One of the essential points I learned about the psychology of emotions is the mechanism of the so-called fight or flight response. It is an automatic evolutionary reaction to a stressful or frightening situation that lies in an instant activation of the sympathetic nervous system (Psychology Tools, n.d.). It readies the body for fighting or running by increasing oxygen supply to the heart as well as muscles, which shows physically as high heart and respiratory rate.
Being unconscious and immediate, the fight or flight response increases the chance for survival in an emergency as a person does not waste time getting ready to act. In addition, its psychological component that is coupled with the physiological one includes a thought acceleration and refocusing attention (Psychology Tools, n.d.). In case of a genuine threat, this mechanism may be critical for surviving because it allows watching the source of the threat in parallel with looking for possible ways to escape.
On the contrary, in those who have panic or anxiety disorders, including myself, the fight or flight response is unnecessarily frequent and/or intensive, preventing them from adequate social interactions. The most frequent reasons for the abnormality are excessive activity in the sympathetic nervous system or insufficient in the parasympathetic one (Psychology Tools, n.d.). Normally, the two systems counterbalance each other. Meanwhile, in patients with anxiety disorders, they do not.
A better understanding of the response mechanism can be helpful in combating panic attacks. I have learned first-hand that unawareness of what is happening to me aggravates my panic. In that context, a recollection of the simple and straightforward scheme that illustrates the chain reaction in my body becomes an anchor. A visualization of a certain event helps to analyze it critically and overcome panic faster.
Psychology Tools. (n.d.) Fight or flight response: Information handout. Web.