What is a panic attack?

Basically, what a panic attack is…

A panic attack is an overwhelming unconscious physiological response that manifests by generating the wrong emotions, at the wrong time and at the wrong intensity in your body, in response to events or situations that (to others) might seem ordinary or normal.

The good news is few people experience full strength panic attacks everyday, the bad news is; it’s because the person usually modifies their behaviour (or thoughts) to avoid (or control) the situations that would instigate the panicky feelings. For example; if going into a bar full of people gives you a panic attack symptoms, then you don’t go there! If flying freaks you out, then you don’t fly! It is a logical response, however, it traps you and starts a destructive cycle of thinking, feeling, avoiding and self-berating.

So in essence,  a panic attack can be described as the breaking point where anxious feelings have escalated to a degree where you can no longer control your emotional responses, and the urge to flee the situation becomes the only option – therefore, you are experiencing the wrong emotions, at the wrong time and at an inappropriate intensity!

Of course, the person then feels silly, because they know they should be able to do it – so they begin to beat themselves up (in their mind) and think even more about why they have these anxious feelings and further trap themselves (mentally) by continually trying to answer the questions, WHY are panic attacks happening to me? How can I stop my panic attacks?

I doesn’t matter WHY you are panicking, what matters is, WHAT are you going to do about it ?

Panic attack symptoms are like anxiety having an orgasm!

(We are assuming you have already read our information about general anxiety.) We don’t want to sound crass, however, the metaphor of comparing a panic attack to an orgasm is very apt on many levels, for example;

  • They are both initiated by the mind (thoughts, yes they are!)
  • They both trigger the unconscious nervous system to agitate you (emotions)
  • They both get your heart racing, make you sweat, blush, cry etc.
  • They both have a point of no return (an event horizon)

However, orgasms are classified as nice and panic attacks are classified as horrific, really they are almost the same thing. Bear with us here, because if you are currently saying “They are definitely not!”  Consider this, what happened the first time you kissed somebody or the first time you had a sexual encounter? Usually, it was quite scary (as well as very exciting) you had a racing heart, butterflies in your stomach, perhaps you were perspiring, blushing – one part of you wanting to run away and another definitely wanting you to stay.

You see, our body or to be more precise our unconscious nervous system can only give us one set of emotions and that one set can vary in intensity to the various events of our life, and it is our mind that decides if they are good or bad, this usually works quite well, however, when we have anxiety or panic attacks things get jumbled up and emotions fire off at the wrong time and at the wrong intensity.

Consider this too, when we are doing something we love like kissing or skiing our mind is quite silent or we are thinking really nice thoughts like “wow” – but, when we are anxious or scared our mind starts a huge cacophony of noise “Oh my God, what if this happens, what if I look silly, what if it goes wrong……...” Remember this; the body responds to your thoughts, so be very careful how you think (regardless of whether the thoughts are true or not!)

Therefore, it is imperative to know – that if you want to recover from panic attacks you must work on silencing the mind and recalibrating your emotions so they fire off at the right time and the right intensity – and that is what we teach you to do as you work through the anxiety & OCD treatment program.

Often what triggers a panic attack is irrelevant to recovery

What if the thing that causes your panic attack actually has nothing to do with the reason why you had a panic attack in the first place?

In our experience 90% of the anxious people we work with fall into this category, let me give you an example: one lady had a panic attack whilst driving on a motorway en-route to the airport, for a business trip. She had been late leaving for the trip and was zooming along the motorway (she said that before it happened she loved driving and speed) any how, halfway to the airport she was forced across two lanes of the road by a huge lorry that momentarily lost control and she felt the need to pull over to catch her breath as it had startled and frightened her.

After she had recovered her composure she drove off again only to have a huge panic attack 2 minutes later, at that time she didn’t know it was a panic attack because she had never had one before, as far as she was concerned she was having a heart attack or some kind of medical emergency. She quickly pulled over and called for an ambulance as she was genuinely fearing for her life, she was rushed to hospital and by the time she got there she felt a little better (although very scared), after being examined and having her heart tested on an ECG machine she was told by the doctor “You are fine, it was just a panic attack, we see this all the time, you are fine!”

Her husband picked her up from the hospital and collected her car, then the next day she began her drive to work but felt uneasy driving and her anxiety increased the closer got to the motorway – at the last moment before entering the motorway she felt too panicky and so exited and continued to work the long way on the back streets. So started a painful 6 months of crippling fear, feeling stupid and the inability to drive on motorways (interestingly, she also had begun to fear flying too!)

So for 6 months all she focused on was “Why can’t I drive? What  is wrong with me? Will by boss fire me? How can I get out of flying?” until she finally came to us for some help.

Now, anxious people (unknowingly) get stuck in a simple conundrum, typically, they only run a small snippet of the movie (their problem) in their mind rather than running the whole movie (problem and context). So as we broke down what had happened in the 9 months running up to her panic attack,we found:

  • She hated her job, but needed the salary
  • She felt guilty that her mum was looking after her children whilst she worked full time
  • Whist at work she worried about her children
  • Whist at home she worried about her work
  • She felt a failure as a mother
  • She felt that she was too tired to be a great manager at work
  • She was concerned about her marriage as they had hardly and quality time together

So, she was running a story that said – “If I drive on a motorway I’ll get a panic attack.” (and she would).

When the reality was, she was emotionally exhausted, she was doing something she didn’t want to do, she was spending a lot of time thinking guilty thoughts and punishing herself for being a bad mother, she was working full on at work and full on at home, she was worrying, she was fretting and she was not happy – that was the real underlying story that she was ignoring!

And what seems to happen is…. When we become exhausted and trapped, our unconscious mind /body hijacks us and says “Enough is enough, I am going to save you from yourself, I am going to trip you up, I am going to overwhelm you and try to make you stay at home!” and all this happens unconsciously, like an under the radar instinctual survival strategy trying to get you to stay at home (and get better)

So, a fear of driving / flying / trains is trying to make you stay at home, a fear of socialising / presenting/ going to meetings  is trying to make you stay at home, a fear of leaving the house agoraphobia / OCD is making you stay at home – can you see any patterns yet?

Of course, at a logical level we don’t see this – all we see (consciously) is the association between how our unconscious is telling us that we are extremely unhappy and the trigger it is using to stop us (driving etc.)

So she could have concentrated on trying to overcome her fear of driving all day and it would have made no difference because it was a symptom, not the real underlying problem. This program teaches you how to recognise the underlying causes, interrupt the anxiety and finally teaches you how to think and feel differently, so you can make the real changes that need to be made in your life. Then the symptoms just go, because really they were just an unconscious cry for help!

Panic attack treatment program

Perhaps it’s time to listen to what your unconscious is really trying to tell you? If you want to know how to stop panic attacks, this anxiety treatment program will help you to understand and then overcome underlying anxiety disorders, thus stopping your feelings of panic.

Get started today, download immediately and begin taking control of your emotions and stop your panic attack. Sign up