Existential crisis is a term that refers to experiences of extreme stress or situations that shake a person’s core convictions. In response to ‘existential crisis’, the mind may go into safety mode to cope with the stress or crisis. Panic attack can be a coping mechanism for dealing with intense stress, anxiety, or existential crisis. Panic attacks can be a defense mechanism to help the mind process stress.
Anxiety and panic attacks can be used by the brain as defense mechanisms. How can a panic attack be a defense mechanism? Here’s how panic attacks act as coping skills. Thoughts, feelings, information or experiences enter are perceived by the mind as a threat. Your body sense potential danger. It throws the limit switch. The safety valves activates. The heart races, blood pressure elevates, pulse pounds and you feel nervous and intensely sensitized. Panic attack and anxiety attacks protect the mind by flooding it with hormones, namely adrenaline. The body is sending a loud all systems alert warning message. Intruder alert! the body says. Prepare for attack. Battle stations! The body uses panic attacks as reinforcements to help you cope with perceived danger.
Panic attacks are generally unpleasant to experiences. However, they are incredibly useful. As warning signals they alert you to possible danger or threat. If you can teach yourself to look objectively at the panic attack as you experience it, you can gain valuable insight. Learning to look objectively at intense emotions is not complicated, but it also takes practice. One of the best tools I have found for coping with panic attacks is to simply breathe, using deep cleansing breaths. Panic attacks by their nature can cause hyperventilation. Focusing on steady, rhythmic breathing, controls hyperventilation and brings heart rate, blood pressure and pulse to manageable levels. Breathing also helps to focus energy proactively rather than reactively. Breathing helps prevent ‘fight or flight’ syndrome.
By detaching from the immediate sense of panic, you can use panic attacks to access important information about your body system. If you can learn to befriend these feelings, you can harness it’s power. Because panic attacks are warning signals they can prevent you from making disastrous mistakes. If you routinely experience panic attacks, look at what kinds of experiences set off the panic attacks. Use them to trace the source of the problem. As unpleasant as they are, I’m learning to make friends with my panic attacks. They have been an infallible source of direction in healing and recovery in my life.