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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

PTSD and Soldier Panic

The experience of panic, which often occurs in PTSD sufferers, is the feeling of confronting overwhelming danger even if none exists. The prototype for this is the infant’s state of helplessness when intense anxiety is experienced over which they have no control.
During development, the child learns to use their anxiety in a healthy manner: to recognize that it signals danger and the need for action to thwart it. But the mind of the PTSD sufferer, who has tolerated repeated actual dangers, has become hyper-sensitized to danger signals. So, when a reminder of some past danger is sensed−a noise or color or even an odor−their mind may immediately be thrown into panic, akin to throwing a lighted match upon gasoline. Now the panic mode of infancy is brought back to life and with it the feelings of overwhelming peril and helplessness.
Thus, the potential to develop PTSD and PTSD panic are ingrained in the essence of being human.
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