Over the past week, I've been doing some teaching about anxiety and anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. As I was teaching on Monday, I thought of a metaphor to explain some of the things I think about anxiety.
I was in the middle of a lecture when this metaphor/idea came to me out of nowhere. I was unsure of it, but I went with it, and the class responded well. Later that day, I tried it in a different class covering the same content, and it went well again.
I'm going to share it here.
Humidity is the amount of ambient water vapor in the air. If there is too much little humidity in the air, the air is dry, and if there is too much, then the air is saturated.
The level of humidity has effects on our bodies.
There is always some level of ambient anxiety in our bodies—too little anxiety results in being bored. Too much anxiety is like being outside on a hot, humid day; it becomes oppressive and overwhelming.
The level of anxiety in our bodies effects us in significant ways.
When there is too much anxiety in our bodies, one of the things that can happen is a panic attack.
Sticking with the anxiety as humidity metaphor: A panic attack is something that pulls the water vapor out of the air and gets it to condense into the experience of a panic attack.
The effect is the overall level of widely dispersed ambient anxiety goes down as the anxiety stops being vapor and condenses onto the panic attack that the person needs to deal with right this red hot second.
In this sense, a panic attack is a solution to the problem of too much free-floating anxiety.
Another way to say this: A panic attack takes a person who is anxious about everything and provides them with a specific thing to be anxious about. All the other general stuff that a person might be anxious about fades away because the acute consed/concentrated anxiety in the panic attack demands immediate attention.
That is all I got for the time being. I might come back to this later and work it out more.
I also posted this short thought on anxiety yesterday.