The causes of panic attacks –
why is this happening to me?

The causes of panic attacks nearly always have their beginnings quite some time before your first attack. It may have felt like it happened out of the blue, seemingly unconnected to anything that was going on at the time, but there is always a logical, underlying reason. So why does it happen? What causes panic attacks?

Well, there are three parts to the answer to this question.

Firstly, panic attacks are related to what has been happening to you, happening in your life. Most importantly, they are related to your reactions to these events. An accumulation of various stresses has caused you to develop a range of symptoms that you may not have even really noticed but which have laid the groundwork for panic attacks.


Secondly, the symptoms have reached a threshold where you couldn’t fail to notice them anymore and one (or more) of them in particular – a trigger - has caused you finally to react to these symptoms.

Thirdly,  the way in which you have reacted to this trigger has escalated the symptoms into a panic attack.

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Causes of panic attacks - laying the groundwork

There has to be an underlying unsettledness plus a trigger of some kind to cause what results in a panic attack. The body/mind cannot experience a panic attack if it is relaxed and in balance. Many people who experience panic attacks are completely unaware of how stressed out their physiology has become. The warning signs, such as restlessness, irritability, chronic dissatisfaction or uneasiness, sleep problems etc. may seem normal, so much just part of the human experience. Typically these symptoms get masked by coping strategies such as going out for a few drinks, being overly occupied or active, staying up late watching TV and so on – all of which ultimately just exacerbate the problem.

So how does the imbalance get started?

Basically, the initial cause of panic attacks is that your physiology has been thrown out of balance by either acute or accumulated stress (or a combination of the two).

It sounds almost too simple doesn’t it? But of course there are countless ways in which the body can experience stress. Some forms of stress are less obvious than others. You may be surprised to discover some of the less obvious ways in which you may have been exacerbating the problem.

Any of the following can stress your body/mind. The more of them that you’ve experienced, within a limited period of time, without having any strategies in place for releasing the stress, the more thoroughly you are laying the groundwork for panic and anxiety – eventually creating the underlying causes of panic attacks:

  • Stress of any kind that has not been released
  • Continual worry, excessive thinking
  • Overwork, too many difficult deadlines
  • Mental or physical strain and exhaustion
  • Sudden or frequent change
  • Grief
  • Fear, shock, trauma
  • Surgery/general anaesthetic/child-birth
  • Lack of routine/irregularity
  • Skipping meals, irregular meals, dieting, too many unsatisfying or overly stimulating foods e.g. light salads, hot chilli, etc.
  • Late nights/lack of sleep
  • Lots of travel
  • Speed, rushing
  • Overstimulation – too much noise, loud music, talking, parties, thrill seeking, etc.
  • Overexercising, excessive sexual activity
  • Too many stimulants, coffee, alcohol, recreational drugs, smoking
  • In addition, for those people with a particularly sensitive constitution changes in the weather especially windy, cold, dry weather or changing seasons, can contribute to unsettledness.

Once enough stress has built up, then you will have a good foundation for panic to take you by surprise. But first there needs to be a trigger. These triggers are what most people initially think are the main causes of panic attacks.

Read more on next page ...


Looking back, can you see what may have laid the foundation for your anxiety or panic attacks?

By sharing your story here you can help others understand why they are experiencing anxiety or panic and to see that they are not alone.

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