What Triggers a Panic Attack?

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Panic attacks are characterized by an intense feeling of fear brought on quickly and unexpectedly, often with physical symptoms resembling those of a heart attack. Panic attacks usually last about 20 to 30 minutes and can increase the chance of developing repeated episodes.

Symptoms of a panic attack include: 

  • hyperventilation or shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • the feeling of constricted airways
  • chest pain
  • trembling
  • light-headedness or dizziness, etc.

With these physical symptoms, it is important to rule out any other medical condition with your doctor.

Once you know you are suffering from panic attacks, it is important to identify your triggers. Panic attacks are unique to the individual, with each having their own triggers. We have compiled a list of the most common panic attack triggers. Let us know in the comments which one(s) apply to you and if you have any to add to our list!

Panic attacks with agoraphobia. It was thought that the fear of open spaces triggered panic attacks, but this can also be reversed. Having panic attacks can actually bring about agoraphobia because of the fear of having one in a public place which might cause distress or embarrassment.

Major life transitions. When moving on to a new stage of your life, things can be stressful and full of uncertainty. Moving into the unknown is a major source of anxiety for some people and can trigger panic attacks. Graduating from college, moving to a new city, or the death of a loved one are all major triggers. If dealt with properly, panic attacks may be temporary. You will also have a better idea of how to move forward during another transition event later in life and avoid panic attacks if you get help at the moment.

Prolonged exposure to stressful settings. Long-term stressful jobs or courses can induce panic attacks. This can be a difficult one to identify as you may become desensitized to the actual amount of stress you are under. Panic attacks can be a manifestation of this desensitization as your body’s way of pointing out an unhealthy environment. There are ways to combat this trigger, and they do not need to be as extreme as quitting your job. You may be able to make small adjustments or delegate your most stressful tasks to others.

Lack of goal setting. While this one sounds odd, it is important to feel like you are working towards something in your life. Whether it is that promotion you have your eye on, or being able to buy a house, working towards your goals brings a sense of pride, accomplishment, and focus. Without goals to reach for, you may end up feeling lost, isolated, or depressed. These feelings can trigger panic attacks in some people. Set goals for yourself and put in the work to achieve them.

Immersion in the News. The 24-hour news cycle can be very stressful. Information is so easily accessible these days that it is easy to become lost in all of the tragic or horrible events happening all over the world. Sometimes these worried thoughts can result in panic attacks. Limiting your exposure to the news can be beneficial to your health and mental wellbeing. While it is important to be informed on the events of the world, taking care of your own mental state is also essential. Take some time for yourself and find the happiness in your daily life.

Fear of having another panic attack. This trigger is a frustrating one as it is a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario. When you are afraid that you may experience another panic attack, you actually increase your chances of having one. Speak to your doctor or psychologist about ways to control this fear and live comfortably with it.







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