A panic attack is a spontaneously occurring intense anxiety or fear. It is one of the symptoms of obsessive-phobic neurotic disorder (also known as obsessive-phobic neurosis or compulsive disorder).
Fear, rooted in the human instinct of self-preservation, typically aids in survival (for example, the fear of falling and dying prevents recklessly approaching the edge of a cliff). However, the fear underlying panic attacks and other phobic and neurotic disorders is characterized by its uselessness and uncontrollability, even causing harm as dread of real or imagined situations leads to constant anxiety and panic, hindering normal life.
Causes and Symptoms of Panic Attacks
The main causes of panic attacks include severe stress, psychological personality traits, tense relationships and conflicts, loud noise or sudden sounds, prolonged sun exposure, heavy physical exertion, consumption of alcohol and narcotics, as well as coffee and energy drinks, smoking, crowded spaces, certain hormonal medications, biochemical disorders, genetic predisposition, abortion, and pregnancy.
Symptoms of a panic attack include difficulty breathing, feeling of air shortage, strong heartbeat, increased pulse, trembling, chills, involuntary muscle contractions (tremor), limb numbness, excessive sweating, nausea, chest pain, pre-fainting condition (dizziness, weakness), intense fears of wrongdoing, disturbance of self-perception, and pronounced fear of dying or going insane.
Depending on individual characteristics and the intensity of fear, panic attacks can last from a few minutes to several days. People prone to panic attacks often avoid places, situations, or people associated with their fear of impending doom.
This constant state of anxiety can develop into various disorders (neurosis, neurasthenia, etc.), with an unjustified but frightening fear of misfortune laying the foundation for the development of obsessive thoughts.
Obsessive Thoughts Syndrome
Obsessive-compulsive disorder occurs when a person imposes negative (frightening) thoughts on themselves. Those with this condition, often having experienced psychological trauma, are haunted by obsessive fears and thoughts (emotional and intellectual types). They understand the baselessness of these thoughts but cannot overcome them.
Intellectual obsessive states, known as obsessions (another name – thought obsession), include ‘mental chewing gum’ (meaningless contemplation), arithmomania (counting everything), obsessive doubts (e.g., did I turn off the iron), obsessive repetition, representations, fears, memories, and contrasting states (a good person suddenly imagining murder). Emotional obsessive states are phobias: claustrophobia, agoraphobia, acrophobia, anthropophobia, oxyphobia, misophobia, dysmorphophobia, nosophobia, nyctophobia, mythophobia, thanatophobia, monophobia, pantophobia, etc. A person with obsessive thoughts tends to perform uncontrollable actions, constantly check their actions, focus on an idea or an irresistible urge to act. Neurosis, a nervous-psychic disorder, is characterized by obsessive hysterical manifestations, weakening mental and physical work capacity.
Symptoms of neurosis include constant nightmares, aimless wandering, apathy, lethargy, lack of joy, loss of interest in food and appearance, distraction, and staring at one point.
A neglected mental state causes emotional inadequacy (lack of emotions towards loved ones), along with obsessive thoughts and unfounded aggression and irritability, indicating the onset of schizophrenia.
Causes of Neurosis
Physical causes include head injuries, mental illnesses, post-disease complications, sleep disorders, serotonin deficiency, lifestyle changes, and unhealthy habits (smoking, alcohol, psychotropics). Psychological causes are constant stress and lack of self-analysis for timely inner world cleansing from anxieties, character and personality traits.
In children, neurosis stems from psychological trauma (severe stress or fright, adult injustice, moving, etc.). Further examination of causes in children reveals factors usually related to family relationships: rejection of the child’s gender, being a late child, incomplete families, family quarrels.
Psychosomatics of Panic Attacks
Fear, originally our helper, signals the body to mobilize its forces for ‘combat readiness.’ However, it can become a hindrance, preventing normal living and action. Often blamed on stress, these stresses originate from our endless desires for more money, possessions, and status.
Never have I heard of stress or panic attacks stemming from Love. But I’ve seen people ruin their mental and physical health in pursuit of wealth. Consider a person working non-stop for three months, from 6 pm to 6 am – this is fertile ground for various neuroses and panic attacks.
Living by societal opinion (‘what will they say about me’, ‘how will I look in others’ eyes’, ‘living no worse than others’, etc.) negatively impacts mental health, causing unjustified and useless fears.
Recently, people have become stress factors for themselves, inventing non-existent ideals, problems, fears, diseases, etc., and then suffering from them.
Regarding children’s fears and related disorders, the stressogenic factor is again adults (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, educators, teachers, etc.). They scare children unintentionally, but it only worsens things. For example, a boy returns from school terrified by a teacher’s story about the flu virus, seeing the virus everywhere, and it takes his mother a long time to calm him down. Why scare children like this?
Not all children (and adults) are frightened by the same things. This indicates that people with certain personality traits (susceptible, anxious, emotional, with a weak nervous system, etc.) become prone to fears, panic attacks, and neuroses.
Among the psychological causes of panic attacks and other phobic disorders, one more must be highlighted: distrust of one’s body, oneself, life. Our body reacts in its own way during fear or stress (abdominal discomfort, chills, etc.). But often, not understanding the language of their body, people start to panic (‘what if I die’, etc.), complicating an already stressful state.
If the body is exhausted from intense work or shock, it may indeed shut down, signaling that it needs rest.
How to Get Rid of Fears and Obsessive Thoughts
Panic attacks and other phobic disorders have psycho-emotional and somatic manifestations. Thus, their treatment is complex, including medication (including antidepressants) and psychotherapy.
The help of a competent specialist, psychologist, and psychotherapist is especially useful if your fear stems from childhood (we often repress childhood fears into the unconscious, but they do not disappear, manifesting in similar situations).
If the cause is obvious, and you see it, you can help yourself get rid of fear. You can write down your fears on paper and analyze them, engage in art therapy, meditate, mentally turn off, etc.
A psychosomatic (bodily) fear map can also help, indicating the type of fear by the location of discomfort in the body (for example, vision problems often occur when a person is afraid to see something they dislike in life).
In addition to this, the well-known author, Dr. V. Sinelnikov, in his book “Life Without Fear,” explains in detail not only the types and causes of fears but also describes ways, methods, and means of healing, as well as real-life examples – which can also help you identify the true cause and free yourself from fear.
Regarding healing children’s fears, due to the nature and psychology of children, effective tools include art therapy, play, and fairy tale therapy. Plus, the love of mom and dad.
It’s not just the addition of love, but love as the foremost element – Love, as this magical feeling can dissolve all fears (not only in small children but also in adults).
Nature has immense healing power. Therefore, in your healing schedule (or your child’s), be sure to include trips to Nature, away from cities and villages, without blaring music, crowds, and barbecues. Just drive out to quiet places you love to wander, admire, and relax both body and soul.
Be free from fears and happy!
I will try to answer all your questions. Sincerely, Lada!