Anxiety and Panic are REACTIONS.
This is because it’s the struggle with as if it were something you need to fight off, that causes the problem and starts the spiral the can result in a panic attack. When you get anxious, it FEELS like an attack…I know.
But it isn’t. It’s YOU.
Here’s what you would see if you could slow the process down and watch it…
You’re going about your day, minding your own business, and all of a sudden, you have a thought.
It could be about anything. Maybe you have about a trip you have to take in a few weeks, or an argument you had with your spouse, or a conversation you had with a coworker, or maybe you have about the last time you had an anxiety attack.
Don’t forget that there’s ALWAYS thoughts running through your head…your mind never goes blank, not even when you sleep. In fact, you have so many thoughts running around that head of yours, you don’t pay attention to most of them.
In this example, you were driving to work and had a thought, whether it conscious or unconscious makes no difference. Let’s say the thought turned out to be, “What if I have an anxiety attack?”
That thought bothers you and brings up other thoughts, probably of how you felt the last time you had an anxiety attack in the car and how afraid you became. Those thoughts scare you, and you begin to feel some very minor sensations of fear.
Maybe a little lightheadedness for instance or an increased heart rate.
Then a critical transition takes place.
You STOP being concerned about the original thought, and you START being concerned about the feeling of fear.
The first part, the REAL thought that bothered you and your small reaction anxiety, may have been so fleeting that it feels like your panic comes on “out of the blue”. If I ask you what you were thinking when your anxiety started, you may say, “Nothing, I wasn’t thinking anything.” But actually that’s not true, you’re ALWAYS thinking something…it’s just that you went from the REAL thought the fear of the feelings so quickly you couldn’t tell them apart.
Back to the example…
Now you’re concerned about the feeling you’re having, which is nothing but a normal physical response to fear, and it worries you. You start to focus on it, and you scan your body for any other evidence that something is the matter.
Maybe you have a slight tingle in your left finger…it could have been there for an hour without your noticing it, but now you’re on the lookout for ANYTHING, so you feel it and focus on it…watch it.
Maybe you look so hard that you’re able to feel your heartbeat. We know that’s been there for quite too, but now it bothers you. (it would make more sense to be concerned if you DIDN’T have a heartbeat, no?)
You take it as further evidence that something is definitely wrong.
And that scares you further, so you have even MORE physical sensations of fear, which is MORE evidence, so you have MORE sensations…and so on and so until your body maxes out the fear it can dish out and WHAMO! Panic time.