Voluntary panic attacks?


Sometimes the psychologist is visited by clients who repeatedly undergo panic attack therapy, but despite successful treatment, their symptoms return. And often this phenomenon is connected with the so-called "secondary gain" or "hidden benefits" that the disease brings them.

Can you imagine who would voluntarily support their behaviour mechanism when experiencing panic attacks? It's irrational! Yes, we can really perceive it this way from the first and very simple point of view. If we look deeper, we can see a significant fear of inevitable change. And it is this fear that makes us perceive our problem as bigger than dealing with panic attacks.

Let's take a closer look at this phenomenon...

The phenomenon of "secondary gain" in the case of anxiety and panic attacks refers to the hidden benefits that an individual can gain from persistent anxiety or panic attacks. It is a term used in psychology and psychiatry to describe the phenomenon where people unknowingly or knowingly derive some benefit from their anxiety symptoms.

The exact definition of "secondary gain" is as follows: It is the obtaining of benefits, support, attention, care or other benefits from other people or from the system that an individual can receive as a result of persistent anxiety or panic attacks.

And what benefits can we get?

These benefits can be diverse. Some individuals may receive human attention, sympathy, or care from others, which can fulfil their emotional needs. Others may have the advantage of not being required to fulfil certain duties or responsibilities. They might also gain some kind of protection or reassurance by having a diagnosis of anxiety or panic disorders. Some individuals might have an advantage in relationships or situations as others provide support or treat them in a specific way as a result of their anxiety.

How does this mechanism arise?

The emergence of the mechanism of application of "secondary gain" in the case of anxiety and panic attacks can be influenced by various factors and processes. Here are some possible ways this mechanism could arise:

  • Unconscious Motivation: The individual may not be fully aware that they derive benefits from their anxiety or panic attacks. There may be an unconscious process in which certain behaviours or symptoms become a way to get attention, care, or other benefits from other people. And this can be learned behaviour from the past.

  • Attention and support from others: When an individual shows symptoms of anxiety, those around them often respond with support and care. This can lead to reinforcement of this behaviour as the individual realizes that they are receiving attention and support from others as a result of their anxiety.

  • Getting relief or avoiding responsibilities: Some individuals may find that their anxiety or panic attacks allow them to avoid certain responsibilities or responsibilities. It can be a way to escape unpleasant situations or to avoid difficult tasks.

  • Protection against uncertainty and change: Anxiety can provide security and a sense of control in unknown or uncertain situations. An individual may prefer maintaining anxiety because it provides them with a sense of security and predictability in a confusing world.

What to do and how to help yourself?

The beginning of change is to be aware of what is happening to you when you are experiencing anxiety or a panic attack. Basic questions can help when you ask yourself what you are trying to avoid. The following procedure can help with this:

  1. Identify and be aware of "secondary gain": It is important to realize that you may be gaining unconscious or conscious benefits from your anxiety or panic attacks. Focus on identifying these benefits and think about how they might affect your behaviour and anxiety management.

  2. Consider the long-term consequences: Try to consider the long-term consequences and negative effects of "secondary gain" on your life. Be aware that while it may provide short-term benefits, long-term maintenance of anxiety can have adverse effects on your physical and emotional health, relationships, and quality of life.

  3. Build Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Work on developing healthy coping mechanisms to help you deal with anxiety and panic attacks without the need for "secondary gain". These may include relaxation techniques, breathing, meditation, physical activity, support from loved ones, therapy or other methods to help you deal with and manage anxiety in a constructive way.

  4. Get professional help: If you have problems with "secondary gain" and managing anxiety, it is helpful to seek professional help. A psychologist, psychotherapist or psychiatrist can provide you with support, advice and strategies to deal with this phenomenon and improve your overall well-being.

  5. Work on your self-esteem: Realize that getting a "secondary gain" from your anxiety may not be a permanent solution. Work on building your self-esteem and self-confidence so that you feel strong enough and able to handle life's challenges without resorting to "secondary gain".

It is important to realize that "secondary gain" does not always have to be intentionally manipulative behaviour. These may be unconscious processes that influence an individual's behaviour and maintain their anxiety or panic attacks. However, it is important to recognize these hidden motivations and benefits because they can prevent an individual from achieving long-term well-being and health. In some cases, it may be important to reevaluate these motivations and find healthier ways to manage anxiety and panic attacks.

PhDr. Ivana Čergeťová, PhD., LL.M., MBA, PCIC

I am a psychologist, NLP coach, attachment-based therapist, career counselor, and academic staff. I have been dedicated to the attachment theory in personal and work settings for over 20 years. I work on this topic not only as a counselor but also as a researcher. Meeting with me can help you if you are seeking an expert in mental health specializing in relationships, communication, and personal development. For more information, follow my social networks @radipsychologicka #attachment #relationships #love #attachment #JoinMeForAdvice #relationshiptherapist #development