Although the response is triggered by something your brain interprets as a threat, sometimes your brain gets it WRONG. In other words, it sometimes views a safe situation as dangerous.
Panic attacks caused by flying fall into this category.
That's because they're caused by you having negative thoughts rather than by a real external threat. So how do negative thoughts make you panic?
The answer is simple. When you're sat on a plane having negative thoughts, you obviously start feeling anxious.
And when you feel anxious, you can then become what psychologists call 'hypervigilant'.
When you're in a hypervigilant state of mind, you search obsessively for signs of danger. For example, you'll be on the lookout for 'odd' sounds and sensations. And probably checking the faces of the crew to see if they look distressed.
And besides keeping an eye out for general threats, you may be furiously checking for specific ones, too. For example, if you worry about the wings snapping off, your eyes and ears will be wide open for anything that suggests that's about to happen.
Needless to say, when you're in this state of mind, your risk of having a panic attack goes through the roof. After all, with your brain URGENTLY hunting for danger, it's just a negative thought away from hitting the ol' panic button.
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