The Third Part of a Ten Part Series on Anxiety and Stress Which Began on February 23, 2016
What is Panic?
According to the Mayo Clinic (2002), “Panic attacks typically begin suddenly, without warning. They can strike at any time – when you’re driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occasional panic attacks or they may occur frequently.”
Mayo Clinic. (2002). Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder in http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/basics/symptoms/con-20020825:
But how do you as a pastor or counselor help a person who is experiencing panic? Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Whenever you are speaking with someone who complains of extreme physical symptoms, refer them to their medical doctor. This protects the person in case there is a serious medical issue that has not been identified. If they do not have a doctor that they normally see, have several names of medical doctors on hand who are trusted by others in your church that you can recommend for them.
- Recognize that panic is a normal adrenaline emergency response that God has created us to experience for our safety and for the safety of others around us. Whenever we are threatened physically or psychologically, a complex chain of responses is set in motion to prepare us for what has been described as the “fight or flight” response. It’s as simple as that. When we are under stress, our bodies are prepared either to attack what is threatening us or to run away from it.
Hart, A. D. (1991). Adrenalin and Stress (p.6). Dallas: Word Publishing.
If a person encounters the proverbial bear on the path, an adrenaline response will occur. The heart will beat harder, sending blood to the large muscles of the body. An extra supply of blood will also leave the hands, feet, and skin, and move to the larger muscles. This creates a side effect of tingling and numbness, but also reduces the threat of bleeding in those areas. The need for a fighting blood supply will also cause digestion to stop.
So when a person constantly worries over life issues they cannot solve, like the impossible task of completing multiple responsibilities, or memories of a difficult experience, the fight or flight response may be triggered. And because there is no bear to fight or run from, the adrenalin preparation their body is in vain. The result is adrenalin overload and panic.
In another post I will talk about what individuals can do to live without a constant experience of stress. However, it is important to remind the person who is struggling that God is always near and ready to help.
- Know that you as a Christian hold the key to helping a person who is experiencing panic, because you understand God’s Word. You know that God does not want us to live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. This is what Isaiah says:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God: I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
The author to the book of Hebrews says in Chapter 13 verse 6, “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what will man do to me’?” So we may not fully understand everything there is to know about the physical mechanisms of panic, but we do know the God of the Bible.
Dr James P Porowski Licensed Psychologist Raleigh NC February 27, 2016