When Panic is Unexpected

Jerry Kennard Health Pro
  • One of the worst aspects of panic is that it can appear spontaneously and completely out of the blue. For the sufferer, the lack of predictability means they feel even greater vulnerability than people who suffer with situational panic (e.g. flying).


    One of the urges to accompany panic is the need to escape. The sense of feeling trapped can be overwhelming and in some cases may lead to reckless behavior. If panic occurs behind the wheel of a car, for example, the person may simply stop in the middle of traffic or may speed up and take risks in order to escape the situation. Imagine then a situation where every possible situation or location has as much potential to evoke a panic.

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    Unexpected panics are, frankly, a bit of a puzzle. Usually, some external threat is perceived in order for the panic episode to be triggered. But, when a panic episode occurs when sitting quietly in the comfort of home, it becomes harder to explain. The ramifications for the individual and those around them are profound. It becomes impossible to plan anything. Anything requiring a measure of safety, such as driving or operating machinery, is to be avoided. The days of self-assurance can quickly give way to the prediction of panic and fear takes over.


    Over prediction of fear is very common and it doesn't just apply to people with panic disorder. Most people can relate to situations or events where their concerns far outweigh how they actually perform at the time. However, the tendency to over predict is certainly alive and well in people who experience panic. Although the assumptions of panic are rarely as frequent as predicted the fear of panic is often sufficient to affect behavior and increase avoidance.


    Family members often find panic puzzling and disruptive. This is partly because panic relates to anxiety and people with anxiety have good and bad days. There is often little in the way of consistency with both anxiety and avoidance. Anxiety fluctuates and so does the need to seek safety or avoid situations People who suffer from panic will typically avoid situations where they feel a panic may occur, or they seek reassurance from people they trust (for example accompanying them on a bus or train). Yet, there may be days when they feel robust enough to go solo.


    There is little doubt that panic is disruptive. In some situations it is relatively easily managed by the person avoiding the situation that causes them distress. In cases where panic simply arrives from nowhere, the level of disruption is far more extensive. Fear is very easy to establish whereas confidence building is a far slower process. Even the person who suffers with unexpected panic episodes can often find common triggers or patterns over time. With proper help and support from a trained therapist the therapeutic process can be structured and recovery made more speedily.

Published On: November 22, 2010