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Why do I panic?

Deepak Chopra
Alternative & Complementary Medicine
Panic arises when the mind is so overloaded by distress that all coherence is lost. Fear roams the mind at will, breaking down every barrier. Because the mind-body system is arranged to restore balance by any means, this total incoherence lasts for only a short time. Panic is one of the most frightening experiences anyone can have, but it is almost always temporary.

Panic attacks, which strike some people without any external cause, depend upon memory of past trauma, as do all anxiety attacks. Images generated inside the mind become triggers, as if they were external events, and the chain reaction of fear follows of its own accord. Because old images can revisit to cause harm long after they are viewed, it is vitally important to protect young children from seeing the kind of terrifying pictures that the media broadcasts during catastrophes. Children who seem to have no fearful response to events like those of September 11, 2001, are often postponing their reactions until much later. Those of us who grew up during the Cold War can attest to the horror we felt for many years after seeing photos of atom-bomb testing, yet I never remember showing any of this inner dread to my parents. It was private, and especially frightening for that reason.

However acute, panic isn't the measure of how extreme a crisis is externally. When jets are about to crash -- and this happened on the doomed planes involved in the terrorist attack as well as inside the twin towers -- people become quiet and turn to tell one another that they love them. Such calm often leads to acts of bravery: from cell phone conversations that were held from the jetliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, we know that on at least one plane, the passengers resisted the terrorists even though they knew with certainty that they would die.
Tamar Chansky
Psychology

Panic can send you feeling as if you're spiraling out of control, but in fact it's a natural response to stress. In this video, psychologist Dr. Tamar Chansky, who specializes in anxiety, covers Panic 101 --and shares some easy ways to deal with it.


Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
Panic is not necessarily precipitated by a recognizable circumstance, and it may remain a mystery to you. These attacks come "out of the blue". Excessive stress or other negative life conditions can trigger an attack.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.