Panic Attacks Disorder
What is Panic Attacks Disorder
Panic attacks are sudden rush of overpowering fear. There is no warning and no real trigger. Repeated attacks can create a panic disorder that could develop from phobias, avoidance of places and situations which have in the past may have been perceived to be the cause of an attack. This can be extremely disabling.
The body has two natural methods of dealing with stressful situations that are instinctive and a third which comes from the way we think about our situation, how we view the world and interpret each situation.
One instinctive response to a stressful situation is known as the “Fight or Flight Response”. The human body has been evolving for millions of years. In many ways our automatic responses to certain events are very primitive and inappropriate in our modern society.
Our basic survival instinct when we perceive a threat to our safety is the “Fight or Flight Response”. The body releases hormones into the system that prepare us for battle for survival or to run for our lives.
These hormones create physiological changes that help us to sharpen our senses which helps us see better, even in the dark. We become much more aware of our surroundings.
Our rational thinking becomes very limited and our primitive responses take over. In a real fight for survival there is no time to logically work things out.
Our heart will increase the volume of blood that it pumps by five times the normal rate. Arteries constrict to increase blood pressure and veins dilate to allow the blood to return quickly to the heart.
Breathing speeds up to oxygenate the increased flow of blood which is transported to the muscles giving them more fuel with which to work harder.
Blood is directed away from the skin and to our vital organs. This reduces any bleeding that may occur if injured.
The body’s natural painkillers, endorphins are released. This will stop the distraction of any painful injury until the threat has passed.
Blood supply to non essential systems like the digestive system and kidneys are restricted.
Fat and glucose are metabolised to give us an instant boost of energy.
Panic Attacks Disorder is an Inappropriate But Perfectly Natural Response
This is a fantastic response if the threat is really life threatening. It is an exception in modern society for such an extreme response to be necessary.
However the “Fight or Flight Response” can be triggered by relatively minor “unexpected” events, in which case the pounding heart, edginess, hyperventilating, sweating and inability to think are severely distressing.
The other instinctive response is known as the “General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS)”.
There are three stages to this the GAS response. The first is the Alarm phase. In a short term threat this is the Fight or Flight response but with a prolonged event or crisis this level of response is not maintainable.
When the stressor persists it is necessary for the body to find another way of coping. This is called the Resistance phase and this will last for as long as the body can support it.
Finally the third phase is Exhaustion. The body’s resources are depleted and the original Alarm phase symptoms may reappear.
If the stress continues, long term illnesses such as ulcers, diabetes, depression and heart problems along with mental illness can occur.