Travel, stress and a terrible work environment all took their toll.
Have just read a lot of your ‘site’ on anxiety attacks and I can really relate to your list of causes. I had a series of attacks after moving interstate to do some building work. I can tick half a dozen or more of the causes you list, in addition to which I was working on a big house and the people that were my fellow employees were all dark and unkind souls and the owners were greedy and contemptuous of their workers.
As you so perceptively point out, I was speared from out of the blue. Knowing that this was a battleground of insanity and thinking that it was all being handled by toughing it out, I noticed symptoms of paranoia arising. I thought I was handling it, but by then it was too late.
The vision that comes to me is that of being on the edge of a massive hole that has smooth mud/clay sides, rounded and frictionless. I am very near the edge and I know that I shall first go mad and then die. The fear is the most intense experience. The fear of the next episode is the second most intense.
Trying to make sense of it was a waking nightmare. At times I thought my wife was poisoning me, at others I had the classic ‘beams from space syndrome’. Although I knew intellectually that these were common psychological traits for the deranged I couldn’t completely shake them off. There were no drugs involved at all. (Unless my wife was poisoning me!)
Not knowing what to do, I bought all the books I could find on Freud and they seemed to bring some relief after a time. Then I became paranoid about being overtaken whilst I slept. Part knowing that I was creating a death by fantasy, I made a mental sword that I clasped while I slept. Strangely reaching a state where perhaps only in my mind I didn’t sleep at all, but watched myself laying there. It was not unpleasant and offered some respite.
Reading Freud and physical exercise became the mainstay of my defence and gradually I became more confident of survival. Leaving the job was a positive move.
We moved back home and that was the end of it. But I’ve never forgotten that I’m a vulnerable human being at the mercy of my own mind. My advice to people, who have spoken to me about similar situations, is activity. It doesn’t matter too much what you do, but do something. Rediscover an interest in life, anything will do! Easy to say.