Category Archives: panic attacks and fibromyalgia


” PTSD is similar to Panic Attacks in that once turned on, the anxiety is fed into a vicious cycle”, David Yeung

Anxiety, depression and panic attacks are triplets. They live together and feed on one another. The sources of these three demons are usually from: childhood experience, past trauma and a family history. While panic attacks are extreme episodes of anxiety and are relatively common in the general population, the frequency of them are noteworthy in those of us with fibromyalgia. We are prone to catastrophic thinking which often initiates extreme anxiety that can be pushed into a genuine panic attack. While the duration of them usually last for a short period of time, those of us with fibromyalgia, PTSD, Chronic Fatigue and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities can experience panic more frequently, and the duration is much longer.

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Fibromyalgia and Panic Attacks: Cognitive and Somatic Sensitization

“If you are experiencing strange symptoms that no one seems to be able to explain, they could be arising from a traumatic reaction to a past event that you may not even remember”, Peter A. Levine

Two words that are now often coined in conjunction with fibromyalgia are   cognitive sensitization and somatic sensitization. I have been exploring the research in this direction for the past couple of years and have recently had another ‘aha’ moment. I am not sure which comes first but with regard to ‘cognitive sensitization’,  because of the excessive degree of empathy for others and fear/anxiety for ourselves there is vivid brain activity in the amygdala.  People with fibromyalgia worry excessively  and our attention to health related information is extremely high.  The meaning that pain has for ourselves, the sufferer, or for others whom we perceive to suffer, poses increased threats which affects ‘somatic sensitization’, that is, increased reactivity of the nervous system. In turn this lowers the pain threshold and affects pain tolerance; the consequence is that  the fibromyalgia syndrome  develops.  The two are interrelated but what does that mean in simple language? One hears, in fact seeks out, health related information, subsequently anxiety and fear develop (the amygdala is over reacting to perceived threat) increasing the overstimulation. Then a low tolerance for pain develops. Accompanying this pain is a myriad of other symptoms. But is this too simply stated? What can this cognitive sensitization actually produce within ourselves? This is a process within the brain as it receives cues that bring about arousal from a past traumatic event, that becomes an actual sensitization of the neuro system.  In what ways then does this anxiety/fear invade our brains?

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