"Why do I constantly feel under threat?" This is a common question that clients ask when they are enduring recurrent panic attacks. The purpose of this blog is to give you, the reader, a brief overview as to why you feel this way.
Why do I feel this way?
In order to answer this question, we have to investigate our minds from an evolutionary perspective. Back when we were cavemen and our primary response was to keep us alive, and this was through threat detection. Our threat response is found in our amygdala, located the frontal temporal lobe, in the brain. When the amygdala detects something threatening, it realizes the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline, which prepares our body to leave a situation quickly. This allows us to move quickly enough to escape dangerous objects or to heighten our responses to act quickly enough to escape. However, while this was helpful then, we have endured a bit of an evolutionarily fault in the sense that now, we are not under immediate threat, but we feel it.
The most crippling anxiety is found when our body feels a threat, but our eyes can’t match up to what we are threatened by. I often to say to clients, if you endured a panic attack, but were in a room that was on fire, it would feel normal. The problem lies is when a thought you find anxiety provoking such as, ‘I cant cope, I cant escape’, ‘others are judging me’ etc., which engages our Amygdala, resulting in shortness of breath heart racing, sweating etc.
What are my anxious symptoms?
Below is a list of each anxious symptom, and an explanation as to why our bodies use it.
- Heart racing: to pump extra blood around the body to reach our muscles, so we can move quicker
- Shallow breathing: our lungs open up to take in more oxygen, by pumping more oxygen into our muscles, it allows them to move quicker, to escape threat.
- Lump in your throat: this is due to a gland that swells when your body senses threat in order to prevent water from entering our lungs (in the case when we may be at risk of drowning)
- Sweating: this is our bodies attempt to cool down our muscles and to prevent us from over heating
- Changes to vision: Vision can become acute so that more attention can be paid to danger. You might notice ‘tunnel vision’, or vision becoming ‘sharper’
- Thoughts racing: Quicker thinking helps us to evaluate danger and make rapid decisions. It can be very difficult to concentrate on anything apart from the danger (or escape routes) when the fight or flight response is active
- Dry Mouth: The mouth is part of the digestive system. Digestion shuts down during dangerous situations as energy is diverted towards the muscles
- Nausea and ‘butterflies’ in the stomach: Blood is diverted away from the digestive system which can lead to feelings of nausea or ‘butterflies’. When repeated, this can often lead to IBS
- Hands get cold: Blood vessels in the skin contract to force blood towards major muscle groups
- Muscles tense: Muscles all over the body tense in order to get you ready to run away or fight. Muscles may also shake or tremble, particularly if you stay still, as a way of staying ‘ready for action’
- Dizzy or lightheaded: If we don’t exercise (e.g. run away or fight) to use up the extra oxygen then we can quickly start to feel dizzy or lightheaded
- Bladder urgency: Muscles in the bladder sometimes relax in response to extreme stress In closing, this feeling of threat is simple to treat,
CBT uses a three-pronged approach to recalibrate our minds to process real threat, not perceived threat. Resulting in helpful anxiety, such as stopping us from walking out in front of a bus, rather than forcing us to leave an unthreatening situation.
For more information on short term, solution focused CBT sessions, request a callback today via www.jessicaleighcbt.com. We would love to hear from you.