power it perceives it will need to keep you safe.
Because modern stressors are usually lifestyle / work based the preparations that the body makes to perform a physical attack go unused. (Like revving a car hard, but keeping the handbrake on.) Stressful episodes merge and as such, stress hormones remain in the body for longer than is healthy.
Long term stress and anxiety leads the body to concentrate it's efforts on constantly trying to keep you safe from a perceived emergency situation. The functioning of the body often becomes impaired as blood serves the main organs of the body, leaving secondary functions to decline.