The Fight or Flight response of Anxiety & Panic attacks


The Fight or Flight response of Anxiety & Panic attacks

The Fight or Flight response of Anxiety & Panic attacks

Fight Or FlightThe ‘fight or flight’ is the body’s natural defence system which automatically triggers when there is a real or perceived threat.  Thousands of years ago our ancestors would have been chased by sabre toothed tigers or other tribes.  Our bodies have developed to stand and fight or, run away as fast as we can.

Nowadays we do not have wild animals that are going to chase us to activate the flight or fight response.  Today’s flight or fight response is activated by stressful events or by not looking after one’s self.   If you lead a very stressful life, your sympathetic nervous system can send you false alarms activating the fight or flight response even when there is no real threat to you.

Our modern way of life means our bodies are now perceiving threats when we have a stressful meeting at work, when another driver swerves in front of us, or if your neighbour decides to build a three storey extension overlooking your garden.   Our minds and bodies can perceive these stressors as modern day threats to our survival.

The Sympathetic Nervous System

The body’s nervous system is called the autonomic nervous system, this consists of

  • Sympathetic Nervous System
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System

There is nothing sympathetic about the sympathetic nervous system!   This part of our nervous system prepares the body to take action when a threat is perceived.  It starts all the sensations that panic attack sufferers fear – rapid heartbeat, legs feeling weak, unable to concentrate, shortness of breath and lots of other symptoms.   The parasympathetic nervous system restores the body to a state of calm once the perceived threat has gone. 

How the Brain is stimulated during the Fight or Flight Response

When the brain acknowledges a threat or danger, your nervous system stimulates an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.  This hypothalamus sends a message to the adrenal glands which are located in the kidneys.   The adrenal glands secrete high levels of chemicals such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin which prepare us to fight or flight (escape from the threat.)

These chemicals give us the extra energy required to make the difference if we need to save ourselves.  Once were safe the parasympathetic nervous system will eventually take over and we will calm down and feel back to normal, or so it should be?

Why Panic symptoms and the Flight and Fight Response are Interrelated

This part is really important so read carefully.  When your body perceives a potential threat it will activate physical sensations, feelings and reactions.    Throughout Positive Panic Attacks I constantly refer to sensations, feelings and reactions.  ALL THESE SIMPLY ARE IS THE FLIGHT OR FIGHT SYMPTOMS AND THEY ARE COMPLETELY HARMLESS.   READ THIS AGAIN.

Physical symptoms such as numbness or tingling, sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, choking sensations, feeling trapped, constipation, nausea, difficulty concentrating, dry throat, muscle tension, trembling, headaches, feeling disoriented, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and light, narrow mental focus, and other physical symptoms are harmless fight or flight reactions.

I can assure you (from someone who has experienced probably thousands of panic attacks) they will never harm you.  Although they make you feel really ill, its temporary and you will always come through to a happier place.  I want you to know this so that you can take the fear out of the symptoms.  They will never harm, they are actually there to help.  Over thousands of years our bodies have evolved to protect us and give us the best possible chance of surviving. 

The Anxiety Epidemic

Although people have suffered from anxiety or panic attacks since the dawn of time, the sheer numbers over the past 50 years have increased to an epidemic rate.  Why?

Our lives have changed so much in the last 50 years for example

  • The working week has increased, it’s not uncommon for people to work 60 hours a week.
  • We are all leading much busier lives nowadays.
  • Social and family networks tend to have broken down.
  • 24 hr News channels show only negative worrying events.
  • Money matters play an ever more crucial role in our lives.
  • We spend much more time travelling on crowded trains and planes, and driving on busy roads.
  • Technical innovations such as the internet, mobile phones mean our brains are bombarded with constant information.

I also believe we have lost touch with our inner mind and bodies, for example

  • Being in touch with nature and the countryside has a positive effect on our bodies.
  • Our eating habits have changed so much, with fast food, chocolate, coke cola, etc.
  • Are lives are ruled by consumerism.
  • Some people are more likely to make a comment on a social network than have a meaningful conversation with their family face to face.
  • We simply don’t exercise enough.

Our mind and bodies have not changed much since we lived as cavemen and cavewomen.  Back then we would have lived off the land and ate fruit, fish and meat.  We would have exercised by foraging for food. We would have lived in groups having family support networks.   Money, work stresses and consumerism would not have entered our heads.   I’m not saying life was a bed of roses thousands of years ago.  Venturing out potentially meant coming across a wild animal which could attack us.  In this scenario the fight or flight response was totally appropriate and worked.  Today we still need this function, but more commonly it’s being triggered for all the wrong reasons.

The Psychological Symptoms of Panic Attacks

There are psychological symptoms to panic attacks.  Once a panic attack is triggered we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a potential threat.  This leads to us psychologically exaggerating the dangers around us.  The reason our minds do this is because our rational mind is bypassed to survival mode.  Anything in our immediate environment can potentially make us fearful, resulting in us feeling that we should remove ourselves from the situation.

These psychological symptoms are often called the ‘mental side’ of anxiety and can make you feel

  • Detached from your body
  • Like your dying
  • Apprehensive and fearful
  • Feel like you’re going crazy or mad
  • Constantly worrying
  • The need to escape

In doing the above our mind has shut down the rational side of our brain and falsely activated the flight or fight.   THIS IS WHAT IS HAPPENING TO YOU.  WHAT YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IS NONE OF IT IS REAL – IT’S YOUR MIND BLUFFING.  IT’S TRICKING YOU TO BELIEVE THERE IS A PROBLEM OR THREAT.

The Positive Panic Attacks Treatment program will show you how to overcome both physical and mental symptoms.

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Tip from the Trenches
Your thoughts are one of the key to overcoming anxiety.  I could not believe my own thoughts were making me this ill but its true!  Your thoughts are unbelievably powerful.  An Olympic athlete would work not only on his physical body but also prepare mentally.   Our thoughts can make the difference between a positive, successful performance and repeated failure.  Believe me, it takes time, but you can change your inner thoughts so that even if you wanted to have a panic attack you won’t be able too.










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