Spontaneous Panic Boiled Down to a Bouillon Sized Cube
Spontaneous Panic – Part 1
Spontaneous panic attacks seem to hit right out of the clear blue sky. One second you are minding your own business, going about your day – chopping onion for your tuna sandwich or vacuuming up the ants that just got into the dog food, or whatever it is you do – and the next second fear explodes in your brain.
There is no precipitating factor, like, you are being chased by an axe-wielding maniac who you are pretty sure wants to wear your skin (which would actually be pretty scary), and so your body is flooded with adrenaline. That would make sense. But, nope.
If, in fact, you were running to save your skin, or leaping out of the way of a car, or slamming on your breaks before plowing into the truck that stopped short just feet in front of you, your body and mind would leap into action, and that surge of adrenaline would give you a brief super-power boost that would be expended in your effort to survive. Your heart might pound for some minutes afterward as you think, “Crikey! That was a close one.” And then, your body would slowly relax, and you would return to normal.
But imagine sitting on your couch, quietly reading a book (we’ll say, The Human Comedy, by William Saroyen, which is so SO worth reading, and you should read it if you haven’t, but just not a scary book no matter how you cut it), and out of nowhere your body explodes with fear – as suddenly as if someone (like a pain-in-the-ass brother) has thrown a bucket of iced water over you.
Your mind, saturated and stupid from the shock, tries to make out the cause. You leap off the couch, looking wildly around you – book goes flying – your brain searching frantically for the source of danger and screeching, “What the fuck? What the FUCK?” or maybe you are more of a “Bloody Hell!” sort of an individual.
Whatever your preferred expletive, you stand in your family room, metaphorical sword drawn, panting, heart racing, eyes dilated, hands shaking, throat tight…
…but the room is quiet, still… and yet the absence of an obvious threat doesn’t settle your body or reassure your mind. The silence is shrieking, “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!”
Your heart is still pounding. You are still panting and sweating. Your brain is insisting – emphatically(and likely in extremely impolite language) – that something is very very wrong – so move your ass and DO SOMETHING!!!
Secondary Panic – Part 2
And that is where the secondary panic response comes in. The mind is not satisfied without a cause, because that just makes no sense – duh – and we humans need things to make sense. So your brain tries to find a reason.
And in the absence of any clear culprit, the brain latches onto whatever explanation seems most plausible in the moment, and, “I’m dying,” or, “I’m going insane,” often fit the bill and end up being the justifications the brain seizes on to explain the physiological manifestation of fear that you are experiencing.
At which point, the realization that you are dying, or going crazy, triggers a secondary and more justified (you are dying, after all) release of adrenaline, and the episode of panic is extended.
What YOU Can Do To Stop Panic
The initial panic attack (Spontaneous Panic Part 1) is caused by a malfunction in the brain that triggers a surge of adrenaline when it isn’t called for.
However, adrenaline in our system dissipates quite quickly. The ongoing panic (Secondary Panic Part 2), is where your fear of what you are experiencing causes more adrenaline to be released into your system – extending your panic.
You CAN learn to stop a panic attack.Read my article, Yes, You Can Stop a Panic Attack to learn more about how.