How Panic Attacks Begin

Everyone has different triggers to cause a panic attack. Usually it is a stimulus in the environment like a sound that our brain has correlated to something traumatic. Sometimes, a panic attack can be triggered with just a small jolt of caffeine.

Our amygdala sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus therefore forewarding this distress signal to out autonomic nervous system. These chemical messages engages our body and prepares it to take defensive action.

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The science behind panic attacks — and what can you do to manage them

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Your Body During A Panic Attack

The symptoms of a panic attack varies from person to person but they include:

  • pounding heart
  • shortness of breath
  • light-headedness
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • nausea
  • tingling or numbness of fingers and toes
  • an overwhelming sense of impending doom

However, regardless of how scary this sounds panic attacks are not inherently dangerous. Panic attacks are just manifestations of our brain and body being our of sync, and it is a normal physiological fear response. 

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The Fear Epicenter

Our amygdala has been known to be as the fear epicenter of our brain however other studies suggest that there is some other structure in the brain that is involved in this fear-making process. 

The insular cotex and a part of the brain stem called the nucleus of the solitary tract has been found as an area that generates fear impulses.

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Dealing with Panic Attacks
  1. Find a quiet spot and determine the symptoms to confirm whether it is a panic attack or not.
  2. Talk to yourself with what you're feeling. For example: "what my body is doing right now is designed to keep me safe." This invites the frontal cortex into the conversation which is responsible for conscious thought thus helping you underline that this experience is a physical process moving through you.
  3. Breathe deeply and gradually, about 5-10 times a minute. This stimulates the vagus nerve which sends a signal to the brain that you are relaxing and to parts of the heart muscle stabilizing your pulse.

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