The Fear of Fear
What distinguishes panic attacks from other types of fears and phobias? In a specific phobia of dogs, heights or air travel, the feared stimulus is external. In a dog phobia, if you escape or avoid the dog, your fear subsides. The exact opposite is true in panic disorder. In this condition, the fear is inside your body. The fear is internal. You suffer from a body phobia. If you try to run from your body, your symptoms will intensify.
You suffer from a heart pounding phobia, a lightheadedness phobia, a shakiness phobia. The nastiest part of the “fear of fear” is you cannot escape or avoid being in your body. When you try to run from your heart pounding, what happens? Your heart pounds faster and faster. And the faster your heart pounds you more you run in fear of the heart pounding feeling.
The Vicious Cycle of Panic
When you show fear in the face of a dog, the dog does not grow bigger with larger teeth, closing in on you. When you show fear of heart pounding, the heart pounding can rapidly escalate causing more terror of heart pounding. The more you fear heart pounding, the faster your heart pounds. And the faster your heart pounds, the more you fear heart pounding. You can go through this vicious cycle of fear 50 times in 50 seconds. Each time you react with fear you set off the fight or flight response in your brain, signaling an emergency. Your brain listens to you and produces adrenaline to mobilize you for danger. If you believe you are in a life threatening situation, your brain believes you, even if you are wrong. Each time you react with fear to the heart pounding, the heart pounds faster. Each time your heart pounds faster, you react with even more fear than before. Each of the 50 one second alarm signals to the brain is more and more urgent, demanding more and more intense surges of adrenaline to flow through your body. Your body is over prepared for the Emergency that never happens. And you feel drained and exhausted when the fear finally subsides. At the end of the day, what happens? Nothing!
How to Extinguish the Mother of all Fears
You must shut down your catastrophic slide show to brain. You must shut down the false emergency messaging system….heart attack, stroke, brain tumor, lose control, faint, die, nervous breakdown. The only way to conquer your fear of bodily sensations is stop running. Hold ground. Feel the feeling without fear and watch the symptoms turn into a fleeting flash of adrenaline. Why? Heart pounding drinks adrenaline for breakfast. Stop feeding your symptoms with fear, and watch them leave as quickly as they come.
*This educational information should always be used in consultation with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis and review available treatments for panic disorder.
The ideas in this blog are developed from Dr. Blumberg’s panicLINK Program. PanicLINK is a comprehensive, twelve session, four phase, multi-media educational program on panic disorder. The material in this Blog and the panicLINK Program are copyright protected by Out of the Blue Network, LLC. No permission is granted to reproduce this blog for commercial purposes. For more information about the panicLINK Program connect at www.paniclink.com.