Why do some people suffer from panic attacks
Triggers to panic attacks
What causes a panic attack in the first place?
Think back to the example of the lady walking down a quiet dark alley way and how her thoughts trigger fear responses. ( See What Triggers Panic Attacks? ). Therefore we know are thoughts can trigger panic attacks. However one of the most common questions panic attack sufferers ask themselves is what causes panic attacks when there is no obvious threat in front of them? And why them when other people seem more stressed?
One of the most intriguing things about panic attacks are sometimes they seem to just happen out of the blue. Quite often there is no trigger event and this makes people even more anxious because they think it can’t be a panic attack as there is no logical pattern to it. That’s when their mind starts to wonder that they have some other terrible problem such as a brain tumour or heart defect.
The fact of the matter is if you look closely she will fine there is some minor trigger. It may be so small you didn’t notice it, but it caused some very small bodily sensation. Whether you consciously or unconsciously were aware of it, it has sparked off a chain of thoughts that has led to the sufferer worrying about their condition. Therefore a panic attack is initiated. For Panic disorder sufferers this thought process has become a nasty habit and that is all it is – A NASTY HABIT. Your thoughts lead down neural pathways which affect your behaviour. If you were watching a really funny movie and laughing a lot, your neural pathways would be firing off feel good chemicals and you would be feeling happy. Your memories of the film would be positive and you go to sleep afterwards and probably get a good night’s rest.
The mistake a panic disorder sufferer makes is they internalize everything. Your body is not designed to look inwards. Our bodies automatically takes care of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, blinking, breathing, the list is endless. It’s an amazing machine and its lets us get on with living and hopefully enjoying ourselves. To be constantly internalizing every ache and pain that we feel is not good for our mind or body.
Even though we may not be aware of some of the thought processes that are leading to these terrible feelings (because there so engrained into our make-up,) they can be unlearnt and the habit broken. Below are some factors that may have caused severe anxiety or panic.
- A minor increase in anxiety. Perhaps when entering a situation which has caused you severe anxiety before or worrying before the event has led to the start of a panic attack. Although the person thinks this has come out of the blue, the reality is they have conditioned themselves to react in this way given the correct circumstances.
- It is a fact that other emotional states of mind can cause the body to react and tip over to a panic reaction. Most panic sufferers are very impatient people. Being stuck in queues, dealing with annoying people at work or not feeling rewarded are all attributes to bringing on an attack. It is one of key tools to a recovery is to be able to relax and not fight against things you have no control over. See my article on Claire Weekes - the value of acceptance. The only person you can change is yourself. Feeling angry as somebody in your mind has wronged you in some way can only lead to negative feelings. As does worrying about events that may happen to you at some point in the future. These are all hypothetical. If you live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes you will live in a much happier place. If your constantly thinking about ‘what I should have done’ and living in the past, then your living your life with regrets. If you’re constantly thinking about ‘what ifs’ regaridng future events then your living in fear of the future, which you will only trigger attacks.
- As discussed before slight changes in body feelings can cause panic attacks. But sometimes these changes are unavoidable i.e. exercising. Exercising is one of the best ways of releasing tension and promoting the feel good chemicals in the body. But this is a kind of double edged sword as it will encourage the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, such as fast breathing and rapid heartbeat.
- Often changes in a person physical state can cause an attack and this is probably one of the most underrated causes of an initial panic attack. Pre-menstrual women or women who have just given birth see dramatic physical changes happening in their bodies. These can manifest in all sorts of different ways because the female body is under stress. Often as the body returns to normal the anxiety will go as well. Also illnesses can trigger stress and panicky reactions.
Self Inflicted States
Self-inflicted states can cause panic attacks. If you diet to much or are sensitive to eating sugary foods these can cause panic attacks. I’m sure we have all been feeling very hungry and then felt faint because our body needed food. We have then eaten junk food and felt even worse 2hours later.
- Alcohol is one of the worst things you can drink if you suffer from panic attacks. People often self-medicate with alcohol as it supresses the nervous system and can help you relax. The payoff is the next day or when alcohol wears off, the physical symptoms come back even worse than before. Tiredness is also something which ties in with the above. If you’re not looking after yourself and not sleeping enough, tiredness will cause anxiety if your lacking in sleep. Working pressures can often lead to stress levels rising and can result in triggering anxiety. If your drinking and partying too much and not eating healthily then your body is going to let you know via panic attacks that it cannot function like this.
- Drugs in general have a massive impact in the human brain. Drugs can affect how we think and can cause all sorts of nasty side effects that make us anxious. Too much caffeine and tea can have a detrimental effect on our health, especially if there used as a 'pick me up' in the mornings. A good alternative to tea and coffee are herbal teas all of which are becoming more mainstream in cafes and the work place. Peppermints tea (Pure Peppermint tea )seems to be very popular and Camomile teas (Twinings Pure Camomile )have relaxing properties.
- Another trigger and perhaps one of the most common in child panic attacks is a person being alone, and not having a safe person or safe environment in which they feel comfortable. A child will have a close bond with a mother or father. When they have to start at school or perhaps have a stressful period at school, it can lead to a child not wanting to leave their side as they think terrible things will happen if they do.
Without exception avoiding these situations is not the way to cure yourself of these awful feelings. Trying to live life avoiding triggers is only going to make things worse in the long run. You are also not living your life to the full. Just existing getting from one thing to the next is just functioning rather than enjoying life and experiencing new places and relationships. Reading as much information as you can and learning new tools and changing your pattern of thinks will ultimately liberate you from the darkness of panic attacks, and will make you feel alive again.
Do you keep having panic attacks? Why do you think that is?...........
Apart from the books I recommend in my Tools for Recovery here are some books that may help if you suffer from reocurring panic attacks.
Overcoming Panic - A genuinely helpful and practical book. If you're a little tired of all the in-your-face self-help books with wacky titles and unlikely promises, then this - refreshingly - does what it says on the cover. The plan of action it offers does need a degree of commitment. But its worth reading anyway for the reassuring, calmly explained advice.
Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia - Overcoming Panic and Agoraphobia provides a step-by-step management program that provides the necessary skills for overcoming and preventing panic attacks and associated agoraphobia. Explains the many forms and causes of panic. Contains a complete self-help program and monitoring sheets. Based on proven techniques of cognitive therapy.
School Phobia, Panic Attacks and Anxiety in Children - Gives real, practical advice on how to deal with child panic attacks. A great resource for parents. It’s very easy to read and gives great details on school phobia. The author has a human approach to the subject and encourages parents to take an active role in the recovery. It also gives areal insight into the child’s perspective.
Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia is a condition that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) is too low. Panic attacks can be caused by this. Whether you have the condition or not its so impotatnt to keep your blood sugars stable to feel well. Too much sugar and you may feel great for a while, then the crash. Diet is one of the must under-rated aspects of getting better and reducing the horrible symptoms of anxiety. There are two books that I have read on this sudject - New Low Blood Sugar and You: The Startling Facts of How Millions of People Suffer from Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) without Knowing it - The Simple Diet That Can Completely Eliminate This Disease & The Low Blood Sugar Handbook . Both go into great detail and have recipes, facts/figures, lists of foods you can eat and programmes to get well. The nature of the topic can mean that reading is heavy going but its worth at least reading one book on Hypoglycemia.
I have read several books on this subject and I would recommend either Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind - The Only Way to Oxygenate Your Brain and Stop Excessive and Useless Thoughts Featuring the Buteyko Breathing Method and Mindfulness orThe Breathing Book: Vitality and Good Health Through Essential Breath Work . Both tell you the benefits of deep breathing which will help reduce feelings of panic and anxiety, but you can also control your emotions much better if you breath correctly. If you are after listening to guided breathing through headphones than can find Breathing MP3 Downloads here.
Food & Drink
As part of my programme of recovery I strongly recommend that you remove caffine from your diet completely. That means no tea or coffee. I personally think a great substitute is Chamomile (calming properties) or Peppermint tea. If you buy from supermarkets it tends to be quite expensive. If you would like to buy in bulk then I would suggest Twinings Pure Camomile and Pure Peppermint tea .
If you suffer from palpitations some people recommend Pukka Clean Greens Powder - Organic Bio Nutrients - 120g Powder (I have not actually tried it myself). It comes in capsules as well but the powder is better value for money - 1 months supply for £25. Apparently it does not taste very good so be warned! Amazon seems to be the best price. You probably wonder what it is - its a herbal drink. You mix one tablespoon with a glass of water. Clean Greens contains antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins, trace minerals and enzymes, all of which can help you cope better with our polluted environment and diet. When using Clean Greens daily, you should notice improvements in your digestion, skin appearance and general wellbeing.
Mutivitamins & Minerals
Sometimes its recommended to take Mutivitamins & Minerals when your run down. Any help you can give your body to improve and cope with the burden of anxiety can only help you recover. I personally took vitamins for a while as I thought this would give my body extra help and a boost to cope with all the stresses placed upon it. If you feel you need that extra help then below are some popular Mutivitamins & Minerals tablets -
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