Panic Attacks and The ‘Suffocation Alarm System.’

 

suffocation alarm system

I have already written extensively about the connection between the experience of childhood trauma and the consequential development of anxiety disorders later in life (eg click here).

One type of anxiety disorder that can be particularly incapacitating is called PANIC DISORDER.

suffocation- alarm-system

Panic disorder gives rise to both psychological and physical symptoms.

Psychological symptoms include fear, terror and, very frighteningly, sometimes the overwhelming (false) conviction that one is about to die.

Physical symptoms include a rapid heart beat, sweating, trembling, feeling faint or dizzy, and, OF PARTICULAR RELEVANCE to this article : HYPERVENTILATION.

 

WHAT IS HYPERVENTILATION?

It is also sometimes referred to as PSYCHOGENIC DYSPNOEA or BEHAVIOURAL BREATHLESSNESS.

In essence, it involves rapid and shallow breathing, alterations in levels of CO2 in the bloostream and having a sense of ‘not being able to get enough air’, breathlessness and suffocation.

 

HOW DOES THE BRAIN RESPOND TO SUCH SYMPTOMS?

In response to altered levels of CO2 in the blood, feelings of breathlessness and suffocation, it has been hypothesised that a kind of ‘SUFFOCATION ALARM SYSTEM’ is triggered, the brain having been, to all intents and purposes, tricked into believing it is currently involved in a life or death situation.

The researcher, Cohen, has carried out research that suggests this ‘suffocation alarm system’ is located in the part of the brain known as the AMYGDALA and that, in those who suffer the type of panic disorder which I have described, this system is OVER-SENSITIVE.

panic-disorder, suffocation-alarm

Position of the AMYGDALA in the brain – it is likely to be dysfunctional in many individuals who suffer from panic disorder

 

Indeed, it is well established that the development of the AMYGDALA can be seriously adversely affected in individuals who have suffered severe childhood trauma (click here to read one of my articles about this).

Also, Cohen’s research indicates that the inheritance of a particular gene (ASICIa, for those who are interested) may predispose individuals to developing these problems.

panic-disorder, suffocation-alarm-system

HOW CAN THE CONDITION BE TREATED?

– understanding the physiological reasons why one experiences the feelings of dread and fear that accompany panic attacks can, in itself, be a comfort. Once these are fully understood, the person who suffers from panic attacks can come to the realisation that having them does not mean s/he is ‘going to die’ (to read my article about fear of death, click here) or is ‘going completely and irrevocably insane’ (another common false belief of those in the grip of a severe panic attack).

– relaxation techniques such as hypnotherapy and mindfulness

– cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

– medication (if considering this treatment option it is essential to consult with a suitably qualified and experienced health professional).

 

RESOURCES:

Immediately downloadable hypnosis MP3 pack – Overcome Panic Attacks Pack : CLICK HERE.

 

NB It is important to rule out any possible physical causes which may underlie hyperventilation by consulting an appropriate medical professional.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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