When Panic and Anxiety ‘Attack’

2 Sep 2011

When Panic and Anxiety ‘Attack’

It’s An Inside Job

I was talking to some people recently who told me they suffer from ‘panic attacks’ or ‘anxiety attacks.’ But panic and anxiety are not things that attack from the outside. Panic and anxiety are ‘inside’ jobs.

When Panic and Anxiety Attack

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The symptoms of a panic attack

The symptoms can be many and varied, but suffice to say that anyone who has experienced a panic attack, and the ‘out of control’ feeling that results, never wants to experience another. That is completely understandable. So they might search for some treatment for their symptoms such as taking medication, doing calming exercises or they simply divorce themselves from the problem – and hope it will go away.

The causes of anxiety often exist at a deep level

Sometimes the causes are even outside a person’s conscious awareness. And because someone has no rational explanation for the panic or anxiety, reasons can be difficult to pinpoint. Panic and anxiety are your unconscious mind’s way of letting you know something isn’t right in your world; that there’s some kind of internal conflict occurring.

Panic is the symptom

Because panic is a symptom and not the cause of the problem, treating the panic, is unlikely to make you feel any better in the long term. Divorcing yourself from the problem often results in the symptoms getting worse, as your unconscious mind tries harder to get your conscious mind’s attention.

Here’s an analogy

Let’s say you had a small child that you were taking care of. If the child was extremely upset and desperately trying to get your attention, you would probably comfort him and then sit quietly with him and do whatever you could to find the cause of the problem and resolve it. I doubt that you would just ignore the child and hope he would go away! Or medicate him.

Panic and anxiety is like your small, inner child

An inner child, if you will, who is upset about something. To get to the cause of the problem, sit quietly and ask yourself what the cause of the problem really is. Or get some help to do this.

Two True Stories

Story One

A client came who had been diagnosed with ‘hyperventilation syndrome.’ (A type of panic attack causing difficulty in breathing.) He’d worked for his company since he’d left school at 14 and when I saw him he was in his late 30’s. He’d risen to a high rank in the organisation in that time.

I worked with him to determine when he experienced the hyperventilation. Within a few minutes, we discovered that he would often get it when he was driving to work. At other times, it would be when he became frustrated with some aspect of his job.

In the discussion that followed, he revealed that he had a secret ambition which he was really passionate about. He wanted to work with kids after school and had a great idea to set up a homework club. At the same time, he felt stuck in his work. He’d worked at the same place since leaving school. He wasn’t sure he had the confidence or the right experience to get his business project off the ground.

You’re probably starting to notice the internal conflict here!

So his unconscious mind would ‘remind’ him of his real passion at certain times – most commonly when he was driving to work or when he became frustrated with his job.

The more he tried to ignore the reactions in his body, the worse they got.

As he started to pay attention to his body and listen to it – in the same way he would listen to one of his children – the intention of the panicky part of him became clear. It’s job was to remind him of his real passion – and that time was running out.

He began to take some actions towards living his dream; not the full business, just taking a few small steps towards his goal. He began doing research, finding out what learning he needed to do. Not only did the hyperventilation syndrome stop but he also felt happier and no longer ‘stuck’ in his job.

Story Two

A woman experienced panic every morning on her way to her new job in real estate. It was so bad her boss had told her not to return to work until she’d got it sorted. She’d been told by a professional to stick a needle in her leg and that would distract her from feeling panicky! When the needle had broken off in her leg, she decided it really wasn’t working!

Again, when she quietly checked in with her body we discovered a conflict. She felt guilty about going out to work and leaving her young daughter with a carer.  We looked for ways that she could be absolutely certain that her daughter was getting the best care possible for the 3 days a week she was working. Once this was resolved – so were the panic attacks.


The best way to deal with panic or anxiety in the long term, is to sit quietly and ascertain any places where there might be conflicts in your life; are you continually doing things you don’t want to do? Are you in a situation at work or home where you feel uncomfortable? Are you in two minds about something?

If you believe you need some help, then contact an NLP Practitioner of Master Practitioner (let me know if you need help to find one) who will help you find and resolve the incongruous issue, so your unconscious mind doesn’t have to keep ‘reminding you’ with unpleasant physical symptoms.

What do you want to do now?