Anxiety and panic are normal reactions to pressures and stresses that occur in life. Sometimes the reactions that should only transpire in extreme cases of danger or emergency take place for minor incidents. These unnecessary overreactions, over time, can develop into a case of panic attacks. There are many ways that these attacks are caused. Traumatic experiences earlier in life can be one way to initiate an attack. Let’s take a look at two situations and see how this might work:

Scenario 1

Imagine that you are walking alone in the woods. All of a sudden, a huge grizzly bear comes around the corner in front of you. How will you react? You most likely will be scared out of your wits!

Without giving it any thought, your body will start responding as well. You will automatically secrete the hormone adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, into your system which will cause you to have the fight or flight response. You are either going to act by going up to the bear and punching him, or you are going to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can. Either way, you ready to take action. This would be a very appropriate response to a genuine threat to your safety. How bad would it be if instead of responding to the danger of a bear in your path, you just calmly sat down to eat your picnic dinner? Chances are good that you would not survive the experience!

Scenario 2

This time, imagine that you have to speak before a group of 200 people at a conference for your job. You have hated public speaking ever since you had to give a presentation in eighth grade and were so nervous that you threw up in front of everyone. Just the thought of standing there makes you feel sick to your stomach. Each time you think of the speech, you become physically ill.

Finally, the big day arrives and you are waiting for your turn to speak. Your body starts pumping adrenaline. You can feel your heart rate increasing and you start to breathe faster. You start to sweat profusely and can’t seem to stop the room from spinning. You start to feel dizzy and light-headed. As you try to remember what you are going to say, all you can feel is confusion. You don’t know how you can possibly go up to podium. There is absolutely no peril to your well-being, but your body is acting as if you are in imminent danger.

What are the differences between these two scenarios? The biggest distinction is the level of danger you are experiencing. In the first case, your life is threatened, while in the second case, it is not. Yet your body is reacting very similarly in both circumstances.

What is causing the panic attack? In this illustration, the attack was brought on as a consequence of a traumatic experience while still in junior high school. Even though a person may not even be conscious of an event, it has does influence the perception of a similar task later in life. In this example, having to speak in public causes great panic.

By recognizing the connection between the two speaking events, a person can understand the process that leads to a panic attack and begin to change the thought process and end result.

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