Adrenaline gives us the extra surge of energy that allows us to defend ourselves against a threat, whether real or perceived. It also plays a role in worry and fear, two emotions that are common in everyday life. But when worry and fear turn into panic or anxiety, adrenaline may go too far, and damage to both you and your environment may result.
How do you know when you’re having a panic or anxiety attack? Aside from the usual strong feeling of uneasiness, you may experience palpitations, sweating, uncontrollable trembling, shortness of breath, chest pains, nausea, and headaches. Your panic attack may be spontaneous, occurring while you are relaxing or sleeping; or situational, occurring when you are placed in a situation where you have previously experienced the same panic attack.
Damage can come during the panic and anxiety attack itself. Your shortness of breath may cut off the flow of oxygen to the brain, exacerbate headaches, and cause damage to brain tissue. Palpitations can exhaust your energy, making you feel tired and lethargic. It can keep you from doing activities you would normally do in everyday life, such as driving to and from work, performing daily tasks, or even making a simple purchase at the drugstore.
Damage can also come in the aftermath of the attack. One secondary condition arising from panic and anxiety is depression, where you may suffer from feelings of worthlessness. Depression is disabling: you lack motivation and energy to do everyday tasks, your interest in previously enjoyable activities dwindles, and you may experience disrupted sleep patterns.
Depression can cause you to abandon important duties: you may fail to deliver at work; you may forget to pick the kids up from school; your lack of interest may disturb your spouse and distance you from each other; your lack of sleep can trigger sickness, since your immune system relies heavily on sleep to keep itself on its toes. Depression, in short, will not only keep you in the dumps, but also drag everyone else down with you, no matter how unwilling they may be.
Another secondary condition of panic and anxiety attacks is agoraphobia, or fear of open spaces. This involves avoidance of others: yet another chance to alienate yourself from people, and thus disrupting important relationships, such as those at home or at work.
Alcohol and drug abuse can stem from untreated panic and anxiety attacks. Alcohol, first and foremost, damages the liver, and can lead to long term damage that will result in a lifetime of dialysis and hospital visits. Drug abuse damage is more widespread: the brain can be destroyed, and activities in vital organs can be disrupted.
Abuse of these substances can also lead to emotional breakdowns, whether in you, or between you and your loved ones. You may lose your job due to deterioration in your emotional and physical health. All this may also lead to a break down in your family, and to your relationships with those close to you.
Clearly, the damage wrought by panic and anxiety is both on the abstract (relationships and emotion) and material (health and your body) levels. Fear and worry are normal – but know that carrying them too far, and into the realm of panic and anxiety, will do you and your loved ones more harm than good.
If you think that you are suffering from panic and anxiety attacks, do not be afraid to consult a doctor. The life you save may not only be your own; and the damage you may do, to you and yourself, can be undone before it can even occur.
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