About HardAnxiety: This is my online journal, a tool I can use to write about my progress through recovery. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2:Ultra-Radian Cycling and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia and also Codependencey.

Useful Web Resources (Links)

History of my disorder

What are Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia, and Anxiety?

What is Bipolar type 2 and ultra radian cycling?

Guide to my Anxiety Levels and What's it Like?

About the codependency dysfunction

The Fight-or-Flight Response

What if? Thinking

Coping skills I use

Coping with Medication Side-Effects

Abandonment Breakthrough

Anger Management and Defense Mechanisms - Just a sad game?

Wandering in a Dream of Emptiness, a poem.

Contact me
email David

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This space for rent.

Below is the workbook I am curently using, it's a great workbook, and I recommend getting the accompanying book, Facing Codependence, from the same authors.

Click to buy this book

Want to cheer me up? You can buy me something off of my My Amazon.com Wish List .
What a shameless plug, eh?

The Fight-or-Flight Response
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Fight-or-Flight Response and how it is different with regards to anxiety disorders.

This is my attempt to explain the difference between “normal people” (God, I really hate having to use that term) and those who suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. I am a member of the latter group.

The Fight-or-Flight Response is a biological and psychological change that occurs in the body when a danger is perceived.

In anxiety and panic disorders, the brain is acting as if there is a threat or danger even if there is not, in reality, one present at all. The following should explain why we sufferers cannot just “snap out of it” and remain in our excited, agitated and nervous state.

Let's start by taking an example. If you are hiking through the woods and suddenly come upon a wolf, your body and mind stop for a split second and the body begins pumping chemicals through your system and preps your body for the decision that is being made in that split-second, do you fight the wolf or run like a bat out of hell? This split-second decision is usually made while our bodies are "paralized by fear", or standing perfectly still, another instinctive reaction left over from years of evolution. Your brain becomes highly alert, and your heart starts pumping furiously and your breathing changes.

The following list of what happens physiologically is taken from the book “Principals of Anatomy and Physiology,” by Tortura and Grabowski, eighth edition.

Stress excites the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal cortex. This produces the following effects:

  1. The pupils of the eyes dilate.
  2. Heart rate and force of contraction and blood pressure increase.
  3. The blood vessels of nonessential organs such as the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract constrict.
  4. Blood vessels of organs involved in exercise or fighting off danger – skeletal muscles, cardiac muscle, liver, and adipose tissue – dilate to allow faster flow of blood. (The liver splits glycogen to glucose and adipose tissue splits triglycerides to fatty acids, both of which are used by muscle fiber to generate ATP.)
  5. The rate and depth of breathing increase and the airways dilate, which allow faster movement of air in and out of the lungs.
  6. Blood glucose level rises as liver glycogen is converted to glucose.
  7. The medullae of the adrenal glands are stimulated to release epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These hormones intensify and prolong the sympathetic effects just described.
  8. Processes that are not essential for meeting the stress situation are inhibited. For example, muscular movements of the gastrointestinal tract and digestive secretions slow down or even stop.

In today's society, in which we aren't threatened by wild beasts very often, most people will have a fight or flight response to things like taking a test.

To paraphrase from the book, if the stress remains for a long period of time, the excitation becomes more prominent and if it remains for weeks or months it can weaken the immune system. In this state, there may be a reduction of the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine (also called adrenaline and noradrenaline) in the brain, which are two neurotransmitters that many medications given to people with anxiety and panic disorders try to alter.

The following image is taken from an article from Discover Magazine that was published on their website at http://www.discover.com/mar_03/gthere.html?article=gthere.html?article=featfear.html
Anatomy of Fear, taken from www.discover.com
Basically what this means is that your brain is changing the way it communicates with itself to deal with a perceived threat. Sufferers from an anxiety or panic disorder may have their brain “stuck” in this “on” position.

I'm going to add a few quotes from a great book by Dr.Robert M. Sapolsky called Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. This book focuses on the stress response and chronic stress, which is basically what the Fight-Or-Flight response or an Anxiety disorder is.

During stress, sexual drive decreases in both sexes; females are less likely toovulate or carry pregnancies to term, while males begin to have trouble with erections and secrete less testosterone. This explains why people with anxiety disorders have difficult sex lives.

During the Fight-Or-Flight response, less saliva is produced, which helps explain why people with anxiety disorders suffer from dry mouth and dental problems.

...the longer the stressor lasts, the longer the cumulative time of exposure to CRF, causing inhibition of appetite. CRF is Corticotropin Releasing Factor, a hormone secreted by the hypothalamus in the brain. This explains the poor eating habits of people with anxiety disorders, and why I often eat only one meal a day.

Another, ah, interesting facet of prolonged periods of the Fight-Or-Flight response is diarrhea and other bowel disorders.

But why, to add insult to injury, is it so frequently diarrhea when you are truly frightened? Relatively large amounts of water are needed for digestion, to keep your food in solution as you break it down so that it will be easy to absorb into the circulation when digestion is done. The job of the large intestine is to get that water back, and that's why your bowels have to be so long-the leftovers slowly inch their way through the large intestine, starting as a soupy gruel and ending up, ideally, as reasonably dry stool. Disaster strikes, run for your life, increase that large intestinal motility, and everything gets pushed thorugh too fast for the water to be absorbed optimally. Diarrhea, simple as that.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a hodgepodge of disorders in which there is abdominal pain (particularly just after a meal) that is relieved by defecating and which, at least 25 percent of the time, includes symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, passage of mucus, bloating and abdominal distention.

All this helps to explain why people such as me are sick most of the time - our bodies are stuck trying to fight off physical or more often psychological stressors that the body simply doesn't have the time or resources to combat diseases or digest food and get the proper nutrients to build new cells.

I have to learn to live with the fight-or-flight response on a daily, on-going basis. Medications that alter brain chemistry (usually) help greatly manage this bodily response. Other ways I use to calm myself are to calmly tell myself there is no danger, I am safe and surrounded by safe people. Also, forcing myself to breath long, slow, deep breaths help. But the bottom line is there is a chemical imbalance that is stuck in the on position and all of the above methods are needed in order to just make it through the day without running away in fear or fighting in anger.

I hope this helps you all understand what goes on behind both an acute panic attack and general anxiety disorders.

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