In the last post we touched on some of the symptoms experienced by panic attack sufferers, and why we suffer from anxiety in the first place. Remember, the root of anxiety symptoms is the fight or flight response.
Heart & Breathing
So in anticipation of increased exertion, the heart beats faster to pump blood – carrying oxygen – around the body. With this increase in blood pressure your breathing also increases in readiness for more muscular effort.
Muscles may feel “tingly” and arms and legs may shake as they prepare to fight or run. Sometime people describe “jelly legs”. Picture athletes preparing to run the 100 metres at the Olympics – their muscles are equally ready.
Sweat can serve two functions. It can help cool the body and help the hands and feet grip better (bearing in mind this defence system developed before modern materials made sweaty hands a liability!). I’ve also read that sweat can be an aroma to repel attackers.
As I touched on before, the body is usually digesting the last meal you consumed. But in times of arousal, the fight or flight response diverts blood away from the stomach to the peripheral muscles such as the arms and legs. Consequently you can suffer “butterflies” in the stomach or feel the urge to vomit.
The urge to urinate or defecate can increase as the body needs to make itself lighter, better able to fight or run. Another, less appetising reason (from the pre toilet age) is that this make the body less attractive as a prey, and will deter attackers. Mmm…
Frequent panic attacks can lead to digestive problems and other problems in the central organs such as irritable bowel syndrome.
The pupils dilate to let in more light and can become “mid range” focussed – you need to be able to take in as much information about your potential attackers. This can be experienced as a blurring of vision if, for example, you happened to be engaged on something near by.
You may have read about accounts from battles, where protagonists didn’t realise they had been badly hurt, or even shot, until after the event. This is again a way of the body protecting itself, but for panic attack sufferers it can be a most alarming symptom. Everything feels unreal, you feel detached from reality.
Unfortunately, with sleep panic attacks the symptoms are just the same, but even more terrifying to experience.
photo by woodlywonderworks on flickr
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