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February 10, 2014

In looking through research for my ebook, “How to End Panic Attacks”, I have become accustomed to finding false information on websites about panic attacks. These false pieces of information have become so redundant that I have broken them down into two myths.

Myth #1 Anxiety Attacks and Different from Panic Attacks.

For example, I came across a question and answer post in which the doctor  discussed the difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks. The author described anxiety attacks as being triggered by frightening stimuli, with the attack expiring once the shock over the stimuli is over or once you have gotten used to the stimuli. An example would be if you were startled by someone walking up behind you, your feelings of shock would go away once you turned around and saw that the person behind wasn’t a threat.

First of all anxiety attack is not an official term, no medical or psychological association uses that term. Often times when people do use the term anxiety attacks, they are referring to panic attacks, so there lies no difference between anxiety and panic attacks.

 There is a difference however between generalized anxiety and panic attacks. While people who do suffer from generalized anxiety do experience unpleasant physiological symptoms, these symptoms are nowhere as acute and as severe as panic attacks. It is also important to note that people who do suffer from panic attacks also suffer from chronic generalized anxiety between panic attacks, however not everyone who suffers from generalized anxiety suffers from panic attacks.
Myth#2 Panic Attacks Happen for No Reason
Another post I came across then goes on to describe panic attacks as unexpected physiological arousal as evidenced by rapid heartbeat, chest pains, increased blood pressure, etc. that occur for no reason. Just about the only thing the author got right was his description of panic attacks, now I shall address this second myth that panic attacks happen out of the blue. From my experience as a psychotherapist, most people who come in to seek help are clueless about how their past and present experiences have brought them to their current boiling point. They will usually proclaim that their experiences with panic attacks usually come out of nowhere. Just this idea that panic attacks come out of nowhere is anxiety provoking by itself and can itself become a triggering thought for future panic attacks with sufferers.
The best way to debunk this falsehood is to present the analogy of the boiling lobster. Put a lobster in a pot of boiling water and that lobster will resist the water with all it’s might, but put that same lobster in cool water, which you gradually heat to boiling point, and that lobster will not notice that it is being killed.
This is the best way to understand how panic attacks work, most people who suffer from panic attacks have been immersed in traumatic situations their entire lives and they don’t know any different. What’s even worse is that since their brains have become wired to exist in these traumatic situations, they seek similar situations in their adulthood. Unfortunately, much like a heroine user’s brain has become wired to survive on heroine, the point of diminishing return is always inevitable with prolonged exposure.

The good news is that the brain is neuro plastic and with understanding of oneself and triggers, people can learn to bring their experiences with panic attacks to an end and live more meaningful and purposeful lives.

Ugo is psychotherapist and life coach.


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