Anxiety: Panic attacks: is there a way to overcome them …

  • Anxiety is produced by fear of consequences, if one can let it go (no longer feeling fear of consequences), there is no anxiety. Anxiety allows one to survive an attack by preparing the body for physical confrontation, and occurs even when the situation is purely mental.

    It becomes more problematic when irrational, as in Anxiety Disorder; which is twice as common in females as it is in males. Other reasons for elevated risk are being under 35, having another mental disorder, or having a chronic disease.

    Stress causes the release of adrenaline, which causes the sensation of fight, flight, or freeze. Adrenaline (also called epinephrine) general effects:

    “When released into the bloodstream, epinephrine acts to

    • Increase heart rate and blood pressure,

    • Dilate the pupils,

    • Elevate the blood sugar level (by increased hydrolysis of glycogen to glucose), and

    • Redistribute blood flow away from the skin and inner organs.”


    Anxiety results in distress (negative stress, as opposed to eustress, positive stress). An adrenaline rush (from stress, anger, or physical threat) triggers the fight or flight syndrome, and when there is no socially acceptable physical response, other physiological reactions can result. Distress over long periods of time commonly produces or accelerates disease: Heart disease, asthma, obesity, headache, Alzheimer’s, and premature aging (

    Those who engage in vigorous physical exercise have been found to be less susceptible to anxiety, and proper sleep and diet have beneficial effects. Medication can help to manage the symptoms psychological and physical symptoms, but medication is known to work better with psychotherapy; either exposure therapy (confronting the fear in a therapeutic setting) or cognitive therapy (identifying and addressing the cause).

    The subconscious controls much of our behavior; which is by definition beyond or conscious knowledge, other than recognizing the subsequent effects on our behavior. However, the conscious mind can program the subconscious mind. Also, intentional attempt to “forget” a certain incident of emotion may only strengthen or increase neural connections associated with that incident [Eagleman, D. (2011). Incognito: The secret lives of the brain. New York: Pantheon. David Eagleman, PhD, directed the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law, Baylor College of Medicine, and is a Guggenheim fellow, and heads the Eagleman Laboratory for Perception and Action at Stanford Univ.]

    Breathing is a way to control the autonomic nervous system during times of increased stress. Autogenic breathing may help, consisting of several repetitions of slow deep inhalation (feeling the abdomen extend) followed by slow full exhalation; this will help to ease the adrenaline rush that has triggered the fight or flight syndrome, and/or the hormonal rush caused by infatuation. And, deep breathing can be beneficial to one’s health on a long-term basis.

    Breathing techniques have been used during military debriefs to de-link memories and emotions, and during traumatic incidents to lessen the impact of the fight or flight response and decrease heart rate. Grossman (former U.S. Army Ranger and West Point psychology professor) advocates for autogenic breathing, which is also known as combat or tactical breathing. This process entails inhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and once again holding for four seconds. This is repeated until the heart rate begins to decrease.

    Ref: McKinney, S. (2012, December). On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace: Book Summary, School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution. George Mason University. Retrieved from:

    “‘Once you go below 10 breaths a minute you start to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, … which helps the body relax when it has been injured. Slow breathing activates the vagus nerve, the primary cranial nerve, which is associated with a recuperative state.’ … Studies have also demonstrated that slow breathing increases alpha waves in the brain, calming mid-range waves that foster a relaxed yet alert state of mind.

    Perhaps more important, slow breathing tends to increase heart-rate variability, a measurement of the fluctuation in heartbeat during an activity. ‘If your heart rate fluctuates 60 to 80 beats per minute, cardiac-wise that’s healthier than someone whose heart rate varies between only 70 and 75 beats per minute.’ …

    Do this exercise five times a day and you’ll start thinking and performing better in no time:

    1. Inhale deeply

    2. Exhale with a short burst (as if blowing out a candle). This helps activate your diaphragm, which most people don’t use.

    3. Exhale with a long, slow finish to empty the lungs. Breathlessness comes from not expelling enough CO2.

    4. Inhale, filling your lungs from the bottom to the top, instead of taking short sips. Most use a third of their lung capacity.

    5. Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells.

    6. Exhale slowly and completely.

    7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 for five minutes.”


    And, for more serious anxiety:

    The Havening Technic is a therapy for treating anxiety resulting in physiological and psychological symptoms. Phobias, panic attacks, and traumatic memories exist due to neural connections within the brain. Replacing or weakening those connections can ease the distress they cause.

    1. Keeping the eyes closed, recall all details of the distressing situation and rate the distress that the memory causes (scale of 0 to 10).

    2. A counselor or trusted person applies a comforting touch (stroking the forehead, the arms from shoulder to elbow, and rubbing palms.

    3. With eyes closed, simultaneously distract yourself by mentally climbing a staircase with 20 steps, counting the steps aloud; while imagining that the distress is diminishing with each step.

    At 20, hum two rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or another neutral song. Open the eyes, look right and left, and inhale and exhale deeply. If perceived distress is still high, repeat using different visualizations and tunes) until the distress level is zero or remains the same for two rounds.

    The premise is that distraction displaces the recalled traumatic memory, preventing it from activating the amygdala; while the touch therapy produces brain waves that weaken the neural connections that evoke distress.

    Reference: Bottom Line Personal. (2017, February 15) The Havening Technique: Stop Your Worst Memories From Tormenting You. Retrieved from:

    Source: Ronald A. Ruden, MD, PhD, an internist on the clinical staff at NYU Langone Medical Center and Lenox Hill Hospital. He sees patients at his private practice in New York City. He created Havening Techniques to eliminate the consequences that arise from stressful or traumatic events. Havening Techniques now provides training and certification in more than a dozen countries (see the website for locations and trainers). He is author of Havening Techniques: A Primer and When the Past Is Always Present: Emotional Traumatization, Causes and Cures.

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