While consciously this reason might be known, usually the person presents to their GP with a general feeling of anxiety.
Many GPs will then prescribe anti-depressants or sedatives to deal with the problem. Medication has its place. It helps a person to continue to function, to manage their issues. But it is important to engage in therapy to help resolve the underlying issues.
You may have witnessed someone having a panic attack, but for the person who experiences such attacks it can be very emotionally upsetting. During these episodes the mind can lose control over simple bodily functions like breathing and general coherence.
A great amount of energy is displaced and afterwards the person is left tired and drained, possibly needing time off work, college or school to recover.
To understand why some people suffer from panic attacks we must first understand how the mind works.
The mind works on many levels, but for simplicity sake we’ll say two levels, namely a conscious and a subconscious. The conscious gives you an awareness of everything that’s going on around you. You use it to speak, to listen, and do all of those other things that you need to do on a daily basis. It accounts for only 15% of your mental abilities.
There also exists a deeper mind, a mind that remembers every experience that has ever happened to you, a mind that runs your habits and attitudes towards life, and a mind that is deeply emotional. This is what we call the subconscious and it accounts for up to 85% of your mental abilities.
Imagine your subconscious mind as a vast reference library of all your experiences, with a librarian there ever-ready to find you a reference to anything in this library. For example if I were to say to you “what are paper party plates?”
Straight away your mind whips out a reference for paper party plates. You might remember where you saw one last or one that you saw last Christmas or something else. Now a moment ago you weren’t thinking of paper party plates.
They weren’t in your conscious awareness. Now your mind has found a reference for them and the more you think of them the more references it will add and even begin to link and connect those references to other things.
What about when this system of pulling references works against you? What happens when that librarian pulls a reference when you really prefer he/she hadn’t? Strangely enough this is what happens when you have a panic attack. Your subconscious mind continually pulls up references for you, most of the time you’re unaware of this process. A panic attack is a perceived threat of danger when really there is none. How does the mind get this wrong? Well truthfully it doesn’t, it just does its job.
The problem lies in the way you’ve filed away some of those references. Traumatic, fearful, dangerous references are difficult to deal with and the mind sometimes doesn’t know what to do with them. So it does what most of us do. It shoves them away in some darkened corner of the subconscious mind and adopts the attitude “out of sight out of mind”.
It’s like storing something bad in a box, putting it in your attic and forgetting about it. Time passes, sometimes years, and you forget about that thing in the attic, you don t want to think about it and you don’t. But somewhere in your mind you do remember. Or at least if you don’t remember what it was that you put in the attic you do remember that you hid something there!
An example would be if when you were a child someone close to you suddenly died; a parent or even a grandparent. It can be very hard for a child to understand what has happened. One minute the person was there and the next they’re gone. The mind of a child is left with a lot of confusion and doesn’t properly deal with all that’s happened. All it knows is that this is not a nice experience and they don’t ever want to go through it again, they simply couldn’t handle it.
What if it does happen again, or something like it happens again, something that the mind perceives has similarities? The mind gets confused but more importantly scared. It thinks “I know what this is. Oh No!…It’s happening again!” This is what triggers “PANIC”.