Most people get a little anxious before they have to perform challenging tasks – speaking in public, studying for an exam, being asked to do things they are not very familiar doing and so on. That’s a normal stress reaction. However, when this sensations is continuous and starts to interfere with daily life it needs to be addressed. Anxiety is the feeling of constant worrying and fear often about events that may never happen and difficulty making decisions because of the over worrying. As a result, nothing changes in their lives and they can start to become to become quite unwell. Anxiety is best treated by identifying with what is is the is that causes your anxiety.
Panic attacks tend to be shorter in duration but the sufferer experiences heightened and overwhelming level of anxiety. Symptoms of chest tightness, becoming hot and sweaty, feel like they are losing control due to panic, the need to run to escape and a multitude other sensations. You may only have panic attack in your life or have them more frequently.
When this happens to older people for the first time, they thoroughly believe that they are having a heart attack. A barrage of checks are run with a Cardiologist only for them to be told their heart is fine.
Most people recover from a panic attack without any intervention, often sitting somewhere quiet until the sensations calm down. Understanding what is happening when you have a panic attack can help rationalise the sensations.
What is really happening to those brain chemicals or neurotransmitters when panic is experienced?
- Cortisol for instance, when it is too high it increases anxiety, fatigue and restlessness.
- Dopamine is needed for motivation, memory and focus. When there is too little we have no motivation, find it difficult to concentrate, libido is pretty flat as it drives down testosterone.
- Serotonin, when it is too high it can cause sweating, muscle twitching and mental confusion. When it is low it leads to depression,
- Gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), is a really important neurotransmitter as it has direct influence over the functioning of the pituitary gland. When there are high levels of GABA circulating, you have all the sensations of having a full on panic attack. When levels are low, depression, anxiety, poor sleep and other mood disorders are common.
- Adrenaline and Noradrenaline, these are vital for our reaction to ‘fight and flight’, yes we do want our blood pressure to increase if we are chased by a T-rex. However when both of these are high; anxiety, poor response to stress, anger, irritability, carbohydrate cravings and sleep problems result. When these are low depression, apathy, lack of focus and energy are the problems.