Anxiety is such a common and frequent phenomenon in the population, as it is diverse in its ways of expressing 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 sleepwalking.
What do we understand by anxiety?
Anxiety is a set of psychological and physiological phenomena that keep our nervous system in a state of high activation , sometimes with excessive intensity. Normally, anxiety appears in situations that involve 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 person with anxiety feels and does: they experience a greater sensitivity to unexpected stimuli, they tend to react to them suddenly and without having thought about it, they have difficulties to be totally still, and it is more prone to being irritable with others.
On the other hand, when anxiety reaches a very high degree of intensity, the following symptoms appear :
- Tremors and generalized muscle tension
- Cold sweats
- Accelerated heart rate
- Elevation of blood presure
- Recurring pessimistic thoughts
When is anxiety a problem?
At the moment 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 straightforward, and in order to understand it, it is necessary to understand the origin of anxiety.
The entire set of biological and behavioral mechanisms that constitute anxiety are produced by evolution and natural selection . These are survival resources that have allowed our ancestors to react quickly to avoid danger and stay alive in all kinds of harsh 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 having to think twice when the latter is not an option, it can also lead to problems. In fact, 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 bingeing or using drugs, which in turn worsens their situation and makes them more likely to continue experiencing anxiety within hours. And on the other hand, when anxiety processes are a constant in our lives, they wear us down physically and psychologically and can give way to other psychological disorders. This happens, for example, with sleep disorders. Which leads us to talk about the night panic.
What is night panic?
Night panic, also called night terror, is a sleep disorder that is part of the group of parasomnias, characterized by the appearance of abnormal or psychopathological patterns of movement that occur involuntarily, without the person having fully recovered consciousness. . In this sense, night panic is a bit like sleepwalking, since it is expressed while the person sleeps and in a sense, when it does, it can appear that the person is awake.
However, what most distinguishes night terror is the expression of reactions of high anxiety or fear, and disruptive movements, sometimes even aggressive . When night terror is expressed through its symptoms, the person appears to wake up suddenly, screaming and / or with an expression of fear on their face and gestures; It is common for those affected to get upright in bed, showing a lot of muscle tension.
However, they will not do all this in a state of consciousness, but will remain in a semi-unconscious state 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.
Night panic is an alteration that occurs mainly during childhood, but in some cases it lasts until adulthood .
The relationship between both psychological problems
As with all psychological disorders, there is no single cause that explains the appearance of nocturnal panic, but there is a combination of factors that reinforce each other and give way to this symptomatology.
However, it is known that the presence of a state of high anxiety facilitates the appearance of this parasomnia . This may be due to the fact that the predispositions that make us anxious during the day act at night, altering the natural transition from one phase of sleep to the next, affecting the functioning of the vegetative nervous system, which is responsible for much of the unconscious movements that occur. We perform.
And is that when the nervous system tends to be very activated, it is more likely that sleep is shallow and there are times when we wake up in the middle of the night, and this same predisposition works by exposing us to parasomnias.
Thus, putting a solution to anxiety management problems helps to sleep well and without symptoms of night panic , so in cases like this it is advisable to go to psychotherapy.
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