ANXIETY VS. PANIC



What causes anxiety and panic, and how do we rid ourselves of these menaces to our lives.


We live in a world with pandemic levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and panic. What is causing so many to struggle with anxiety and panic? Anxiety and panic can take control of your life and keep you in a mental and emotional state of stress, confusion, frustration, and anger keeping you from reaching your goals. But it does not have to be this way. You can learn how to decrease stress, stop anxiety and panic, and live the life you deserve if you are willing to commit to the process required. Although anxiety and panic are related, there are differences that we will discuss.


ANXIETY AND PANIC ARE NOT PRIMARY CONDITIONS BUT SYMPTOMS OF OTHER CONTRIBUTORY FACTORS.


Emotions, personality, and how we learn to deal with stress as a child are all intertwined, acting as the underlying causes of our anxiety and panic. Having a successful career and living a happy, productive life are directly related to your ability to control your emotions and keep stress at a minimum. Learning about the cause-and-effect relationship between our ability to control our emotions, our coping skills, and our personality style will allow us to discover how to treat the symptoms of anxiety and panic, giving us more joy and productivity at work and home.

We are not born anxious or panicked; these patterns of thinking and feeling develop for various reasons. By learning new ways of responding to your emotional triggers, you can stop the cycle of restlessness, over-worry, overthinking, and fatigue and have more joy and accomplishment in your life.


Anxiety


Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, uneasiness, or dread. Unfortunately, anxiety is a part of life we have all experienced. Anxiety can help avoid danger, increase motivation, and inform us when something is not quite right—but anxiety can also get out of control and become chronic. When this occurs, our brain loses control, and we suffer physical, mental, and emotional consequences.

"Anxiety" and "worry" are sometimes used interchangeably. For our purposes, we will discuss anxiety as excessive, persistent worry that extensively affects emotional, mental, and physical health.


Symptoms of Anxiety can include:


· Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness

· Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts or worries

· Repeating thoughts or flashbacks of traumatic experiences

· Nightmares or difficulty sleeping

· Fatigue

· Restlessness, inability to be still and calm

· Nausea

· Muscle tension

· Dizziness

· Ritualistic behaviors, such as repeated hand washing

· Cold or sweaty hands and feet

· Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

· Shortness of breath

· Heart palpitations

· Dry mouth


What are the triggers for anxiety attacks?


Triggers for anxiety attacks are dependent on the anxieties that a person has. For example, if they have fears about social situations such as giving a presentation or being around many people. Being in closed places or fear from past traumatic experiences can also trigger anxiety.

Common triggers for anxiety attacks include:

· Negative thinking and attitudes

· Extreme self-consciousness

· Feelings of being looked at or judged

· Memories of past traumatic experiences triggered by similar environments or experiences

· Anticipation of failure

· Environmental changes

· A lack of food or sleep.

· Poor health


Anxiety vs. Fear


Fear is about a situation that scares us at the moment and is temporary. On the other hand, anxiety is a constant state of uneasiness that may be unrelated to a present situation having more to do with the past or future, with the belief that circumstances will not change.

Fear is a temporary sense of fight or flight, where anxiety leads to changes in our brain architecture due to stress, creating the perception that all around us are a threat with a constant sense of fight or flight.


Different Types of Anxiety:


· Genaralized anxiety disorder GAD– Excessive anxiety and worry about various topics, events, and situations.

· Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)- Rooted in feelings of fear or anxiety, which compel a person to perform ritualized actions.

· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- Extreme feelings of panic or fear related to some traumatic experiences in the past.

· Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)- Fear of being judged or embarrassed; anxiety in social situations.

· Specific phobias- Fears disproportional to the source of threat associated with virtually any source or stimulus. Specific phobias – this features the irrational fear of an object, place, or situation, e.g., fear of spiders (arachnophobia), or open spaces (agoraphobia).

· Separation anxiety disorder – Excessive fear of being separated from the primary caregiver.


Reasons for anxiety:


· Stressful job

· Social situations

· Exposure to a phobia

· Reminders of traumatic experiences or memories

· Drug or alcohol withdrawal

· Overconsumption of caffeine

· Chronic illness

· Chronic pain

· Medications

· Financial pressure

· Relationship problems

· Life changes such as moving house or getting a new job,


Panic


A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming and intense fear with no discernable warning or rational source as to the cause of the fear. Physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, nausea, and dizziness. Mentally you experience catastrophic thinking (thinking you are losing control or will die); or a sense of impending doom, dread, terror, and belief that something terrible is about to happen. A panic attack can disable a person's ability to function.

Panic attacks can be frightening but are usually not dangerous. One in 10 adults in the U.S. has a panic attack each year, usually between the ages of 15 and 25. Approximately a third of people have a panic attack in their lifetime. But most don't have a panic disorder which is having multiple panic attacks. Only about 3% of adults have panic disorder, more commonly in women than men. It is common following a panic attack to feel stressed, worried, and edgy the rest of the day.


Panic Attack Mental Symptoms:


· Feelings of unreality (derealization) feeling like you're going crazy, something is wrong with me

· Feeling detached from oneself (depersonalization) Feeling detached; your body doesn't belong to you

· Fear of losing control

· Fear of dying


Panic Attack Physical Symptoms:


· Sudden onset

· It lasts for ten to twenty minutes on average

· Chest pain

· Chills

· Excessive sweating

· Feeling of choking

· Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint

· Heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate

· Hot flashes

· Nausea or abdominal distress

· Numbness or tingling sensations

· Trembling or shaking

· Sensations of shortness of breath, difficulty breathing


Anxiety vs. Panic


The primary difference between anxiety and panic is, one, anxiety often relates to a specific event or situation related to the past or future. In contrast, panic occurs mainly without a discernable trigger. Anxiety and panic come with similar physical and emotional symptoms, but the length and intensity of symptoms establish the difference between them. Two, anxiety attacks are less severe than panic attacks but can be persistent, sometimes lasting for days, weeks, or even months. The persistence of anxiety wears you down with constant negative feelings, frustration, lack of focus, and confusion. Panic attacks can be associated with other disorders such as anxiety and depression or with no association with other conditions.


What causes anxiety and panic?


The simple answer is that stress causes anxiety and panic, but we must understand the cause-and-effect relationship between stress, anxiety, and panic. If stress is the cause, then anxiety and panic are the effects. Anxiety comes from the anticipation of a stressor, event, or experience, the feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Panic comes from sources of which we are mostly unaware. Therefore, we must ask why this anticipation creates high stress, anxiety, or panic attacks.

To answer this question, we need to understand how stress (the cause) affects our brain and creates anxiety or panic (the effects). The better our brain deals with stress, the less anxiety and panic occur. Our ability to cope with stress comes from how our brain develops in early childhood and youth. For example, if we lived in a warm, nurturing environment with parents that made us feel safe and secure, we would develop good coping skills. On the other hand, if we lived in a stressful environment with parents who were not supportive and did not make us feel safe and secure; or were too busy dealing with their anxieties, we would develop poor coping skills.


No matter our background and parents, none of us have perfect coping skills.

We all need to learn more about how stress affects our brains and can disrupt our emotions and thinking.


Poorly learned coping skills in early childhood can predispose a person to anxiety or panic. Stress, or a lack of it, allows our brain to develop in different ways that enable us to deal with stress well or not. Although even with good coping skills, excessive or traumatic stress begins to change our brain in ways that allow anxiety to develop in as little as twenty days. The point is whether, from a genetic predisposition or excessive stress later in life, stress is the major contributor that allows anxiety and panic to develop. Discovering the root causes of our stress and anxiety and their effect on our brain is necessary to reduce stress and, subsequently, anxiety and panic

How stress leads to anxiety and panic


Anxiety and panic are secondary conditions caused by how stress changes our brain and how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world around us. Stress is a part of our lives. When stress goes past motivating us and begins to wear us down with long-term excessive or traumatic stress, it can lead to anxiety, depression, and panic.


Within our brain, we have a fight or flight stress response system located in the brain's basal ganglia, also called the survival brain, responsible for warning us when there is danger or a threat. When our emotions and stress are balanced, our fight or flight system is kept in check by our Prefrontal cortex or our thinking brain. The thinking brain communicates with the survival brain by saying, stay calm; everything is ok. Otherwise, the survival brain would take over and keep us in survival mode or fight or flight.


However, when stress is excessive, the connections between the thinking brain and the survival brain get disconnected, decreasing our ability to think rationally. When this happens, the survival brain takes over, and we stay in survival mode without input from our thinking brain and rational thinking, keeping us in a heightened sense of threat; we perceive the world as against us and respond accordingly, and we become anxious or panicked. Until we lower our stress levels, we will stay in a fight, flight, and survival mode, adding to our already high-stress level. When this happens, we become anxious, panicked, and depressed.


Anxiety and Panic come from having your fight-flight stress response system

activated for the wrong reason at the wrong time.


With anxiety, your fight or flight response system is on constantly, causing continuous oversensitivity and a heightened sense of threat. With panic, your fight or flight system surges into extreme, overwhelming feelings of fear and threat.


Causes of Stress:


· Fatigue, overworked, insomnia

· Over worry

· Anxiety, panic, and depression

· Poor diet

· Relationship problems

Work

· Finances

· Health

· Loss (death of loved one, changes in relationships, losing a job)

· Rejection

· Disappointment

· Learned limiting beliefs (lack of confidence or self-esteem, believing we are unworthy)

· Unresolved negative memories (traumatic experiences, adverse environments)


Solutions for Anxiety and Panic


The answer to the question of treating anxiety and panic lies in understanding how to reduce stress, control your emotions and recognize your emotional triggers; the things in yourself, other people, and the world around us that stress us out and give rise to negative thoughts and feelings. Whether you're dealing with panic, persistent anxiety, or both, effective treatments are available. For example, you could try some of the following suggestions:


Get help- When you seek help, you will learn many of the methods listed below. However, having a coach, or therapist, that acts as a strong facilitator to help you with your emotional goals is always the best way to learn to see yourself better and rid yourself of the constant struggle with anxiety and panic.


Practice self-acceptance- Learning to accept all of yourself is an essential step toward reducing anxiety and panic. Accept your thoughts and feelings. You are a good person; punishing yourself because you feel anxious or panicked adds more stress and is unproductive. Fighting a thought or feeling gives it more power; just let the thought or feeling be there. Over time and with other methods, these thoughts and feelings will diminish. Be patient.


Develop a support system Use friends and family to help you through the process of reducing your anxiety and panic.


Relaxation exercises- Learn to meditate, practice mindfulness, focus your attention on the present, recognize your emotional state, meditate to reduce stress, and help you relax.


Nature- Go for a walk on the beach or a park, and let nature relax you.


Breathing exercises- Deep breathing can reduce symptoms during a panic attack and help your mind calm down with anxiety. Practice inhaling a count of 4, exhaling a count of 6, and relaxing at a count of 2. Repeat this pattern several times. The breathing should be relaxing and calming.


Progressive muscle relaxation- Individuals tense and relax a muscle after a few seconds. For example, start at the feet and then tense and relax each area of the body until the whole body feels more relaxed and focused.


Visualization- can be used during an attack where individuals imagine they are in an environment that is relaxing to calm their anxious or panicked symptoms.


Lifestyle techniques- such as proper diet, exercise, and sleep- have proven to help manage anxiety and panic.


Medication- When used for a short time can help reduce symptoms allowing time to learn to utilize other strategies for reducing panic and anxiety.


Keep a notebook- Throughout the day, notice the harmful, irrational thought you become aware of, and write them in the notebook. You may be surprised by how many times you had an irrational thought throughout the day.


Recognizing a panic attack-By acknowledging that you have a panic attack instead of a heart attack can remind you that this is temporary; it will pass, and you're ok.


Repeat a mantra internally- Repeating an internal mantra can change your focus and relax your mind during a panic attack. (I am Ok; this will pass. Be patient with yourself.)


Conclusion


Financial success and prestige are no guarantees for emotional and mental health, a calm mind, and rational thinking patterns. Anxiety, panic, and depression affect people of varying economic and financial means. Understanding your emotions, where they come from, and how they impact your life; how stress affects your brain and leads to anxiety, panic, and depression is the best way to become aware of and change how you respond to your emotional triggers. In addition, learning how subconscious learned beliefs can sometimes limit your forward progression with perceptions of self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and believing that we are not worthy or unlovable can be life-altering.


We all struggle with our thoughts and emotions as we seek to find meaning and purpose in our lives. No matter where you are in your life or if you are dealing with stress, over-worry, anxiety, panic, or depression, you can change and improve your life if you're willing to commit to the process and put in the work. What's the alternative? Stay in a cycle of redundant negative thoughts and feelings, feeling out of control, unable to focus with limited capacity to reach your goals, or instead commit to improving your life and live the life you deserve with a calm mind, joy, and a strong sense of accomplishment? Accomplish more, get more done with less resistance, have better relationships at work and home, and live your life on your terms.


No matter your story, a coach or therapist who deals with stress, anxiety, and panic can teach you how to stop anxiety and panic. Learn healthy coping mechanisms to interrupt the cycle of irrational thoughts, Develop a more positive outlook on life, improve your self-esteem and challenge negative beliefs.



Thank You for reading the article. Please let me know your thoughts. Keep learning!

Louis Scotti, Emotion Advisor, Coach/Consultant

Web www.ouremotionallife.com

Em louscotti@ouremotionallife.com


References

· American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th edition. American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

· Anxiety And Depression Association Of America. "Facts & Statistics." AADA, 18 June 2020. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

· Bandelow, Borwin, and Michawlis, Sophie. "Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Sep 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/

· Clark, D.M. and Salkovskis P. (2009). Cognitive Therapy for Panic Disorder: Manual for IAPT high intensity therapists. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20190704101855/https://www.kss-ppn.nhs.uk/resources/publications/12-cognitive-therapy-for-panic-disorder-iapt-manual/file

· Clark, D. M. (1986). A cognitive approach to panic. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24(4), 461-470.

· Furukawa, T. A., Watanabe, N., & Churchill, R. (2007). Combined psychotherapy plus antidepressants for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1).

· Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for Anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580

· Kessler, R. C., Chiu, W. T., Demler, O., & Walters, E. E. (2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617-627.

· Konnopka, Alexander, and Konig, Hannah. "Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis." Pharmaeconomics, Jan 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31646432/

· National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2011). Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults: management. Retrieved from: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg113/resources/generalised-anxiety-disorder-and-panic-disorder-in-adults-management-pdf-35109387756997

· National Institutes of Mental Health. Panic disorder: When fear overwhelms.

· National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety disorders

· National Institute of Mental Health. "Any Anxiety Disorder." Retrieved 8 June 2020, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml

· Pompoli, A., Furukawa, T. A., Imai, H., Tajika, A., Efthimiou, O., & Salanti, G. (2016). Psychological therapies for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia in adults: a network meta-analysis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (4).

· Rees, R., Stokes, G., Stansfield, C., Oliver, E., Kneale, D., & Thomas, J. (2016). Prevalence of mental health disorders in adult minority ethnic populations in England: a systematic review. Department of Health.