Reacting to anxiety attacks in a fearful way will keep anxiety attacks going.
In a sense, anxious personalities become afraid of what the high degree stress response feels like and/or believe that it is the harbinger of something dangerous, which causes more stress responses. This is often the scenario that sets up Panic Attack Disorder: becoming afraid of the feelings of a high degree stress response and believing they are uncontrollable.
In this regard, fear set off the initial anxiety attack and fearing the sensations associated with the anxiety attack activates more stress responses. We call this the ‘fear cycle’ – worry about/fear activates a high degree stress response = we worry about/fear the feelings of a high degree stress response = which activates another stress response, and so on.
Voluntary anxiety attacks account for approximately 98 percent of all anxiety attacks.
Involuntary Anxiety Attacks
The body has a number of systems that automatically (involuntarily) monitor and regulate each other moment by moment. When the body is healthy and not overly stressed, it does a good job of keeping all of its systems working normally.
When the body becomes overly stressed, however, it can sometimes mismanage systems, which can cause the body to behave erratically and more involuntarily than normal. This erratic and more involuntary behavior can cause the body to involuntarily activate the stress response. The great majority of ‘out-of-the-blue’ anxiety attacks are caused by this involuntary mismanagement.
Experiencing an involuntary panic can be unnerving. If a person doesn’t understand why the body produced an involuntary panic attack, he could react to it with more anxiety, which can cause more anxiety attacks.
As we mentioned earlier, reacting with fear to anxiety attacks is the most common reason why anxiety attacks persist.