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What’s really going on?
Brain scans show increased activity in the brain's fear centre (the amygdala) and decreased activity, in the prefrontal cortex.
Fear stimulates adrenaline.
Adrenaline increases the heart rate, causes hyperventilation and sweating and puts you on alert. You tremble and get jelly legs.
Palpitations occur because of increased heart rate and adrenaline. Your increased breathing and heart rate send extra oxygen and glucose to the muscles to adapt to the threat, but the increased respiration also blows out carbon dioxide (CO2) and this leads to pH change making the blood alkaline - so then your body responds with metabolic acidosis and closes down peripheral blood vessels.
Constriction of some blood vessels leads to dizziness and light-headedness. You fear you'll make a fool of yourself.
Stomach sensations also occur because blood is diverted away to the muscles.
As the gut shuts down you get a dry mouth because less saliva needs to be produced. You feel a lump in the throat because your mouth is dry and less lubricated.
Now look at all those symptoms of panic we talked about before – what symptoms do you have and what is really causing them?
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