When you are involved in an accident or a disaster, you will do one of three things: prepare to deal with the disaster, run from the disaster, or panic. This phenomenon is known as
So when you are exposed to an accident or disaster, the fight or flight response prepares your body to either fight the danger or to flee from it. Freezing and having panic symptoms is a variation on fleeing from the danger, as you escape to another place with fleeing, while you escape in the same place with freezing. So with freezing or panic, you are escaping, but in the same place.
But freezing is only adaptive if the danger is an attacking predator, like a black bear, who is pouncing on you. And the bear only stops when he thinks you are dead. So you freeze, and the paralysis that results makes it look like you are dead. So in this example, the freezing and paralysis saves your life.
But when you freeze and panic in the midst of an accident or disaster that requires action, then this is maladaptive and makes the situation worse. You can’t freeze and panic when a tornado is bearing down on your neighborhood. You need to run or take cover. You can’t freeze and panic when something goes wrong with your scuba equipment while diving. You will drown if you don’t take appropriate action.
If you are prone to panic and freezing when confronted with crisis, then you should look into reducing your overall anxiety levels. When your baseline anxiety and stress levels are reduced, then you will be better able to prevent panic when confronted by an accident or disaster.
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