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What Causes Panic Attack Symptoms?

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The body’s way of dealing with life’s emotional upsets, is to store the memories away in the subconscious mind, where they can be processed before disposal. It’s a bit like throwing things into a bin. When the bin is full, you empty it.

This is a great system and one which our natural evolutionary processes have used for thousands of years. The challenge comes when there is so much in the bin that you have trouble emptying it quickly enough. Once your internal bin is full, throwing another emotional stressor in, causes it to overflow
and ..….. you just had your first panic attack!

Whilst this is an over simplified explanation of what is behind the panic attack symptoms, its simplification is also its beauty because it makes things easy to understand.

The point of overflow often follows an event that proves stressful for us, it might not be immediate, it could be days, weeks or even months later, but the reprocessing of the memory of the event or circumstance, eventually gives it enough weight to trigger one or two of the panic attack symptoms and as it’s the first time, the additional anxiety triggers the remaining panic attack symptoms. From that point onwards, every time you get one of the panic attack symptoms, you immediately start checking yourself for the next one and because you are looking for it invariably it shows up.

The bodies control system is the autonomic nervous system, which regulates all organs and systems to maintain the body in optimum performance. The system is split into two sub systems; the sympathetic and the parasympathetic system.

The sympathetic nervous system controls the stress response or the “fight or flight” response as it’s widely known. It can be likened to the accelerator or gas pedal in a car or automobile. When the stress response kicks in its like pressing down hard on the gas, everything takes off!

The parasympathetic nervous system can be likened to the brakes and is designed to slow things down again and bring everything back to normal.

During the escalation of the panic attack symptoms, the gas pedal is being pushed hard down, the trouble with panic attacks is that it’s as if the pedal is jammed to the floor and is the brakes aren’t working!

it’s really an overdrive of nervous impulses from the brain to various parts of the body during a panic attack and an imbalance of the sympathetic system in relation to the parasympathetic system.

Once the bin is full however subsequent stressors trigger the symptoms and you become prone to experiencing the panic attack symptoms more frequently

For further information, please see our next section
“What chemicals are at work in my body when these panic attack symptoms start?”


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