Why can't someone just calm down when they are having a panic/anxiety attack?
Shortly, it is difficult to calm down because panic attacks are not a form of mere excitation/stress, but a form of internal
Shortly, it is difficult to calm down because panic attacks are not a form of mere excitation/stress, but a form of internal physical agony.
Saying that the difficulty comes from having too much adrenaline to deal with is not a valid explanation. In fact, adrenaline and cortisol can be extremely high in some athletes, and yet they are in full control of their mind and body…
So the difference lies in how the body respond to adrenaline/cortisol, and also in what triggers adrenaline/cortisol release (to avoid confusion, I will only talk about the “what”).
In fact, a stress response is never fully triggered by the brain alone, but by a special arrangement between the brain and what the brain perceives, including the information coming from the internal organs.
Sometimes the stress is self-induced (mainly brain) but sometimes the stress response is a pure survival mechanism in reaction to an external or internal danger. By internal danger, I mean toxicity, organic dysfunction, violent disruption of homeostasis...
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Contrary to people’s belief, the fear that is commonly associated with panic attacks is generally not what causes panic attacks but just something that adds up to the initial agony. Fear will just aggravate the process and give a direction to the expression of one’s agony.
Finally, agony - or “panic attacks” - can either express as a strong resistance (stress response), or as a weak resistance with a sudden disengagement of some body’s functions (exhaustion, extreme fatigue, partial fainting). This last case is what we can call a “passive agony”.
In one of my articles, I give more details about the “agony” origin of panic attacks and I explain why it is possible to experience a “panic attack” and still not feeling anxious: Why someone can suffer from “panic attacks” without feeling anxious ?And