What Causes Panic Attacks

What Causes Panic Attacks?

Why do some people have panic attacks and others don't?

This is a fascinating question and research has not drawn any firm conclusions but some elements are common in panic attack sufferers.

Health issues

Underlying health issues may be the catalysis for anxieties.  Uncomfortable mental thoughts and physical symptoms which the person does not understand can often lead to bewilderment.  This in-turn makes people contemplate what terrible condition they have. This means they exacerbate their condition and this can often lead to a cycle of panic, as they are lost in a world of uncomfortable feelings without a proper diagnosis.  Before their first panic attack they may have been drawn to any slight feeling out of ordinary and be susceptible to influences upon them. Sometimes even a minor everyday illness such as mild flu may lead a person to question if they have something far more serious and can lead to them anxiously worrying.

Leading on from this it’s worth pointing out that after being left in a state of stress and under pressure, the panic may not manifest itself.  Some people state that it is only when they have time to reflect, that their issues and problems occur.  Therefore we know keeping a positive attitude in one's life is of the keys to overcoming panic attacks



panic attack stress

By far the most common trigger of panic attacks seems to be some sort of prolonged stress in a person’s life. This may be death of a loved one, work issues or relationship problems. Everyone goes through periods in their lives where stress may be higher than normal and this can sometimes push people over the edge and into a state of panic. Although not everyone will stay in this state, for others they get caught in a cycle of panic that’s hard to break free from.

This is often been described as the rain barrel effect.  If your stress levels are low in a period of stress the rain barrel will fill up as you go through a stressful period. However as the stress or water level started off low, the barrel will not over flow.  If your stress levels were high to start off with and you have been feeling rundown, and you then experience some event that your body perceives as stressful, the barrel will overflow as the water level or stress level was already high. Once the barrel is at a high level, continuous stressful situations will mean the barrel constantly over flows leading to several panic attacks every day.

A normal nervous system would not cause someone to have a panic attack. A person would normally be feeling calm most of the day and when a period of stress orwhat causes panic attacks some sort of scary situation occurrs, anxiety levels would increase, but not to the extreme of having a panic attack. People are NOT born having panic attacks therefore for some reason (usually a period of stress or worry, maybe coupled with not looking after yourself) the mind state changes, and this results in a body being in a much higher state of nervousness. When a person experiences points in the day of stressful situations, the body will only need a little push to go over the threshold into panic mode.


There are other factors that come into play such your genetics. Can you think of other members of your family that are of a nervous deposition. It is likely that you share their predisposition for having attacks and may unknowingly follow their pattern of behaviours that encourage a panic reaction.

Eating Habits / Drugs / Chemicals

Some people are just unlucky in their tolerance of certain foods and drink.  We have evolved over millions of years to eat natural products from which we would have scavenged from the landscape such as fruit, fish, meat, plants, etc.  Our diet has changed so much over the last fifty years due to consumerism.  We now eat chocolate, crisps, cakes, artificial flavourings, etc.  Instead of drinking water we are drinking fizzy drinks and all sorts of different kinds of alcohol.  We constantly absorb through our skin chemicals via shampoos, make-up, and deodorant.  And some of us abuse our bodies with drugs.  If you think about it it’s know wonder why our bodies are lettings us know through panic attacks that what we are putting in and on our bodies is unhelpful.   If you really want to give your body the best chance of functioning to its optimum then you have to think about how you’re treating it.  In short, stay away from sugary unhealthy foods and drink, don't take drugs and undertake plenty of exercise.

High Threshold for Stress

stressAlso some people have much higher thresholds for stress. If you think of the Prime Minister's in meetings, debating at Prime Minister question time and flying all over the work; a panic attack sufferer would not be able to cope with this. Therefore it’s highly probable that people in high powered long term jobs have a much higher level of ability to soak up pressure both mentally and physically, and cope with every day pressures much better.

Although the above appears to paint a picture of doom and gloom for panic sufferers, panic attacks CAN be undone and you CAN return to state of calm and take control of your life again. You just need the tools required to stack the cards in your favour to break free from this cycle of panic.



Below are some books I have read that I have found genuinely to help me understand what causes panic attacks and their triggers.  If you think they may help you then click on the link to find more information on them -

Panic Attacks: What they are, why the happen, and what you can do about them: What They Are, Why They Happen and What You Can Do About Them A book thats over ten years old but the same principles apply to day as they did then.  A good book that covers what to do whilst having a panic attack and an interesting chapter on how to help others with panic attacks.   It has some useful tips and will be helpful for anyone suffering with panic attacks, anixiety and agrophobia.

How to Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks: A Simple Guide to using a specific set of Techniques to Stop Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Fear of Driving or Flying and Stress   Written by a fellow panic attack sufferer who really has a personable approach to panic attacks.  The book really goes in depth in the emotional and psychological factors.  The description of panic disorder was exactly how I felt and you can definately feel empathy with how he describes the struggles involved.  Geert (the author) also has produced good videos on you tube and a helpful program at ilovepanicattacks.  Highly recommended.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks - Their Cause and Cure   An Amercian book and definately one of favourites.  Fun, easy to read and has a stepped program to recovery.  This book taught me some things I did'nt know about panic attacks and is written by someone who has gone through it.  The author has also set up a very useful organisation that helps people recover.  The book was written in 1993 but everything is still completly relevant. 

Self Help for Your Nerves: Learn to relax and enjoy life again by overcoming stress and fear   One of the first books I read on panic attacks and still one of the best.  I would say if your going to read any book first, read this one.  First published in the 1960's its been updated many times, but some of the best modern-day books still have the same principles running through them.  For first aid for a panic attack this is still the best book out there in my opinion.  For a programme for recovery its not the best as we know far more on what contributes to panic attacks and how to cure them.  For its time its was revoloutionary.  Claire Weeks has sadly passed away but she did recordings and other books as well - Click Here .
If you would like to read my post on Claire Weekes Life and Books Click Here

Other Articles you may like

What is a Panic Attack?

What are the symptoms of Panic Attacks?

Why do you Fear?

What causes Panic Attacks?

Why Do Some People Suffer From Panic Attacks?




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