The protective behaviors in panic attack

What does you do when you have a panic attack? What does it do to protect itself from the imminent danger? In a panic situation, you have fears of having a heart attack, and because you does not want this to happen, you should put in place strategies that you believes it can help us to get back to a “normal” heart rate.

First of all, you should stop doing whatever you are doing, try to sit down and breathe deeply to try to relax. Apparently it seem harmless and you should never think they can actually help keep up with your problem. But that’s exactly what it do: it do not allow you to get out of the vicious circle.

In fact, so-called protective behaviors or those behaviors that the person puts into action to avoid the dreaded consequences of panic, are actually counterproductive, and this for two reasons in particular. The first is that they prevent the person from disapproving the wrong interpretations; the second is that they can even intensify the physical symptoms.

They prevent disconfirmation for a very simple reason: when they work, they become (false) evidence that the dreaded negative effect was not only because behaviors have been implemented to avoid it. That is, the heart attack did not happen because you managed to calm your heart. So, you will never know that in reality the heart attack would never have occurred, with the result that every time you will have to repeat the same ritual behavioral to overcome the danger and it is not said that they will always be fine.

The other drawback of protective behaviors, in fact, is that in some cases even the situation may be worse. Take, for example, breathing deeply to calm down: trying to control your breath can lead to the emergence of physical symptoms associated with hyperventilation, which can form the basis for further catastrophic interpretations of the manifestation or intensification of unpleasant feelings. From frying pan to fry: the symptoms are intensified, the circus rejuvenates vigor and anxiety screams even stronger.

As we have seen, the implementation of protective behaviors can prevent the direct disruption of the danger of a certain event. In other words, what helps us in that situation hides us a fundamental truth: what we really do not fear can happen.

The most obvious maneuver of disenfranchisement of the dreaded consequences is the avoidance, that is, to avoid slipping into those situations that we associate with panic. In the case of Chiara, avoid the places where he has experienced panic attacks.

At first glance, it seems a good solution, and more perfectly logical: why should I expose myself to a situation I fear? I avoid and no longer experience the ugly thing called anxiety! At first there is a way that seems to work very well, because it allows us to stay out of panic, but anxiety is subtle, and is not content with a single situation … In the long run, more contexts will be “contaminated” by anxiety, and more and more the places to be avoided. Until you get to the point, dramatic, you can not get out of the house anymore . Because no place is safe.

Avoiding, as well as escape, that is, the behavioral counterpart that manifests itself during a panic attack, in the short-term keeps us from experiencing anxiety, but in the medium to long term we trap more and more. Avoiding a situation (internal or external) or escaping from it does not allow us to comprehend that anxiety is just an emotion that does not involve any catastrophe. In doing so, we help keep the panic of life alive, developing an increasingly strong “fear of fear”.

Panic attacks do not only depend on the vicious cycle mechanism, but it remains critical to understand why you experience such high levels of anxiety. Keeping factors are another indispensable element to understand the panic attacks.

As always, I find it necessary to specify that the purpose of this post is not to present a recipe that works for everyone, simply because this is not possible. Each of us is different, and there is no panic disorder equal to the other, although common elements can always be identified. It is therefore preferable to speak of “panic” model, understood as a general mode of operation.

From this model, however, there is always the possibility to understand in detail their own panic manifestations. And once you understand, you can deal with them effectively, dismantling one by one all the mechanisms that keep us trapped in the nightmare of panic.

Doing it alone is not easy, and in order to really overcome panic, there is often a need for the help of a professional. Therefore, if you want to talk to me about this or another problem, remember that I am there. And remember that anxiety, in all its forms, can always be overcome.

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