Whenever panic strikes it is the first feeling you notice. You feel you are going out of balance and that you are about to pass out.
Most people think that it due to some abnormality related to blood pressure or the balance system in our inner ears (The vestibular system) or they have a brain tumor which is making them dizzy, light headed and feel like fainting.
Lightheadedness and fear of fainting are interconnected in the case of the people suffering from anxiety or panic disorder. For them, lightheadedness often causes the fear of passing out or fainting and collapsing. This ultimately invites a full blown panic attack.
The common fears associated with the feeling of fainting are:
- Fear of fainting in the public places.
- Fear of fainting while driving or operating machinery.
- Fear that you have a brain tumor.
- Fear that you have a heart blockage and that is causing dizziness.
- Fear that you will lose the sense of balance and you will not be able to stand erect.
All of these fears are the negative thoughts which are the symptom of anxiety.
Do you want to know how these fears are false?
For that first of all, we need to understand what fainting actually is:
Fainting occurs when there is low blood supply to the brain. It is a brief and sudden period of unconsciousness which is due to sudden and brief fall in the blood pressure. It means fainting occurs when there is simply less than needed supply of oxygen to the brain.
There can be a host of reasons which cause a reduction in the oxygen supply to the brain (cerebral oxygen).
In most cases, that is not all dangerous. The circulatory system tries it’s best to provide ample of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. But because of some reasons, the deficit cannot be met.
In this case the body- brain system has a protective mechanism to restore normal oxygen supply to the brain. The head is above the heart. Therefore the heart has to work harder to supply blood to the brain because the gravity exerts a downward force on the blood.
Our nervous system then makes us unconscious and we faint. When we faint we collapse on the ground. This makes it easy for the heart to pump the blood to the brain as the body is in the lied down position.
This restores the normal oxygen supply to the major areas of the brain. As soon as the condition gets back to normal we get conscious again and we are fine without any harm to our body or health.
It can be understood from the above discussion that fainting is a reflex to certain conditions in the body which generally are related to the reduced oxygen supply to the brain. It is a restoring mechanism of the mind-body system. It restores normal oxygen supply to the brain to make your body function normally.
So, now it is pretty clear that fainting is not a dangerous or harmful thing.
What that has to do with the fear of fainting in the panic attacks?
When you are anxious or having a panic attack you are probably breathing hard.
This increases the proportion of oxygen in your blood. Also, your heart is pounding and consequently your blood pressure rises as you are in the panic.
So in your case, the two conditions – low blood pressure and low oxygen supply to the brain are not met. This is the reason you don’t faint and collapse.
Look back and remember your past panic attacks. There is not a single incident of you collapsing or fainting.
You only got dizzy and lightheaded or disoriented to some extent. Hyperventilation causes these symptoms. It is very common to breathe rapidly and deeply in stress, anxiety or panic attacks. This causes hyperventilation and it makes you go dizzy, lightheaded, tired and anxious.
Again, hyperventilation is not dangerous. It just produces these uncomfortable symptoms which make you believe that you have some serious health problem.
This fear is because of misinterpretation of the symptoms of anxiety:
Dr.Helen Odessky, Psy. D of yourchicagotherapist.com says on Fear of Fainting in Panic Attacks
The causes of anxiety and panic disorder are:
When you think of developing self-help strategies for dealing with panic disorder, there is actually no use of thinking on the causes of it. The success of treatment for anxiety and panic does not depend on whether you have understood the causes of them.
Genetic predisposition is something that cannot be controlled. Environmental factors, in which you were brought up have now gone in the past and we cannot do anything about them. Physiological causes are the causes which are due to some dysfunctions or diseases in the body. They can be corrected with proper treatment and that can resolve the problem.
The maintenance factors of Anxiety and Panic disorder are:
All these factors are the ones which maintain anxiety and panic disorder in your life. They are the behaviors which psychologists call self-defeating behaviors. You feel that they are saving you from dangers but actually, in reality, they are creating more and more distress for you.
Fear of fainting is one of them:
Now you know,
- It is just a fear of fainting
- Fainting is not dangerous
Also read: How To Reduce Anxiety: Find time to Relax in this Busy World by doctor Dr.Helen Odessky, Psy. D