Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety is a physical reaction when a person is feeling threatened. It’s the fight or flight automatic response designed to protect you. We can become anxious when a situation in which we once had a bad experience occurs. i.e. giving a presentation at a conference may take us back to a time when we had stage fright at school. The brain pattern matches any new experience to the closest old experience and if this was embarrassing, frightening or upsetting then you will become anxious. Avoiding the situation and the relief that this can bring will signal to the brain that it was correct in its interpretation of the event and this will strengthen the belief that it should be avoided at all costs.

Anxiety can also be learnt from parents, an anxious parent can give messages to a child that the world is a scary place and the child may then become anxious. Anxiety that goes unchecked can lead to a panic attack in which physical symptoms become uncomfortable particularly breathing. If experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety you may suddenly experience a panic attack, the brain will match this attack to the environment you are in or a particular ‘thing’ you are near, the brain will then trigger a similar response each time you go into a similar situation (pattern match), the experience/thing however, is the trigger not the cause. Anxiety can be overcome simply and effectively allowing you to manage many new situations and experiences and creating new pattern matches, in the same way strategies can be taught to control a panic attack therefore creating a new memory or pattern match making a similar experience less frightening until similar situations cause no further problems at all.