When people who have anxiety get panic attacks, they are often mistaken for by others as weak because they get ruffled by what appears to be trivial things. But I’ve got news for you: panic attacks don’t make anyone less brave.
When we look further into what causes panic attacks for people with anxiety, we will realize that courage and bravery have nothing to do with it at all.
Today, we’re going to talk about how courage and anxiety attacks are related, and spoiler alert, it’s not a lack of courage that causes panic attacks.
Panic Attacks are Not a Sign of Weakness
One of the struggles of being a person who experiences panic attacks is that other people who don’t get them might not fully understand.
In fact, people tend to react harshly to someone having a panic attack, because it seems like that person is scared of something as ‘trivial’ as being around other people.
And sometimes, even a person experiencing a panic attack for the first time may not fully understand why they suddenly feel anxious about things they could previously deal with before.
But the question is does having anxiety have anything to do with how courageous a person actually is?
On Courage and Anxiety
Frankly, it’s easy to see why people would associate bravery with anxiety. For example, someone who has anxiety tends to avoid situations where a panic attack can happen. And for some people, that means being in social situations.
But practically everything has to be done in a social setting, right? From getting groceries to going to school or work, there’s practically no avoiding any social situation that can lead to discomfort and thus trigger a panic attack.
That being said, a person with anxiety may be apprehensive to be put in such a situation and try to avoid being in it at all costs. And this fear that keeps them from being exposed to possible triggers can be mistaken for as a general lack of bravery.
But it’s really not. You see, a person who is in a profession that requires bravery, say for example a fireman, can have anxiety. But that doesn’t make him any less brave than he would be if not for the anxiety.
The fear that comes from anxiety is not external, like most fears are. It comes from an internal crisis that shakes your very foundation, so much so that you feel helpless when it hits you. It doesn’t help that this can come at the most random of times.
It’s not like a burning house that the fireman can deal with because it’s a situation that he knows how to handle. He’s been trained to handle a situation like that, what the possible scenarios are, how to deal with them, and so on.
An anxiety attack, on the other hand, attacks your inner sense of safety. It’s not a result of a threat that you can perceive, much less know how to deal with. It’s the stress that degrades your ability to function properly, and not any external factor.
It’s not very likely that anything bad will come from talking with new people, but as a person with social anxiety, I may not feel very secure about the entire experience. Even if the people do not pose any real threat to me, it’s my personal doubt of whether or not I could get out there and talk or socialize with them is enough to paralyze me, which feeds the fear and starts the panic attack.
So you see, even if I was a fireman who’s used to rushing into burning buildings to extinguish fires, which makes me brave, by other people’s standards, the anxiety and panic attack can still make me apprehensive of having to go out and grab some groceries.
The difference? The feeling of internal safety. The perceived degree of control the person has over the entire situation.
Even if I wasn’t physically safe (in a burning building or in the line of fire of may daily job as a police officer), as long as my internal sense of safety is intact then I can act as I’m supposed to.
But once that internal safety is jeopardized and the feeling of powerlessness hits, even without being physically in danger, that’s when the panic attack hits.
So you see, I may be prone to getting panic attacks, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not brave.
Anxious People Are Braver Than You Think
To be honest, people with anxiety are often the braver ones.
Why? Because they fight against the anxiety by continuing on with life. They get up each and every day to push through uncomfortable situations, because life requires them to.
It may seem like such a small, insignificant thing to see someone at school, work, or at the bank. But if that person is struggling with anxiety, then you have to realize how enormous the effort they must have taken to be there.
Sometimes, they fail and back out before they even get to where we’re supposed to be. But sometimes, and those are the best times, they prevail and come out stronger because of it.
This may not be a traditional standard of bravery for most people, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not significant at all. Anxiety is a battle that people strive to win against every day, and each attempt to persist against it is a step towards success.
A person is no less brave than he would be if he didn’t have anxiety in the first place. You can be considered as one of the bravest people in the world, and still be plagued by anxious thoughts and panic attacks.
If anything else, fighting to live your life despite the anxious thoughts only makes you braver and stronger. And fighting anxiety takes true bravery.