Why I Don’t Like The Term Panic Attack

When it comes to feeling emotion, I truly feel that the words we choose to use will have an effect on us. To be more accurate, It’s not the words themselves, it’s the mindset behind the words.

Compare the term a panic attack to a protection mechanism?

One of them is attack, the other is protection. It’s not the words that have a subtle effect on us, it’s the mindset we fall into when we read or speak these words.

Perception is everything

I don’t know about you, but before I was equipped with the life changing knowledge, I didn’t really understand what a panic attack was and why they happen.

I just assumed that a panic attack was by body attacking me. I thought I had some incurable illness.

I inherently knew something wasn’t quite right. After all, it’s not “normal” to experience panic attacks for no apparent reason. Of course, there is always a reason and that applied here for having panic attacks.

From my experience, the reason why I experienced panic attacks is because I would have a fearful interpretation over bodily sensations or thoughts. I thought places were causing me panic attacks, but really is what my thoughts about these places.

Sorry… gone of topic there… back to the topic of this article.

So, why don’t I like the term panic attack?

Because attack implies that our mind and body our working against us. What I’ve learnt is that a panic attack is actually designed to keep us safe, not harm us.

This is why the term panic attack, in my opinion, should be replaced with the term protection mechanism or response because that’s exactly what it is.

Why on earth would life prepare us with a inbuilt mechanism that attacks us. It just wouldn’t make any sense, would it? Surely life isn’t inherently self-destructive, is it?

The whole purpose of fear is to prolong our lives. Self preservation is what the fight/flight response is for. In the caveman times, we were constantly being threatened, our lives were constantly in danger.

In order to stay alive in the world of predators, we had to keep very alert and on edge. Our anxiety levels would have had to adjust to a high level in this particular environment.

Imagine if we never had a fight/flight response. Our ancestors would have never made it.

Whenever we perceive something to be dangerous, our fight/flight mode kicks in to put us in a better position to deal effectively with this danger.

Our heart beats faster in order to pump more blood around the body, our breathing becomes fast and shallow, so we can take in more oxygen, Our pupils dilate so we can see more effectively and so on.

All of these bodily changes are happening as a response to this danger. Our senses scan the environment, if something happens to be threatening, information from the senses is passed to the brain where it has to make a decision based off of the information.

In this case, it’s a danger, so the brain passes this on to the alarm system of the brain to activate the fight/flight response.

This might not be 100% accurate, but it’s close enough.

Isn’t it now clear that fear is designed to keep us safe, not hurt us? The body has an amazing intelligence which manifests as this inbuilt protection mechanism.

This is why I believe a panic attack should instead be referred to as a protection mechanism. After all, what feels better to say, a panic attack or a protection mechanism? I know which one I prefer!

It can also be helpful to view a panic attack like a security guard. A security guard might appear to be intimating, but his/her primary function is to keep safe from a threat.

They will do all they can to provide a safe environment. They are constantly on the look out for potential dangers. If they see something that could be threatening, they will take action to hopefully deal with the danger.

Isn’t this just so similar to the fight/flight response?

I hope this article has cleared up many misunderstandings about the term “panic attack” and why you might want to replace it with the more accurate term, “protection mechanism.”

Until next time

Lawrence Gregory

Hi I'm Lawrence. I write about what has helped me heal/recover from high anxiety and panic attacks. Everything I share here comes from personal experience and what I've learnt from others. I write with honesty and with readers in mind, so you'll never see me share something I haven't had any experience with myself.

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