Fear and panic at night: how are the two phenomena related?

Anxiety is such a common and frequent phenomenon in the population, so diverse in their ways of expressing themselves.

In fact, it sometimes triggers psychological disorders that go beyond anxiety disorders, superimposing on psychopathologies of all kinds, to which it contributes.

Here i will talk the relationship between excessive anxiety and the onset of the disorder known as nocturnal panic, a sleepwalker similar to sleepwalking.

    What do we mean by anxiety?

    Anxiety is a set of psychological and physiological phenomena that they keep our nervous system in a state of much activation, Sometimes with excessive intensity. Anxiety usually arises in situations that involve real or imagined danger, or when faced with the idea that if we don’t act quickly, we will miss an important opportunity.

    This activation has different implications for what the anxious person feels and does: he experiences greater sensitivity to unexpected stimuli, tends to react to them suddenly and without thinking about it, has difficulty staying completely still, and is more prone to show irritable with others.

    On another side, when the anxiety reaches a very high degree of intensity, the following symptoms appear:

    • Tremors and generalized muscle tension
    • cold sweat
    • dizziness
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Recurrent pessimistic thoughts

    When is anxiety a problem?

    So far we’ve seen what anxiety is, but we haven’t yet seen what the line between normal and problematic anxiety is. This distinction is not always simple and to understand it, it is necessary to understand the origin of anxiety.

    All the biological and behavioral mechanisms that constitute anxiety are produced by evolution and natural selection.. These are survival resources that enabled our ancestors to react quickly to avoid danger and stay alive in all manner of hostile environments. In fact, the ability to develop anxiety is so important that it is present in virtually all of the most evolved animals.

    However, if anxiety gives us a nudge in the right direction for survival through our ability to react in time without having to think twice when the latter is not an option, it can also lead to problems. . In fact, sometimes the way we react to anxiety leads us to produce it ourselves and the main problem becomes this state of activation.

    For example, many people experience anxiety from overeating or using drugs, which worsens their situation and makes them more likely to continue to experience anxiety within a few hours. And on the other hand, when anxiety processes are a constant in our lives, they exhaust us physically and psychologically and can give way to other psychological disorders. This is the case, for example, with sleep disorders. Which brings us to talk about nocturnal panic.

      What is nocturnal panic?

      Night panic, also known as night terror, is a sleep disorder that belongs to the group of parasomnias, characterized by the appearance of abnormal movement patterns or psychopathological that occur involuntarily, without the person having fully regained consciousness. In this sense, nocturnal panic is a bit similar to sleepwalking in that it is expressed while the person is asleep and in a sense, when it does, it may appear that the person is awake.

      However, what most distinguishes the night terror is the expression of high anxiety or fear reactions and disruptive, sometimes even aggressive movements. When night terror is expressed through its symptoms, the person seems to wake up suddenly, screaming and / or with an expression of fear on their face and gestures; It is common for those affected to stand in bed, showing a lot of muscle tension.

      However, they will not do all of this in a state of consciousness, but will remain in a state of semi-unconsciousness in which they will not be able to talk to others or reason. Also, once they are fully awake, they probably won’t remember what happened.

      The nocturnal panic it is an alteration that occurs mainly during childhood, but in some cases persists into adulthood.

      The relationship between the two psychological problems

      As with all psychological disorders, there is not a single cause that explains the onset of nocturnal panic, but there is a combination of factors that reinforce each other and give way to this symptomatology.

      However, we know that the presence of a state of strong anxiety facilitates the appearance of this parasomnia. This may be due to the fact that the predispositions that distress us during the day act at night by modifying the natural transition from one phase of sleep to the next, affecting the functioning of the vegetative nervous system, responsible for much of the unconscious movements that we run.

      And is that when the nervous system tends to be very active, it is more likely that sleep is shallow and moments pass when we wake up in the middle of the night, and this same predisposition works by exposing us to parasomnias.

      like that, Solving Anxiety Management Problems Helps You Sleep Well and No Symptoms of Nighttime PanicSo in such cases it is advisable to go for psychotherapy.

      Are you looking for psychological assistance?

      If you have trouble sleeping or are linked to anxiety or have other stress-related issues, I invite you to contact me. I am a psychologist specializing in the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Model and have spent years helping people with psychological disorders such as anxiety and other forms of psychological disorders with emotional or behavioral roots. On this page you will find more information about my way of working and my contact details.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.
      • Guzman, C .; Wang, Y. (2008). Sleep terror disorder: a case report. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry 115 (11): 169.
      • Rynn, MA; Brawman-Mintzer, O. (2004). Generalized anxiety disorder: acute and chronic treatment. CNS spectra. 9 (10): pages 716-723.
      • Snyder, D .; Goodlin-Jones, BL, Pionk, M. and Stein, MT (2008). Inconsolable nocturnal awakening: beyond night terrors. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 29 (4): pages 311 to 314.
      • Sateia, MJ (2014). International Classification of Sleep Disorders – Third Edition. The chests. 146 (5): pages 1387 to 1394.
      • Sylvers, P .; Lilienfeld, SO; LaPrairie, JL (2011). Differences between fear and anxiety about traits: implications for psychopathology. Journal of clinical psychology. 31 (1): pages 122 to 137.

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