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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Panic attacks

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description


Panic attacks are an acute form of Dyspnea – shortness of breath - but their cause is extreme emotion – anxiety, fear, grief, stress, isolation, loneliness, terror, and so on. 

As far as we are able to ascertain panic attacks are only ever brought on by negative emotion.  For example

Panic attacks have been reported by patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in response to catastrophic worry. …. We examined the prevalence of GAD panic attacks in an anxiety disorders clinic sample. Charts of 254 patients with DSM-IV GAD were retrospectively evaluated. The presence and type of panic attacks were examined as well as correlates including comorbidity, baseline symptom severity, demographic variables, and family history. Twenty-one percent had GAD panic attacks, 21.7% had situationally predisposed attacks, 15.6% had situationally bound attacks, and 39.4% had unexpected panic attacks. The individuals who had GAD panic attacks had higher scores on the Anxiety Sensitivity Index compared with those who also had other types of panic attacks.  PMID:  23274296


There is an interesting statistical correlation between the rate of panic attacks and the overall mental well being of the community.  In Europe, for example, about 3% of the population has a panic attack in a given year while in the United States they affect about 11%.  Furthermore

The current study investigates race-ethnic differences in rates of panic disorder, panic attacks and certain panic attack symptoms by jointly combining three major national epidemiological databases. The compared groups were White, African American, Latino and Asian. The White group had significantly higher rates of panic disorder, and of many panic symptoms, including palpitations, as compared to the African American, Asian and Latino groups. PMID:  19691544



The symptoms include sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath [dyspnea], numbness, or a feeling that something bad is going to happen.  The effect is very frightening for the person, as the shortness of breath can be severe.

Typically the attacks last for about 30 minutes but the duration can vary from seconds to hours.



By definition a panic attack is caused by extreme emotion.  It is not unusual for someone who has been subjected to a lifetime of various forms of discrimination, criticism or abuse – perhaps being treated as dishonest, less smart, with disrespect, threatened, or called names –to suddenly crack in a short period of total rage which then brings on a panic attack [PMID: 25496758].

People who are overwhelmed with problems they cannot solve and perhaps have not brought upon themselves may suffer – carers of those with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, for example, are prone to suffering panic attacks.  The emotion is a mixture of extreme unhappiness, fear, and loneliness.

People born with terrible birth defects or disabilities risk having panic attacks, as well as those who have defects or disabilities from accidents:

The most common triggers of such attacks were feeling that others were looking at or scrutinizing the perceived appearance defects (61.9%), looking in the mirror at perceived defects (38.1%), and being in bright light where perceived defects would be more visible (23.8%). The most common panic attack symptoms were palpitations (86.4%), sweating (66.7%), shortness of breath (63.6%), trembling or shaking (63.6%), and fear of losing control or going crazy (63.6%)..PMID:  23653076


In effect it is somewhat like a pressure cooker rather than a simple one off event.  The grief, the anger, the shock, the memory of trauma, the resentment, the hate, the fear, may be simmering under the surface the whole time and gradually coming to a head.  At a certain moment a small, perhaps trivial, incident then flicks the switch and panic ensues.  Another example:

Using data from a longitudinal population-based assessment of Madrid residents after the March 11, 2004 train bombings (N = 1,589), with assessments conducted 1, 6, and 12 months after the attacks, the rate of peri-event panic attacks was 10.9%. Level of exposure, previous life stressors, and negative emotionality were associated with peri-event panic attacks, which in turn mediated the relationship between exposure to the terrorist event and panic disorder in the following year. Previous life stressors and low social support were directly associated with panic disorder during the subsequent year. PMID:  23696332

There is a link here with emotional intensity that might be interesting for researchers to explore.



The section on Dyspnea provides some immediate short term methods to alleviate the symptoms of a panic attack, but to obtain a cure, the underlying emotion and the reasons for this emotion must be found. 

No pharmaceuticals should be given.  Ways must be found to alleviate the negative emotion using healing methods.  In the overload section, we have a list of negative emotions; in the observations under the heading of healing, you will find ways that have been proven to help heal the emotion – music, meditation, relaxation, warmth, and so on.  We only describe benign methods that are proven.

All the following Events might be classified as being ones which generate largely negative extreme emotion, often fear, sometimes grief, also pain - the list is not exhaustive but illustrative 


Being badly wounded

Being buried alive

Being constantly criticised

Being in a car accident

Being in extremely inhospitable surroundings

Being shipwrecked


Compressive asphyxia


ECT Treatment

Electric shock

Exposure to cold

Extreme pain

Extreme unhappiness

Falling from a great height

Flagellation, beating and physical abuse

Fury, overwhelming rage and anger



Illegal abortion


Loneliness and isolation

Losing your independence

Overwhelming fear and terror

Physical abuse and beating

Psychological trauma






Unrequited love


Winding and chest compression

To this list of Events can be added a huge number of Illnesses and diseases, which produce Extreme pain and thus very high emotion.  Also classified as Illnesses and diseases are a number which might in reality be better classed as events of high emotion, for example: 

 Follow the links to obtain help.

NOTE:  There are a number of videos on youtube which ascribe panic attacks to pharmaceuticals.  The videos are not wrong as such, but strictly speaking the pharmaceuticals poison the body and the body reacts with terror.  It is then the terror that causes the panic attacks, as the body thinks it is dying - it may well be.  In the USA, 38,002 reports from the FDA have been collected that show that pharmaceuticals have indirectly caused panic attacks.  And here are the drugs that have done so - LINK.

Related observations