Part 5: The Brain and Panic Attacks: 'Emotional Hijacking'

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Panic Attacks brain - The Amygdala

When you have a panic attack, or become very anxious your emotional response can actually bypass your ‘thinking brain’. The red dot in the diagram is the amygdala, which is involved with creating a ‘faster than thought’ panic attack. It is very difficult, or impossible, to think clearly when highly emotional because the part of the brain you think with is inhibited.

This is a very primitive part of your brain, designed for survival, rather than problem solving in complex situations.

The most common comment from people who have panic attacks is ‘It’s totally irrational’, which is quite right. It’s not the rational part of the brain that deals with panic attacks. This is why people often find it hard to make decisions during a panic attack.

This response has been termed an ‘emotional hijacking’ by Daniel Goleman, who wrote the best selling book ‘Emotional Intelligence’. By this, he means that your thinking, planning rational mind is hijacked by your emotional response.

The first sign that your panic attacks have gone may be when you notice you can’t have them any more. This is because something fundamental will have changed in the way the mind responds. The whole of side two of the self help Panic Prevention Audio Program is devoted to this.

Part 6: Other Techniques for Getting Rid of Panic Attacks »