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Panic - What's It All About? And What Can Make It Stop?

By Sylvia Dickens

You'll recognize the symptoms, but in all likelihood, you won't know what caused them.

One day, you're going about your daily activities like every other day. Suddenly, a phenomenal dread passes through your body. Along with the unexplained fear comes heart palpitations, sweating, and a sense that you're losing control.

The first thing that comes to mind is that something terrible is about to happen to you. At this point, you only want to get back to the safety of your home. Nothing else matters but that.

My first panic attack was unexpected and unnerving. I was in my apartment alone at the time. All I could do was curl up in the corner of my sofa and fall asleep. When I awoke, I felt better, but still experienced some discomfort. The most prominent was a fear of being alone again.

Looking back, I can understand how stress in my life had triggered this panic event. My husband and I were preparing to separate. At 32, I'd never lived alone before and was worried whether I could survive. Eventually, panic took over my life, along with fears at every turn.

Today, for the most part I'm panic-free, although I do have mild attacks now and then when stress becomes overwhelming. So what exactly is panic and what causes it?

Researchers have discovered several probable causes: heredity, biological factors, stressful life events, and exaggerated thinking.

Studies have shown that there are specific areas of the brain involved in anxiety and fear. These are the underlying causes of anxiety and panic disorders. The emotion of fear that was supposed to help our ancestors survive threats in the wild have become "confused by modern society.

In the wilderness, man literally feared for his life because of the dangers around him. Today, man uses that same fear response in any situation that appears "threatening". This might be loss of a job, loss of a companion, loss of loved ones and financial difficulties.

They all come down to the basics of life: heat, shelter and food. Remove any one of them and he could die. Today's losses can translate into the basics of life: heat, food and shelter. Without a job and income, we cannot afford these three needs.

Early man needed purpose just as he does today. For this, companionship is the answer. The problem comes when we experience exaggerated thoughts about life events that threaten these needs.

Scientists have discovered that abnormal activity of a small structure, the amygdala, inside the brain might be behind anxiety disorders.


Treatment for panic disorder generally includes medications and a type of psychotherapy that teaches people how to view panic attacks differently. Most patients show significant progress after a few weeks of therapy. While relapses might occur, they can often be effectively treated.

You can learn ways to reduce and even eliminate anxiety and live a healthy, happy life again, as I have done.

Copyright 2006 Sylvia Dickens

About The Author

Sylvia Dickens is an award-winning journalist who experienced uncontrolled anxiety attacks for four years. Two years of therapy and medication paved the way for her to discover her own final cure. Today, she is virtually anxiety-free. She strives to help others by reviewing products to help them overcome their anxiety and panic.


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