Panic Attacks and Stress

If you're subject to panic attacks, do you know that stress relief therapy will work for you?

Panic and stress are so closely related that their symptoms are very similar. Even if you're still trying to discover what triggers your panic attacks, you'll feel better from practicing stress relief techniques.

Stress occurs when a person is challenged by a change to himself or his environment. It's easy for someone being chased by a bear to tell you why he's stressed! People who fall victim to panic attacks, however, often cannot tell what triggers their attacks or when the next one will strike.

But it's possible you've realized that the symptoms from your panic attacks affect you physically, physiologically, and psychologically in much the same way as does stress.

Whether you're facing a bank loan officer to get a mortgage, receiving a phone call from a frightening stranger, or running away from that bear, you'll easily notice the following stress symptoms. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a panic attack, you'll notice them. Each one is designed to ready your body for a fight-or-flight response:

  • Your heart beats faster.

  • You'll breathe with fast, shallow breaths.

  • Your muscles tighten up.

  • Your skin feels hotter, and you perspire.

  • The pupils of your eyes dilate, and your eyelids widen.

Those are the physical reactions you notice, but that's only part of the story. They're caused by a variety of unobserved physiologic responses within your body's organs and glands.

Here are a few of them:

  • Your blood clots more quickly when you're stressed -if you're injured by the bear, you won't lose so much blood.

  • A greater volume of blood flows to your arms and legs so that they are strong and quick-for battle, or for running away.

  • The tiny hairs on your skin stand up (called "pilo-erection"). Theoretically, if you have enough hair, you look bigger and scarier to your challenger.

  • Your dizziness, blurred vision, and headaches result from an increase in your blood pressure, again part of your body's preparation for fight-or-flight. This is unrelated to the common cardiovascular causes of hypertension and goes away when you gain relief from stress or panic.

  • When your muscles tighten up to help you face combat, your throat tightens and you feel like you can't swallow or breathe.

  • The lack of blood to your digestive organs is responsible for poor appetite and weight loss.

  • People withstanding this biochemical flood are more prone to psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, and they are more likely to catch colds and other infections.

All of these reactions are caused in large part by activity of your HPA axis. The HPA axis comprises your hypothalamus, your pituitary gland, and your adrenal cortices. When you're stressed out or in a panic, they bounce little "pings" of distress off one another.

The hypothalamus produces vasopressin, which raises your blood pressure. Cortisol pumps sugar into your blood stream, and it's related to hives or asthma experienced during stress. It can contribute to inflammatory reactions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) disrupts the sleep cycle and normal body rhythms. These are just a few of the biochemical reactions that occur in the body during stress. No wonder stress and panic make you feel so lousy!

You can stimulate these physiologic symptoms just from worry about having a panic attack. Your doctor calls this "stress anxiety." If this sounds like you, rest assured that multi-disciplinary stress management that focuses on these physical, physiologic, and psychological factors can provide you with some much-needed stress relief.

Exercise provides the best cure for these symptoms. Working the muscles actually pushes these hormones out of your cells and tissues and into your bloodstream so that they are diminished and eliminated. That's why exercise can lower high blood pressure related to stress and generally makes you feel so good.

Deep breathing and daily meditation are valuable for people susceptible to stress. You can buy tapes that take you through guided relaxation routines. These techniques improve your ability to relax on command. You'll have better control over your body when stress strikes.

Stress balls and spa treatments help many people. Creative expression or hobbies provide an outlet for pent-up emotions. Listening to music and scenting the air around you will help you to de-stress.

You can also take great comfort in knowing that your body has a system that counteracts the HPA axis, called the limbic system. The brain transmits neurotransmitters that release biochemicals geared to relax you.

When you realize that the scary bear is actually the neighbor's circus pet, you're flooded with a feeling of relief. The most common of these are the endorphins, known for the creating a general feeling of well-being and even pleasure.

Whether you're suffering from panic attacks or stress, relief is possible once you become familiar with the cause and effect of these syndromes. Learning about the topic empowers you to take charge of your life, and you'll begin to feel better as you meet each day's challenges.

From Panic Attacks to our main page about Relief from Emotional Stress

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