Why we Panic: An Often Unrecognized Reason – Part 2 of an 8-Part Series
Photo credit: Nabeel Syed
In part 1 of this series, we addressed what a panic attack feels like. In this article, we’ll shift to address the question of “Why?” we panic, which is often more nuanced than we might initially think.
Colloquially, people often assume that having a panic attack is simply a response to extreme stress. In many cases, it may be that simple.
However, often what people experience and initially describe as symptoms of anxiety or panic, eventually turn out to be expressions of deeper feelings and thoughts, once understood more deeply in therapy. In particular, the feeling of being stuck or trapped is a very common theme in people suffering from panic attacks. This stuckness could be in the form of:
- Feeling trapped in a significant relationship
- Feeling stuck in a particular job or career path
- Feeling stuck in traffic without being able to exit or move to a less congested place
- Feeling trapped in a crowd of people at a mall, airport, party, subway station, or busy restaurant
- Feeling existentially stuck and unhappy
- Lacking a sense of agency or ability to control one’s choices in life
- Feeling unable to express oneself or be assertive about one’s opinions or needs
In these cases, a very important part of getting better may be figuring out how to get UN-stuck. That may mean gathering up the courage to make a difficult decision (e.g. leaving a job, ending or distancing from an unhealthy relationship), building assertive communication skills to address issues that may have been ignored for a long time, or just general problem solving skills that help increase a sense of agency over a life situation.
Feeling a sense of control and agency again is often the most powerful medicine for panic episodes, feelings of anxiety, and the depression that can result from the feeling of helplessness.
Please read on in our blog series for more information about panic attacks. (Link) if you have been feeling stuck, anxious, and out of control in life, please call us to schedule a consultation.
Read on for more information about how we can help with that.
Part 1 addressed the different ways people may experience panic attacks
Part 3 addresses the most common ineffective ways that people cope with panic
Part 4 explains the most effective way to deal with panic attacks
Part 5 describes the power of language and labeling with regard to panic episodes
Part 6 addresses the importance of Mindfulness for panic
Part 7 discusses Interoceptive exposure for panic
Part 8 describes other “In Vivo” exposures for panic
Martin Hsia, Psy.D. is the Clinical Director of CBT SoCal, and specializes in helping people with OCD, Anxiety, and Insomnia in Glendale, CA.