by Dovvy Phillips

Understanding Panic Attacks

July 26, 2023 | Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Types of anxiety

Many people, throughout their lives, will suffer from anxiety at one point. Panic attacks - although won’t always happen, sometimes occurs to someone with anxiety. And when they do, they can be scary. One panic attack can change a person's life!

I have had many clients in fear that they are about to die or have a heart attack and end up in the emergency room (for some clients - multiple times). 

For many people, after they get their first panic attack, it goes on to cause more problems. Mainly it sets up a loop - where people become anxious about being anxious. This goes on to become an even bigger problem - and this will then go on to form GAD.

Are panic attacks a form of mental illness?

Sadly, many people think anxiety is a mental illness - it is not! CLICK HERE to read more about why Anxiety is NOT a mental illness.

Anxiety can have many causes, and the most common (in most cases) is a Nervous system response.

When your Nervous system is anchored into too much tension and reaches a certain threshold, anxiety begins - and beyond that, panic attacks manifest. In saying that, many peoples first sign of anxiety is with a panic attack.

Mostly, anxiety is caused by too much stress. Anxiety is a Nervous system response - and panic attacks, too, are a symptom of the body being under too much stress.

Panic attacks are NOT a mental illness.

How do you manage panic attack triggers?

Some people are able to identify their triggers, and others not. If you are aware of what they are, you have a few options.

What most people try and do is avoid the situations that creates the panic attack. This is not a good strategy, especially  if you want to have a good quality of life!

Simply because, if you keep avoiding the things in life that fire off a stress response, your world starts becoming smaller - you become more sensitised to the triggers and become more easily triggered. Often, the list grows over time and you begin to live in more fear in the world.

The best advice I can give you is to find someone who can help you deactivate the trigger. 

Let's say you have panic attacks when you have to speak in front of a group of people - meaning, this happened once before and you're scared that it COULD happen again (driving is another common example). Now let’s say you get offered a promotion -  but if you take it, it means more meetings and public speaking. Now will you take it, or turn it down?

If you avoid, life becomes smaller - it's a short term strategy and not helpful in the long run (or medium).

I have had clients who had a panic attack one day while driving a car on the motorway - so now they avoid driving on motorways altogether. As long as they let this fear control their future, they will be trapped in a cycle of repeating this experience.

Many people bring the panic into their life by thinking about not wanting it.

They bring the anxiety into their life by being anxious about being anxious.

With my clients, we help them live in such a way where the triggers become less powerful and have little to no effect on them. This is the best approach!

What causes panic attacks out of nowhere?

They don’t come out of nowhere. What happens is that stress is accumulating over life, building up - we just don’t know this is happening. Often, the first warning sign that something is wrong is with this symptom of a panic attack.

This is similar to when some people get a heart attack out of nowhere - the heart attack is not out of nowhere, it is the first symptom. The heart disease had been around for a while, just not observable to the person. 

If you have panic attacks, it's because too much tension has been stored in your Nervous system.

You are having your fight or flight triggered by inappropriate stimuli. The question you should be asking is:

How can I reset my Nervous system? How can I better adapt, and who can help me do this?

About the author, Dovvy Phillips


I am the owner of Inspiring Wellness, a wellness and personal transformation clinic in Auckland CBD and the Author of “Wellness Words, How To Think, Speak, And Feel Great” and “How To Break Free From Anxiety”. I love helping my clients take back their lives, regain their health and get a whole new higher quality of life. If you are curious if we can help you, please contact us. We are here to help you.

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