On Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sustained experience of panic. It’s one of the worst possible experiences a human can have other than life-threatening injury. For those of you who aren’t familiar with panic, think of seeing your child with his hand on a hot burner as steam rises from the burning flesh. One enters a two-stage state of panic. The first stage ends after the child’s hand is removed from the burner. The second stage ends after the child’s damaged hand is sufficiently cared for (ice/cold water/medical treatment). At that point one is no longer in a state of panic.

While normal panic lasts for only seconds or minutes (occasionally hours), a panic attack can last for days at peak intensity, and for weeks, months, or years at lower intensity, depending on the cause of the panic, the response, and any change to circumstances.

The victim of panic is very focused – just as the child’s parent is very focused when he sees the burning hand. While panic is useful in short-term situations (as it enforces very quick action, increasing reflexes) it’s very damaging in long-term situations, since the enforced focus prevents normal consciousness.

While panic attacks occur in a variety of situations, perhaps the most common is in war zones, especially on the front lines of battle. Since panic increases mental activity as well as physical, soldiers enter into a state of panic in order to gain an edge, especially when they don’t need to consider changes of tactics, strategy, or other functions that panic usually prohibits.

Since panic always results in mental damage when it’s sustained past a certain point, soldiers who use panic during battle are prone to mental illness, which becomes especially problematic when they return to civilian life.

In the civilian population, the most common victims of panic attacks are prisoners. Prisoners are people perpetually at war with their jailers and can turn to panic in relation to their dire circumstances. This is a major reason why the prison experience vastly increases mental illness in those who go through it.

It’s unclear in what way and at what point a panic attack results in mental illness. This kind of mental illness may result from despair resulting from a lack of the victim being able to reduce his degree of panic. So, for example, if a soldier even after undergoing panic still cannot free himself from the fear of death by killing his enemies, he enters into despair and mental illness. Therefore, despair and hopelessness cause mental illness, following from the unsuccessful self-application of panic which in turn follows from fear and desperation.

The American approach of medicine to treat mental illness is pathetic. Another approach is to stop war, which removes the enemies from the soldiers, which removes their fear, desperation, panic, despair, hopelessness, and mental illness. What medicine does is to block the natural effects of human consciousness to that human’s experiences. This is no solution at all. Medicine destroys the connection between reality and consciousness.

Prisoners should never be mistreated. People who legitimately need to be removed from society are themselves unfortunate victims and they need to be treated with compassion. Mistreatment removes their ability to effectively function and makes them more dependent on the state, hence dependent on state resources like taxpayer dollars. Because they function less effectively they are more likely to commit additional crimes upon release.

Imperial societies in particular of course have many more victims of panic attacks than soldiers and prisoners, but that’s a very good place to start.

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2 Responses to “On Panic Attacks”

  1. John H Moore Says:

    As a sufferer myself I can relate to all that you have said in your article. I’m sure it will be of benefit to many others. I hope all sufferers will get the right treatments and help that they need. Thank you.

  2. briankoontz Says:

    A panic attack isn’t all bad. It’s like driving a car at 100 MPH – it’s exciting but a crash is inevitable.

    I’ve never had a faster-moving mind than during the panic attack. I probably packed 6 months worth of thought into just a few days. A fair amount of that thought involved how I was going to avoid death or even if I wanted to, some involved another person near me at the time, but some was also on “intellectual” topics.

    The problem, as the speeding car, is that the situation could not be guaranteed to be kept in control nor could be sustained.

    The terror was greater than the excitement, and so a panic attack is like getting the measles – one builds up immunity and can’t get it a second time, unless one decides than the excitement is greater than the terror.

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