Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Anxiety and Depression

Levels of Anxiety but Not of Panic

Panic is a serious attack of anxiety, or a sudden rush of strong fear or discomfort, as Anxiety.org defines it. The term extreme panic is used by many people to underscore the severity of the state of panic. But is it correct in meaning or just verbal inflation?

It is common to refer to levels of pain. Broadly, anxiety and pain are both states of discomfort and there are levels or degrees of both. Healthcare professionals use pain scales to describe the level of pain a patient experiences. The type of scale used varies by the professional’s purpose of examination and patient’s background or condition.

Similarly, anxiety is generally described in three levels: mild, moderate, and severe. Panic is considered the severe type of anxiety. But are there levels of panic so that one may experience extreme panic in some highly disturbing state of fear? Australian psychiatrist Niall McLaren says there is no such thing as extreme panic.

In his book Anxiety: The Inside Story, Niall McLaren says there are no degrees of panic. In his words, “You are either totally consumed by it, or it isn’t panic.” (p. 55). He cautions against using “vapid expressions” such as moderate panic or extreme panic and says that using such terms is like calling a dead person moderately dead or extremely dead.

Dr. McLaren discusses the behavior pattern in people with concealed anxiety, usually at a mild level. Silly, irritating, or childish behavior is one manifestation of concealed anxiety that the person does not want to face or admit. Accordingly, such a person can exhibit compulsive joking and appears not to take things seriously.

Use of unnecessary words, mainly adjectives, is common in both verbal and written language. People often try it to make something stand out or sound important, but it can instead sound crude and even silly.

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