In The Vice Guide To Mental Health, Eleanor Morgan shares her personal experience of life with anxiety & panic - from the time it first showed up thanks to a burst appendix in childhood to the time she learned to manage it using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) much later as an adult. Her column does an excellent job of laying out what happens when our brain's plan to keep us safe - fight or flight - actually turns against us.
"The fight-or-flight response isn't conscious—it's controlled by one of the most 'primeval' parts of the brain, which means it's often a bit simplistic in the way it interprets danger. It makes no distinction between an external threat, such as a tiger, and an internal one, such as a troubling memory or a future worry. It treats both as threats that either need to be fought off or run away from.
Over the years, I'd become a master of disguise—no one, but no one, could have told you I had an anxiety disorder. Avoidance behavior after avoidance behavior enabled me to live what appeared on the surface to be a normal life.
I've realized that the absolute backbone of me being able to function properly was accepting that there was no "cure" to make me better—only techniques and interventions to make life livable. Frustration is too close to anxiety and the constant "WHY THE F*CK IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME" thing, like not talking to anyone, makes it worse. It's too much pressure.
See, this is the thing about being human beings: We don't stay the same. We change, we adapt and we can get better—just as with any other condition. We're highly evolved like that."