Author: Bertil Hjert
You´ve experienced a panic attack and have probably been terrified by the experience. The rapid heartbeat, the difficulty breathing, the sweating, the tightness in your chest and the tension of your muscles throughout your body probably lead you to believe that the emergency room was necessary.
You may have been fearful for your life or even convinced that death was imminent. After experiencing something so horrible, many people want to know why they have been affected. Why has this terrible problem affected them and not their sibling or neighbor or coworker? This is a hard question to answer because the cause of anxiety is so intricately wound into our history and experiences.
Excessive distress can be caused by both obvious things and more innocuous things. A police officer may have no problem chasing down a suspect but is rendered helpless at the barbershop, unable to speak, communicate, get his haircut or do anything but escape being trapped in that chair.
A panic attack is a specific reaction to situation. In order for this type of reaction to present a problem, it must be disproportionate to the danger. It´s sensible and logical to have a panic attack when faced with a scary experience such as having a gun pointed at you, being chased by a stranger or being tossed in a tank full of sharks.
The reaction you have is understandable given the circumstances. Losing your ability to breathe, having a racing heart and losing sensation in your hands and feet are not feelings that should be associated with buying potatoes in the supermarket.
Examining the long term and more immediate causes of your panic attacks is helpful in trying to understand and prevent reoccurrences. Some of the factors that play a role in your anxiety level include:
1. Hereditary- The type of personality you are born with can determine how you manage times of great distress. Some people seem to come programmed with a greater ability to cope with the difficulties of life than others. This doesn´t mean that you are weak or your parents are the cause of all your angst, but it may be a contributing factor.
2. Your Parents Created an Atmosphere of Caution that Influenced Your Attitude About the World - All parents are worriers to a degree, this is natural but some people have parents who were so cautious and so afraid of everything that they imprinted their own fear onto their children.
3. Your Parents Set Impossibly High Standards - Every parent dreams of having their child go to Harvard and do amazing things but that kind of life isn´t in the cards for everyone. Sometimes, parents have such high goals for their children that they overwhelm and overburden them, creating an atmosphere of apprehension and anxiety.
4. Lack of Confidence - Panic attacks can arise because you are fearful of confronting new situations and interacting with new people. Some people are able to approach these situations with enthusiasm while others would rather curl up into a ball. If you lack confidence, anxiety is more likely to pose a problem in your life.
5. Excessive and Sustained Stress - Stress is bad for our health and mental well being. We all know this but some people experience sustained periods of stress due to the events in your life. If you live in an emotionally or physically abusive environment, if you have a period of significant personal loss or problems with your health, your stress over these events may be leading to panic attacks.
Look to the causes for your problems with anxiety. Understanding the source is the first step in tackling the problem.
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