Increasingly common, anxiety-related ailments prevent you from leading a peaceful life. Yet falling into the abyss of fear is the key to finding lost emotions
Palpitations, difficulty breathing, dizziness and the feeling of intense oppression that amplifies the discomfort: in recent years there has been an increase in requests for help due to panic attacks and anxiety. Unfortunately, data shows that prescriptions for tranquilizing drugs such as Xanax and Valium also increase, which together with antidepressants are frequently used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. It happens in the United Kingdom, where over the past four years medical prescriptions for antidepressants have increased by 38% and those for sedative drugs by 13%.
Yet those who have experienced panic attacks and forms of anxiety know that medicine is not enough to thwart the chain reactions that burst inside like an explosive device capable of wiping away the calm suddenly, irreparably, generating a deep feeling of death.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is an inner agitation that can generate a sense of apprehension similar to anxiety. The feeling of precariousness, also from an economic and social point of view, given by the world in which we live, strongly influences the psychological earthquake that many of us perceive. It is common to feel uprooted, far from the center of what we really want for our life; one feels without plans and above all without hope, from work and from the construction of the values that we feel important, linked above all to children and family. But the precarious economic conditions are not the only cause.
Statistics show that in the target of those most affected by anxiety and panic attacks we find people with successful professions, in particular women. Keeping in balance between family needs, bills and home care, work, certainly is not a simple thing for anyone.
Furthermore, what we do not see is that, frequently, behind a successful job, there is a complicated and exhausting construction made of self-discipline, tenacity, hours of sleep and lost free time, perseverance, renunciation of oneself or emotional relationships, in the strenuous goal of personal fulfillment. The anxiety attack happens when we lose control over reality … or does the obsessive control over our everyday reality make us lose sight of the fact that, after all, we cannot keep life in check?
Anxiety and fear in the human brain: the difference
Neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and norepinephrine play a fundamental role in perception of danger. When we perceive stimuli related to the sensation of a threat, the organism responds by activating the survival responses. The intense emotional reaction in the face of what is perceived as a danger can determine important reactions from the body: the muscles contract, the heart beat accelerates, sweating increases and tremors can occur.
As explained by Daniela De Luca, Psychotherapist with MoviMenti Psychotherapy Studio in Parma: “The response of attack or flight, caused by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, leads the animals to flee or attack”. Epinephrine and norepinephrine, involved in managing reactions and controlling attention, contribute to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system with an attack or flight response, fight or flight, capable of stimulating the release of energy in the form of glucose; as a consequence, it increases muscle tone, accelerates breathing, sweating and epidermis are stimulated, as it is the map and sense organ (not surprisingly the largest in the human body) capable of signaling the danger and increases heart rate .
After all, when we experience fear we experience a primordial condition. In anxiety, the causes related to the disorder are often ignored, yet these strong emotions force us, if we are willing to descend into our deepest fears, to take care of the body again and take a look at the abyss of our heart.
“On a scale from 1 to 10, there is a panic attack when the level of anxiety and agitation becomes acute to the point of provoking also a series of sensations on the physical and physiological level, which lead for example to sweating, tachycardia, sometimes bodily distress, tremor, difficulty in breathing “explains Daniela De Luca. «Behind a panic attack something deeper is often hidden than what appears. It can happen that we are no longer able to make contact with what we feel, as if we were raising the bar of our tolerability or resistance to a given situation that generates malaise in us ».
There is both an anxiety attack and a panic attack. If the anxiety attack appears in a more contained form, the panic attack has an “irrepressible” effect and is also the only way in which our body communicates to us that … we have exceeded the limit, perhaps compared to a situation so far (badly) endured or to an emotion that we are experiencing but we force ourselves not to feel.
Often the panic attack explodes in a context of apparent calm, from the supermarket to the cinema: «A person accustomed to running and keeping the level of tension high, often struggles to notice when it becomes necessary to stop. Then, in any situation of relaxation, it is as if the adrenaline drops, together with a whole series of sensations that until then have kept the attention active, and it is there that the panic attack starts, inexplicably ». Why right now?
Realizing that you are tired or experiencing situations that create malaise often needs a path. In classical psychoanalytic interpretation, anxiety has been studied as a symptom-signal: the instincts experienced by the subject and experienced as prohibited generate a conflict from which the ego defends itself. Anxiety, already identified in ancient Greece and treated as a disease of the spirit in the Middle Ages, has an aspect deeply connected to the future and a tendency to pre-deal with the events connected to it. «There is a cultural prejudice. We have the idea that all emotions categorized as negative, such as anxiety, fear, anger, are somehow wrong. So, not only do you struggle to admit to trying them, but sometimes you have difficulty even making contact with these sensations and often we are not even aware of them ».
How to treat anxiety and panic attacks
“We think of animals: when they feel fear or freeze or tremble” continues Daniela De Luca, who deals with emotion management and Integrated Relational Pet Therapy. In her studio work she is flanked by a very special presence: her dog, a labrador named Frank. When dogs are very afraid they tremble from their hind legs and in this way they get rid of excess energy: if they were charged with this tension without letting it go, they would not be free to react, therefore to attack or flee according to the situation.
This natural mechanism is the basis of a technique called TRE, Trauma Releasing Exercises, developed developed following studies conducted in Ethiopia and the Middle East. Through a series of specific exercises related to the tremor, voluntarily caused, we work on trauma and stress releasing the anxiety associated with emotions of the present or the past.
But there are many paths that help to deal with this type of disorder. In recent years, disciplines such as bioenergetics have investigated how the tensions accumulated in the body affect psychophysical well-being, approaching anxiety in a new way. But let’s not forget that classical medicine together with the various schools of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy offer more classic solutions, with courses tailored to individual needs, assessing their psychophysical status, the extent of the disorder and personal experience. The advice is to get help, even to find the most suitable solution for your situation.
Extra help from pet therapy
However, there are sweeter remedies than others, which you can try without side effects: for example pet therapy. The look of a dog, of total acceptance, its non-judgmental and full of warmth presence, as evidenced by many studies, has a calming effect. Projecting our emotions onto a dog is easier, especially when it comes to children and teenagers: «What does Frank do when he is angry or afraid? What do you do?”. “Who has not had a dog does not know what it means to be loved,” wrote Arthur Schopenhauer: his is the silent and lively presence of a guardian angel that gives strength, a symbol of protection, absolute trust. Because, after all, it is openness to trust that helps us fight the dark night of fear.