Panic attacks, you either love them or hate them. Who am I kidding, we all dislike panic attacks. The sudden intensity and feeling of your heart racing. You feel like you have been stuck in an epic Marvel fight scene, without the ability to move, breathe, or fight back. Am I having a heart attack, because surely I am dying!? The question I want to look at in this post, is the reason behind why panic attacks form and why we have such intense reactions to them.
The amygdala is the culprit behind all the mess. The feelings that are vital for survival in a real life and death situation, have somehow been misplaced to react over unimportant thoughts. This misinterpretation from the amygdala does not have a specific known source. There are theories that due to genetics, stress, and changes in the way the brain operates all contributes to us having panic attacks over non life threatening things.
Many people suffer with anxiety before they begin to suffer with panic attacks. However, there are people who have had spontaneous panic attacks with no history of anxiety. As there is not much known about the why of panic attacks, I want to speculate a bit. We are faced with many stressors in this day in age, but not a lot of healthy coping skills before things become a habit. For someone who may start experiencing panic attacks out of the blue, I believe it could be due to the lack of having an outlet to deal with stress. Their brain learns to handle stress in a specific way that is unhealthy, until it finally bubbles over.
I, on the other hand, have always suffered with anxiety. Panic attacks, though, have not always been an issue for me. In my case, I believe that after years of untreated anxiety and all the flooding of chemicals that go with it, my brain finally had enough. Which is true, I had a huge break down at 14 and felt like I could not go on like I was anymore. So if we are looking throughout all the years of my inability to cope with anxiety, my brain was being taught to handle the anxiety and stress in a way that is not healthy.
Comparing my experience to the one of someone who never had experienced anxiety, we are very similar. We both are training our brains to cope in unhealthy ways, due to the lack of knowledge and resources available. Since it is not a sustainable way to deal with stress, eventually the brain will get overwhelmed and panicked about little things. It has, unintentionally, been taught to do this for a very long time.
This is why our mental health is so important! Only now are we starting to gauge the impact that increased stress and poor coping skills are having on people. The increased number of suicides, for one, is huge in indicating the struggle everyone is having. There are available therapies and medications that many people do not know of or cannot access because of money. Besides the fact that it takes years to change what took years to develop in the first place. Making mental health services available to everyone is critical.
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GreenI, Eveline. “Why Do Panic Attacks Happen? • Mind Globe.” Mind Globe, 6 Jan. 2017, mind-globe.com/why-do-panic-attacks-happen/.
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