Anxiety and night panic: how are both phenomena related?
Suffering from high anxiety predisposes us to have parasomnias such as night panic. Let us see why.
Anxiety is a phenomenon that is as common and frequent in the population as it is diverse in the ways it expresses itself.
In fact, it sometimes triggers psychological alterations that go beyond anxiety disorders, overlapping with psychopathologies of all kinds, to which it contributes.
Here I will talk about the relationship between excessive anxiety and the appearance of the disorder known as nocturnal panic, a parasomnia similar to panic disorder.a parasomnia similar to sleepwalking.
What do we understand by anxiety?
The anxiety is a set of psychological and physiological phenomena that maintain our nervous system in a state of much activation, sometimes with an excessive intensity.sometimes with an excessive intensity. Normally, anxiety appears in situations involving real or imagined danger, or the idea that if we do not act quickly, we will lose an important opportunity.
This activation has different implications in what the anxious person feels and does: he/she experiences a greater sensitivity to unexpected stimuli, tends to react to them suddenly and without having thought about it, has difficulties to be completely still, and is more prone to be irritable with others.
On the other hand, when the anxiety reaches a very high degree of intensity, the following symptoms appear:
- Tremors and generalized muscular tension
- Cold sweats
- Acceleration of the heart rate
- Increased Blood pressure
- Recurrent pessimistic thoughts
When is anxiety a problem?
So far we have seen what anxiety is, but we have not yet seen what is the line that separates normal anxiety from that which is problematic. This distinction is not always simple, and to understand it it is necessary to understand the origin of anxiety.
The whole set of biological and behavioral mechanisms that constitute anxiety are produced by evolution and natural selection.. They are survival resources that have allowed our ancestors to react quickly to avoid dangers and stay alive in all kinds of hostile environments. In fact, the ability to develop anxiety is so important that it is present in practically all the most evolved animals.
However, while anxiety gives us a push in the right direction to survive thanks to our ability to react in time without second thoughts when the latter is not an option, it can also lead to problems. In fact, sometimes sometimes our way of reacting to anxiety causes us to produce it ourselves and the main problem becomes that state of activation..
For example, many people deal with anxiety by binge eating or taking drugs, which in turn worsens their situation and makes them more likely to continue experiencing anxiety within hours. On the other hand, when anxious processes are a constant in our lives, they wear us down physically and psychologically and can lead to other psychological disorders. This happens, for example, with sleep disorders. Which leads us to talk about night panic.
What is night panic?
Night panic, also called night terror, is a sleep disorder that is part of the group of parasomnias. a sleep disorder that is part of the group of parasomnias, characterized by the appearance of abnormal or psychopathological movement patterns that occur involuntarily. or psychopathological movement patterns that occur involuntarily, without the person having fully regained consciousness. In this sense, nocturnal panic is somewhat similar to sleepwalking, since it is expressed while the person sleeps and in a certain sense, when it does, it may seem that the person is awake.
However, what most distinguishes night terror is the expression of high anxiety or fear reactions. high anxiety or fear reactions, and disruptive, sometimes even aggressive, movements.. When night terror is expressed through its symptoms, the person appears to wake up suddenly, screaming and/or with a frightened expression on the face and gestures; it is common for those affected to become upright in bed, showing a lot of muscular tension.
However, they will not do all this in a conscious state, but will remain in a state of semi-consciousness in which they will not be able to talk to others or reason. Moreover, once they are fully awake, they will probably not remember what happened.
Nocturnal panic is a disturbance that occurs mainly during childhood, but in some cases remains until adulthood..
The relationship between the two psychological problems
As with all psychological disorders, there is no single cause that explains the appearance of nocturnal panic, but rather a combination of factors that reinforce each other and give rise to this symptomatology.
However, it is known that the presence of a high state of anxiety facilitates the appearance of this parasomnia.. This may be because the predispositions that make us anxious during the day act at night by altering the natural transition from one sleep phase to the next, affecting the functioning of the vegetative nervous system, which is responsible for a large part of the unconscious movements we make.
When the nervous system tends to be highly activated, sleep is more likely to be shallow and there are times when we wake up in the middle of the night, and this same predisposition exposes us to parasomnias.
Thus, solving anxiety management problems helps to sleep well and without night panic symptoms.In such cases, it is advisable to seek psychotherapy.
Are you looking for psychological assistance?
If you have sleep or anxiety-related problems or are experiencing other stress-related problems, I invite you to get in touch with us, I invite you to contact me. I am a psychologist specialized in the cognitive-behavioral model of intervention and I have been helping people with anxiety-related psychological disorders and other forms of psychological disorders with emotional or behavioral roots for years. On this page you will find more information about how I work, and my contact details.
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(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)