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What Triggers Panic Attacks?

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What Triggers Panic Attacks


What really causes panic attacks- YOUR THOUGHTS

Panic attacks usually happen during a difficult period in a person’s life. People’s feelings are negative simply because of the pressure that person is under.   They often keep their feelings inside hidden away but the tension just will not go away. These tensions cause anxiety and worries, and overtime its builds up to such a level it will manifest itself in certain people as panic attacks. These tensions may be as diverse as relationship difficulties, family worries or job issues. A common trigger seems to be ill health and the human mind looking inward at any symptoms that you may be feeling, which in-turn leads to more worries about your health.

Occasionally, the panic attack will not happen until after the period of stress has passed. People who have time to reflect after (for example quitting a stressful job), can sometimes lead to issues developing.   When people don't have daily things to occupy their minds, they start thinking about negative things that have or may happen.

But how do your thoughts affect the inner-workings of your body?

For example - a lady is walking back from the shops late at night and she is walking down a dark alley.  It’s dark and quiet and the lady starts to feel a little anxious.  A cat then jumps on the alley wall and knocks a loose brick onto the ground.  Immediately the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.  She can feel her heart beating faster in her chest and her senses have become heightened as she is frightened.  When she plucks up the courage to turn around she sees the cat on the wall and she realizes that’s all it was.

From this example you can see the ladies thought patterns have gone down a route of panic.  She interpreted the how thoughts cause panic attacksthings she was sensing as something terrible and this caused her thoughts to transmit physical symptoms.  However if the cat had been in front of her and she had seen the cat knock the brick from the wall, her mind would have interpreted the events differently.  She may have even laughed thinking how stupid the cat was.  Therefore his bodily reactions would have been totally different.

As it was, as soon as the lady had identified where the noise came from her mind would have felt relief that no one was in the alley way ready to attack her. All her physical reactions then started to die down.  Therefore what we believe has a pronounced effect on our behaviour and how are bodies react.  In this circumstance the person believed she may be attacked and so became fearful.  If she kept believing this for sometime and then perhaps saw someone in the alley she may then of had a panic reaction.

How we interpret certain events dictates our chain of thoughts.  When a person has a panic attack they are interpreting the event as something terrible is going to happen just as the lady in the alley way did.  These thoughts of some catastrophic event in our minds are processed and various unpleasant things happen to our bodies.  These thoughts can occur where we have panicked before (external place) or after some physical sensation (internal sensation).

Panicky Thoughts

For example if John goes into town and enters a very busy large shop such a supermarket, immediately he start to think I had a panic attack in here last week.  Therefore he has already set the seed that this shop (external place) is a cause for concern.  He then starts experiencing his heart beating very fast, he feels he can’t breathe properly and his legs feel week.  At this stage he’s in the back of the shop with a basket full of food and there is no way he can make it out of the shop through the busy queues.  In his mind he is saying to himself when I get to the checkout I will make a fool of myself.  I may collapse or my hands ar shaking so much that I can’t pack food in the carrier bag.  He is now worried about internal sensations.

This kind of thinking is where full blown panic disorder can happen rather than just feeing very scared in an alley way.  It also leads to a vicious circle.  If a person thinks the initial anxiety symptoms are going to lead to something horrible like ‘I just can’t think straight – I must be going mad’ then it increases the anxiety.  Who would not be frightened by the thought they are going crazy, and therefore the anxiety increases.  This makes the body produce even more symptoms and increase the strength of these symptoms.  In-turn the sufferer thinks ‘my god the symptoms are getting worse there must be something really wrong, I’m really going to die this time.

Cycle of Fear

A crucial point to the cycle is the initial feelings which produce the initial symptoms.  These feeling which although give a person anxiety, cannot go to the next stage to panic unless there is thoughts to escalate the process.   Of course this is easier said than done and depending on how long a person suffered from panic attacks, and how deep they are a lost in a cycle of panic, it can be a very difficult cycle to break free from.

thoughts panic attack

What do you find triggers your anxiety and panic attacks? Stress, work, health issues??


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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  1. Jon

    alchohol is definately a trigger and shoulb be avoided at all costs.

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