Reports about the Swine Flu (H1N1 Flu) are constantly on TV, online in the newspapers...we can't escape the news if not the germs. If you feel overwhelmed and confused about the level of danger, you probably are not alone. It is difficult to distinguish the real deal from the hype: "To vaccinate or not to vaccinate," "Flu deaths on the rise," etc. Even the medical community seems somewhat unsure as to the best strategies for handling the threat of the pandemic. Many people are starting to act paranoid. Just today, I saw a face mask on the floor in the subway. Perhaps it's a healthy paranoia (pun intended) to stay away from the person who sneezed on the bus.
Each individual has to make their own decision about how to react to the surrounding ecosystem. Regardless of the fact that the symptoms of the H1N1 virus are considered to be generally mild to moderate, any flu can progress into pneumonia or opportunistic infections. The prospect of respiratory failure is certainly fearsome to any rational person. That fact, in combination with inflammatory news reports, will trigger different levels of fear, paranoia or panic in the overall population.
Some people are very susceptible to panic when it comes to issues of health. Do you have panic attacks? Anyone who is trapped in a life-threatening situation is susceptible to a panic reaction. A panic reaction consists of shallow, rapid breathing (hyperventilating), increased heart rate (racing or pounding heart), and intense anxiety. This happens when the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) has kicked into overdrive, and the body is flooded with adrenaline. SNS activation prepares the individual for fight or flight, and so the heart and lungs work harder to provide the system with what it needs (more oxygen and glucose via the blood stream). Also, blood is diverted to the muscles used for escape or battle (the long muscles in the arms and legs) and away from areas that are not of primary importance in self-defense, such as the brain and digestive system. During a panic reaction, hyperventilation may cause the person to feel lightheaded or dizzy after a while, and since the digestive system shuts down during the episode, nausea may set in.