Good day to you, Thomas.
Thomas, in the past, in private messages I’ve spoken with you about my own experience with what you’re going through as well as those of many others while serving in the military.
What you are going through is known as the “flee or fight” mode of your body.
When that happens, the body releases hormones called catecholamines, one example of these is adrenaline. As a preparation response, the hormones will facilitate a quick physical reaction in the body in order to bring about a violent muscular action for the purpose of protection. When the body cannot fight or flee for whatever reason, this is when the anxiety or panic attacks step in. There are many symptoms associated with this reaction from shaking and intense coldness to reflexes of the spinal cord, not to mention an extremely exaggerated heart rate; this is why most people, when experiencing their first panic attack, assume that they are having a heart attack. Another way of describing the experience is the body’s response to acute stress during which the nervous system is activated, exhibiting many physical and mental symptoms due to the sudden release of hormones.
This symptom can actually be traced back over millions of years when man was often presented with physical threats on a daily basis, of course at that time they were able to fight or flee, but with the modern experience of this syndrome, there is nothing to actually flee from, and often there is nothing to fight other than one’s own inner turmoil. Having nothing to immediately to fight or flee from only accelerates the response. In various studies concerning this response as associated with gender it was observed that men tend to become either much more aggressive or more withdrawn over time. The aggressive behavior of course may be beneficial during a war, but certainly not otherwise.
Once your body has experienced this syndrome, over time, it becomes easier and easier for the same response to occur. Unfortunately, and in other words, the more often you experience this, the more you will. This is because the body has actually learned to respond in this manner.
In my own experience, this is an automatic response which is very difficult to overcome, or to literally unlearn. Using my own experience, I would imagine that without an extended length of time in which a person finds himself in a very mild, virtually “no-problem situation” it would be practically impossible to accomplish the unlearning process. This is when modern medicine can actually be helpful. I can therefore only tell you what I would do in your situation; that would be to listen to a well-qualified and trusted doctor’s advice.
I can tell you that a person can, at least to a degree, learn to control these experiences with a breathing technique. I was taught this in the service and still use it occasionally today for much milder stressful situations.
Like any other mental exercise, this requires that you focus on what you’re doing and not on what is happening to your body. The breathing technique will help you in calming your body and is simple to use even if you’re struggling with panic.
Begin by inhaling to the count of 2. Exhale to the count of 2.
Inhale to the count of 2. Exhale to the count of 4.
Inhale to the count of 2. Exhale to the count of 6.
Inhale to the count of 2. Exhale to the count of 8.
Inhale to the count of 2. Exhale to the count of 10.
This is most useful to do when you feel stressed, or an anxiety attack or panic attack coming on.
My best to you, Thomas. And please keep us posted on your situation.