Those who have experienced one will say that terrifying does not even come close to the way a person feels in the midst of the moments of the attack. It is no wonder a person thinks there is something very, very wrong with them and why they are willing to take any pill given to them to make these feelings go away.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I focus on the heart extensively here because the Bible has so much to say about it and how the heart determines our actions. It should not surprise you that the heart is a major player in a panic attack.
"In Scripture the heart is the center of your core desires. Your mind, will and emotions are servants of your heart in meeting its needs. The heart is what causes the mind to think on what it thinks, the emotions to react the way they do, and the will to act the way it does. Matt. 6:21" P. Steve Lehrer.
Thoughts are what drive a panic attack. Something a person is thinking about is driving the emotions and triggering responses in the body’s endocrine systems. As an example of this, think about someone who thinks they hear footsteps in the house in the middle of the night. The simple thought of, “Intruder!” sets off a chain of events in the body. Physical systems are God-given and intended to warn us of danger, and give us the sudden bursts of energy and strength needed in an emergency situation. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” urge. This instant impulse is driven by the thought that danger is present. The thoughts race with that possibility and the body then releases a flood of various hormones into the bloodstream that accelerates the heart rate, allows the lung capacity to increase.
This all takes place in fractions of seconds, and it is all begun with a thought! It may be that there were no footsteps at all just the settling of the house. However, the body reacts the same way to imagined danger or stress as it does to real danger or stress.
A person who has panic attacks is operating the same way as a person who believes they are in danger even when there is no danger at all. The thoughts the person is thinking evoke such strong emotions that they are able to cause their body to think there is danger when in reality there is not.
These people do not understand that their thoughts are what bring on these attacks because it feels like something powerful and beyond their control sweeps over them. I have heard it described like something they can sense coming but cannot stop, and that it is like something lurking around the corner waiting to jump out and attack them. The sensations are so unpleasant that the sufferer will do almost anything to hold them at bay. Many times they alter their entire lifestyle to avoid a panic attack by discontinuing activities and even relationships to avoid experiencing those feelings. The world becomes smaller and smaller for them as more and more things cause a panic attack and what we ultimately see is a person develops a fear of the fear.
Often, people who struggle with fear, worry and anxiety react rather than thinking. This becomes habitual and so the person falls into a habitual response and it becomes “second nature’ to become a “worrywart.” They have trained themselves to respond this way and have done it for so long they do not know how to respond differently. Feelings are a normal part of life but they ought not to control our lives.
Did you know that feelings are actually symptoms? Feelings are indicators of what is going on inside in the heart (inner-man). Read this next sentence slowly and carefully- A person's feelings are actually by-products of their thinking.
Feelings are a part of our emotional package and part of our cognitive processes (which are our ability to think, reason, and communicate). Feelings may be the first indication that there is a problem. (Matt. 6:34) When we experience distressing feelings it may be the result of sin at the doing (or did) level. (Ps. 38:3-10; Gen. 4:6-7) For example, David (often a heroic example of our sinful issues) sins with Bathsheba. In Psalm 38 we learn of David’s distress because of his sin. There is a cause-effect on his emotions.
Making a distinction between believes and feelings is critical because a persons attitudes reflect their inner beliefs about themselves and their problems.
For example, think of Cain in Gen. 4:6-7. Cain is angry at God and Abel rather than being repentant for his disobedience. His own sin is the cause of his anger.
Do you find yourself obeying your feelings? Living by them? If so, then I would venture to guess that your life is unstable, and that you often find yourself living in a see-saw emotional upheaval, never knowing what feelings are right around the corner in the next hour of life. This is a difficult way to live and not at all what glorifies God.
You are not to be mastered by anything, including feelings and emotions. You are to be ruled by the Holy Spirit of God. Allow Him to be your guide rather then those feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety. Trust that God is completely aware of all that encompasses your life and that He is working in and through your circumstances.
I have seen people bound by fear this way many times in my counseling ministry. The good news, actually, the GREAT news, is there is hope! No one has to live like this! Jesus came to set the captives free from all sin; sinful thoughts, beliefs, desires, and actions. If you are one who suffers from panic attacks, please come again and continue to follow this blog. I believe you can find help and hope here because the solution is based on the Word of God and its application to your life.