Causes Of Panic Attacks

by Mark Ivar Myhre on June 2, 2011

What causes panic attacks? Many people with better credentials have offered their opinions, but let me tell you what caused my panic attacks.  Because when you know the causes, it’s just that much easier to end your panic.

I created a combination of several factors that all came together to form a unified whole.  And that ‘unified whole’ took on a life of its own. It became a part of me; a part of my consciousness.  The ‘panicked me’ – as I call him. And in this article I’m going to tell you how to get in touch with that part of you, and heal it.

(This also works for other things besides panic – such as worry or guilt or victim or jealousy.  Whatever’s bothering you the most – then this should apply.)

Let’s start at the beginning.

I was scared out of my mind, trying to come up with something to say to her. Anything – just so she wouldn’t make me head off to what I considered to be certain death.  Why, oh why, did I have to go to elementary school?  Mommy, can you just answer me that?

As you might imagine, my persuasion skills were insufficient.  But the point is, at the age of five, I was already consumed with fear.  Not panic; but still, overwhelming fear.

This tells me – and indeed, I already know – that my intense fears started earlier in life.  In my case, it came from shame; being shamed.  I chose to be born in a certain familial situation that would create intense feelings of shame at an early age.  I became a shame-based person.  As a pre-birth choice.

Does shame always lead to panic? No.  Shame can take many directions and involve many different manifestations.  Certainly there will always be fear with shame, but it doesn’t have to manifest as panic attacks.

And to flip the question around, does panic always start with shame? Probably.  It’s hard for me to imagine someone experiencing panic attacks who didn’t have to deal with some degree of shame earlier in life.  However, as we’ll see, you don’t have to heal your shame to end your panic attacks.  (Although it can’t hurt!)

Anyway, I started with a foundation of shame.  Therefore, I had no security in my life.  Because when you live with shame, you can never feel secure. Shame robs you of your security.  Which naturally tends to make you afraid.

So what else causes panic attacks?

For one, I was taught and conditioned early in life that it’s not socially acceptable to admit you’re scared.  You’re supposed to hide your fear.  Be a brave little boy.  “Don’t be scared”, I was conditioned to believe.

But I am scared! I’m so small and the world is so big.  Situations that grown-ups can slough off are overwhelming to me.  I’m too young to understand what’s going on.  I don’t know how things work.  I’m trying to make sense of the madness.  There’s too much unknown.  And thus the fear continues to grow.

Childhood is naturally scary, but I’m told to not be afraid.  Plus, I don’t want to feel the fear!  Therefore, I stuff as much fear as I can down into my shadow.  The problem is, sooner or later I’m going to have to deal with that fear.

Either I go to my shadow directly and release it there, or else it will come at me in the world.

If I’m really lucky, maybe I’ll only see other people being scared.  Much more likely, however, I’ll create situations that scare the hell out of me.  And all the while, the shadow is just doing its job.  It holds onto all the stuff I don’t want to deal with.  It keeps all the power and emotion safe for me, and then gives it all back to me later in life.  Of course, it seems like a land mine when it happens…

“It came out of nowhere!”

Anyway, this is the second factor that contributes to panic attacks; all the fear that’s been stuffed down into the shadow.

Next, the fear stories themselves help precipitate panic attacks.

The fear stories; all the reasons why I truly do need to be afraid.  “Don’t you see?  It’s not just my imagination.  I have to be scared – because I really could have that dreaded disease.”

“Why am I scared?  Because this might happen…”  Whatever ‘this’ is.

That’s the fear story.  Now, the trick is, you may really have a legitimate reason to be concerned.  So I am not saying to just ignore the story completely.  Rather, I’m saying to evaluate it carefully.  But don’t follow it blindly.

Hey, if there’s a wolf at the door, then you need to deal with it!  But is the wolf really there?  That’s the question.  That’s where discernment and evaluation and thinking and feeling come into play.  99 times out of 100, the wolf is not really there.  Or more clearly stated, I am the wolf I fear.

Either way, you want to set the story aside so you can feel the fear.  Because even if there really is a threat, chasing a fear story won’t make the threat disappear.

And here’s one of the biggest fear stories:

“There must be something wrong or else I wouldn’t be feeling all this fear.”

Underneath that story is the unspoken supposition:

“There’s something wrong with feeling fear.”

Which always leads to:

“There’s something wrong with me.”

Those fear stories can be pretty insidious.

How do you know if what you’re feeling is real fear, or the product of a fear story?

Feeling real fear is a roller coaster ride.  It sweeps you up – yes.  There is a certain element of being ‘out of control’.  Or, it’s like surfing in the ocean.  You just feel.  And soon, usually in a minute or so, the feeling subsides.  Maybe five minutes, tops.  And you feel somewhat exhilarated.  That’s what happens when you cleanly feel your fear.

The fear story is more like being trapped.   You’re stuck in fear.  It doesn’t end.  It just goes on and on and on like a broken record.  It wears you down.  And it’s so, so easy to rationalize the fear.  You end up managing fear instead of feeling fear.  Or trying to manage it, more likely

You try to think your way out of feeling.
And that never ends well.

So basically we’ve got shame, repressed emotion, and fear stories that come together and cause panic attacks.  But there’s more.  There’s a glue that holds it all together.

That glue is – quite literally – a part of your consciousness.  The ‘scared me’ or the ‘panicked me’ or whatever other label you want to slap on it.  A part of your consciousness ‘breaks off’ and forms this entity who’s scared out of his (or her) mind.

The ‘Freaked-Out Me’ – The Ultimate Cause of Panic Attacks

“The stories change – but the underlying energy always stays the same.”

Now, this ‘freaked-out me’ or this ‘panicked me’ (or even the ‘worried me’ or the ‘guilty me’ for that matter) is largely a function of ego.  Not completely, but mostly.  So just working with your ego – learning about it, busting it, healing it, and building a positive ego from its current weak and negative state – that will go a long way in helping you with the ‘panicked me’ or whichever ‘me’ you’ve been forced to deal with.

I explain a lot more about the ego here –

Another approach which you can do in addition to working with your ego, involves meeting and talking to the ‘panicked me’ in meditation.  Let me briefly outline how you could do this.

Defusing The Cause Of Panic Attacks

Find a quiet time and space when you can be alone and alert.  Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply.  Begin to center yourself.  Come to the center.  Gather your energies from your world.  (Meaning, stop thinking about everything!)

Relax your body.  Maybe going over your body, part by part, and telling it to relax.  Then, count backwards from 5 to 1, with the intention of going into a slightly altered state of consciousness at the count of one.

Next, imagine yourself outdoors, in a place of your choosing.  A beautiful place.  A safe place.  Wherever you wish.  Imagine the scenery as vividly as you can.

Now, begin to imagine the ‘panicked you’ (or, you could focus on the ‘worried me’ or the ‘jealous me’ or any other part you want to work with.)  Begin to wonder what it would look like – what clothes it might be wearing, whether it looks just like you or not, and what kind of expressions would be on its face.

Imagine it.  Focus on it.  Think about it.  And intend to find it.  Go searching for it.  Imagine yourself looking for it.  Imagine yourself  walking the land.  You’ll find it soon enough.  And when you do, study it.  Look at it.  Feel its energy.

And after you’ve gotten a sense of it, start talking to it.  You may very well find that it’s sick and tired of having to live your life.  It may be fed up with having to be responsible for you.  Or, conversely, it may enjoy running the show.  Whatever.  You won’t know until you talk to it.

If you can’t seem to talk to it, then at the very least, sense it and feel its energy.  This is the ‘freaked-out you’!  You can choose to take your power back from it, and start functioning as an adult, rather than as a child-adolescent-ego composite.

You can make your peace with this part of you, and take your power back from it.  You can’t kill it, nor would you want to, but you can retrieve your power.  Which you do by your intention.

“I demand my power back from you!”

Say that a few times – and mean it.

And don’t forget to thank it for carrying your burden.  It’s been shouldering the load.  Dealing with all the intensity of your life.  But now, you’re ready to regain the responsibility yourself.

And once you’re done, simply count yourself out of meditation – one, two, three, four, and five.  And at the count of ‘five’ open your eyes and return to your busy day.

Of course, you might want to sit for a few minutes and let it all settle.  Let in how much your life can now change.  Especially if you incorporate forgiveness into the process.  Forgive yourself for functioning from this lesser part of you up till now.

The forgiveness can solidify the changes you want to make.

In fact, forgiveness can help with each one of these causes of panic attacks.  Forgive yourself for each of the individual causes.  I did!

And that’s the process.  It’s going to take a little work, as you can see.  But it’s quite doable.  I ended my panic attacks completely, and so can you.  But then, I also followed the process laid out in the e-book How To Reduce Fear, Escape Anxiety & End Panic.

This little technique I’ve explained here is just icing on the cake.

So if you have any questions or comments, please write them below.


kay June 2, 2011 at 10:57 am

You talk a lot about shame, and here, as a basis of all fear, anxiety, worry, or panic. I’m not sure I understand or relate to the word “shame.” Is it ingrained in childhood when one is made to feel humiliated or embarrassed? This seems somewhat innocuous. All children, all the time, are told not to do this or that. Why would one child over another take this so personally that it could be considered shame? Can you give examples (maybe, yours personally) where a child would be made to feel shame?

Mark Ivar Myhre June 2, 2011 at 11:47 am

Hi Kay,

basically, shame is forcing someone to be responsible for something they’re not equipped or capable of being responsible for. It’s a complex subject, and I’ve written a bunch of articles on the topic. If you look at the top right hand of this page, where the tag cloud is located, you’ll see the word ‘shame’.

When you click on that link it will take you to the articles. If you still have questions after reading those articles I’ll be glad to answer them.

Now, as for an example of childhood shame (and keep in mind there are other types of shame as well)

1. When you hit a child you are shaming that child. Always. No exceptions – that’s an example of shame.

2. When you abandon a child – either emotionally or physically, you shame that child.

3. When you yell and scream at a child you are shaming that child.

The basic problem in recognizing shame is that it’s so pervasive – it’s like a fish trying to understand the water.

Now, why do some people seem more affected by it? I would say that more likely, different people REACT in different ways. Some people become over-achievers, for example. Others become under-achievers.

Everybody pushes off from the shame differently.

But please read the articles, and I’ll be glad to address any questions.

Sara June 3, 2011 at 1:38 am

Thank you for all the clarity on these subjects, Mark. Your definition strikes home, too. Those of us who grew up in abusive homes have carried a heavy load. It’s great to finally get some insights on how to deal with it.

I would like to add that it’s been my experience that there is a psychic and energetic component, where dark energies are usually transferred from the abuser to the target through the hitting and yelling. Then the one who was abused is left to deal with that in addition to their own experience and feelings. Again: this can be a very heavy load when one does not know how to clear it.

Mark Ivar Myhre June 3, 2011 at 5:21 am

Hi Sara,

Yes, I agree, there is a psychic energy involved here, and it is dark. And it is a transference of energy. I haven’t ever written about it, but I’ve had to deal with it myself and I’ve dealt with it in others.

cyndie goodwin September 1, 2011 at 7:11 am

hi mark. been suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for 17 yrs finally went into counseling and on meds 5 yrs ago. i’m not the type of person that can use your visualization technique although fascinating i just can’t do it-i do picture my anxiety as kind of a dark human like entity-it sits in a certain chair in my living room waiting to come in. i speak to it and firmly tell it “no,you are not welcome today-stay away” etc, this disease is sooo insidious i can be sitting on my favorite beach with good company,lots of laughter,totally anxiety free and BAM it’s in-day over go home grab the xanax and hope for the best. it sucks,i have anticipatory anxiety daily just waiting for the hit. i’m alot agoraphobic now and find myself just accepting that it is here forever so just go with it, at my wit’s end!

Mark Ivar Myhre September 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Sorry to hear about all you’re going through. Your message really pushed a button in me, and I started writing a response, but it got so long I thought I better just put it up on its own page – Causes Of Panic Attack.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: