Anxiety, Panic and Stress
Anxiety is a physiological state that’s caused by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). SNS is always active at the base level (called sympathetic tone) and becomes more active in stressful situations. The “flight or fight” response occurs from here. Anxiety doesn’t need an outside influence to occur. Anxiety is often based on irrational or illogical fears.
Panic is related to the “fight or flight” mechanism. It’s a reaction brought on by outside stimulus and is a product of the sympathetic nervous system. Panic in general is a sudden fear that can dominate or replace our thinking. Panic usually occurs in a situation that is perceived to be health or life threatening. Panic is an anxiety state we’re thinking about.
Stress is a psychosocial reaction. It’s influenced by the way a person filters nonthreatening external events. The filtering is based on the person’s assumptions, ideas and expectations. These assumptions, ideas and expectations can be referred to as social constructionism.
Panic and stress both play important roles in the natural survival instinct. The preparations for fight or flight are the body’s defense mechanisms. Preparing for which ever course of action is decided upon to preserve life, health or whatever is in danger.
Anxiety doesn’t always stem from an actual need for fear or defensive action. Escaping situations that make us anxious may bring relief, but these feelings are intensified when we face similar situations. This encourages us to escape the situation again instead of working through the anxiety.