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What Causes Panic Attacks

The human body and brain is the result of millions of years of evolution, due to this, certain things have been hardwired into your brain so that you and your ancestors could survive the dangers of the world. It is true you are unlikely to be attacked by a saber toothed tiger but our fight or flight response is still there and can be useful in certain situations.

Modern day life, however, while free from saber tooth tigers has other dangers (or perceived dangers) that can cause us to use the fight or flight response. A Panic Attack is usually caused by your brain misinterpreting something as a danger, it tells your body to react like a saber tooth tiger is nearby, it releases adrenaline into the body which immediately causes your body to change, your heart rate increases (palpitations) and the arteries to your skin narrow causing cold sweats.

Meanwhile the person suffering these effects, looks around for a saber tooth tiger. Strangely, they cant find one so the brain evaluates the situation the person is in and finds something new to Pin the perceived danger to.

Here is the problem, the subconscious (or unconscious mind as Sigmund Freud called it) isn’t very good at deciding what to pin the reaction on. The result is, it can get pinned on to practically anything. In a lesser case it can be a spider or mouse, for example, causing a fear or phobia (more about these in future posts) but if it can’t find anything obvious it takes a few random everyday objects and pins it on them. These can be sounds, images or tastes. The problem is the person having the panic attack has no idea what the perceived danger is pinned on.

The next time that the person encounters these otherwise inoffensive items, in the correct combination, the subconscious mind remembers that it has pinned a danger to these items. Meanwhile, the person who is about to have a panic attack doesn’t recognise them as a danger and so is totally unprepared for the sudden adrenaline rush, cold sweats, palpitations and other unpleasant feelings associated with a panic attack.

Because people largely do not know what the triggers are, it can be difficult to un-pin them, as you would with a fear or phobia, instead NLP uses a technique to discover, as early as possible, the start of the panic attack and prevent it escalating.

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Jason J Scoltock