Panic Attack and its Causes


Chronic Muscular Tension
This is a very important cause of overbreathing. Not only are the respiratory muscles - the diaphragm and chest muscles - involved, but the sternomastoid muscles are also implicated. (one end of the sternomastoid runs from behind the ear to the upper end of the breastbone, and the other end runs from the collarbone to the base of the skull.) The sternomastoid muscles help to lift the collarbones and breastbones and are an important part of the breathing mechanism. If the sternomastoid muscles cannot rest at full length, the tension can cause ear, sinus, throat, and allergy problems, in addition to affecting breathing.

Symptoms of Overbreathing:


A state of constant fear

Panic attacks

Disabling episodes of fear, lasting minutes, or hours


Loss of interest in life, illness of the spirit

Feelings of unreality

Altered perception, causing the familiar to seem unfamiliar

Sense of hopelessness

Despair; little sense of joy

Poor memory

Tension causes poor concentration,
so that a person cannot recall a familiar name
or what he or she had for breakfast

Agoraphobia - A fear of open spaces

Other phobias

Sudden strong fear of everyday things,
such as social events, water, or buttons


Rapid heartbeat, missed heartbeats,
or a sensation of fluttering in the chest

Shortness of breath

The inability to take deep breaths

Frequently sighing: 80 percent of the patients
who hyperventilate sigh often

Dry throat

Clearing the throat, or moistening dry lips

Dry cough - This is due to water and heat loss
from the muccosal lining of the airway

Stuffy nose
Symptoms include dryness in the nose,
sores in the nose, and sniffing

Chest Pain
Either a sharp pain lasting seconds or minutes,
or a dull ache over the heart
and around the breastbone and ribs.
This pain is caused by the strain on the muscles
and ligaments from continually breathing from the upper chest.
Fingerpressure around the breastbone or ribs
can locate very sore spots.
There is also an inability to lie on the left side.
The pain is not usually affected by breathing.
It can occur after exercise.
Pressure from gas in the stomach can also cause chest pain.
Spasm in the coronary artery can cause severe chest pain,
and people often arrive at the emergency room
(sometimes several times a year) complaining of this.
Chest pain does not usually appear with the provocation test

Lightheadedness and dizziness

These are the most common symptoms

Feeling of impending fainting - This affects all ages.

Actual fainting - This is more common in the young.

Tingling - This can occur in the hands, feet, or around the mouth.

Weakness - This can occur in all the muscles.

Numbness - This can be anywhere in the body.

Jelly legs - A feeling that the legs cannot support the body.

Digestive disturbances - Heartburn, bloating, belching, gas in the bowel, air swallowing, food intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Muscle spasm - Particularly in the neck and shoulders. Clawlike spasm in the hands and feet (tetany).

Speech difficulties - Feeling of the tongue being swollen.

Hallucinations - This occurs only when symptoms are severe. (The connection between hyperventilation and hallucinations is seen in playground games among children: they take gulping breaths and are spun around by their peers in order to get dizzy and "see pictures.)

Brain Food

Glucose is the body's fuel. The brain is totally dependent on this form of food: without it, it would die. This is important to remember when looking at the list of symptoms caused by unstable blood sugar levels. The brain cannot utilize other foods, such as protein, in the same way tissues, such as muscles can. This is why so many symptoms of altered brain chemistry occur when blood sugar levels drop quickly. Another point to remember is that when the brain is deprived of glucose, it is also deprived of oxygen. Have you noticed that you yawn when you go too long without food? Poor availability of glucose to the brain can also cause many of the symptoms associated with oxygen deprivation, without blood sugar levels being low. If blood circulation to the head is affected by, say, tension in the neck and shoulders, brain cells are bound to be half-starved, because the blood, which carries the glucose to the brain, is constricted.

Why does a drop in Blood Sugar make me feel so awful?
When your brain is starved, it begins to do strange things. When there are no food stores left, and blood sugar levels are low, the stomach sends a message to the brain saying, "Help! I'm hungry. What are you going to do?" The brain replies, "Don't worry, I'll get you some food (glucose) out of the cupboard (the liver), but in order to unlock the cupboard door, I have to send a messenger with a key." This chemical messenger is a spurt of adrenaline. The good news is that, when the messenger opens the door, glucose will be released and you can keep going. The bad news is that you have already seen too much of this messenger, because other systems in your body (respiratory and muscular) are not functioning properly as a result of your nerves having been in trouble. Thus the adrenaline induces all the symptoms you dread most: panic, shaking, palpitations, agoraphobia, and so on.

Can unstable Blood Sugar levels cause aching joints and muscles?
When the adrenal glands are exhausted, cortisone production is lowered. A vital function of cortisone, in addition to controlling stress and metabolizing carbohydrates, is to protect the body from inflammation. This function of cortisone is confirmed by how dramatically arthritic pain can be reduced by treatment with cortisone and other steroids. The fact that rheumatoid arthritis often clears up during pregnancy also confirm this. During pregnancy, the increase in pituitary hormones and cortisone works to counteract the effect of the reduced production of insulin. Therefore, when insulin production is lowered, blood sugar levels do not jump all over the place they remain stable because pituitary hormone levels and cortisone levels are adequate.

Premenstrual Syndrome and unstable Blood Sugar Levels
More and more pieces of jigsaw fit together when the part that hormones play in panic attacks is understood. To go back to the overly acid stomach, it does not absorb calcium efficiently. Nerves need calcium to function properly. Muscle cramps, and fluid retention of premenstrual syndrome can be attributed to lack of calcium and to an imbalance of the sodium and potassium levels. A person feels very uncomfortable when the body is swollen with fluid, but even more uncomfortable when the brain is. Severe headaches, rapid mood swings, and outbursts of rage are distressingly common symptoms of water retention. The premenstrual craving for sweets, chocolates, and other carbohydrates is a sign that all is not well with the blood sugar levels.

Will I get diabetes if I ignore unstable blood sugar levels?
You will not necessarily get diabetes if you ignore unstable blood sugar levels, but you do run the risk of getting diabetes, particularly if you gain a lot of weight, or have a family history of diabetes of other conditions associated with low blood sugar. A pancreas that is working overtime dealing with a refined-carbohydrate diet and long gaps between meals often gives up trying, which leads to diabetes.

Other conditions associated with unstable blood sugar levels
Although some physicians do not believe that low blood sugar levels have any connection with the development of chronic disease, others are firmly convinced that sustained blood sugar levels precede many illnesses. They also believe that improvement, and even a cure, can be attained by simply following a proper eating regimen. Here are some of the conditions associated with unstable blood sugar levels: Obesity, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, asthma, loss of interest in sex, fainting, blackouts, facial pain, epilepsy, arthritis, allergies, migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, addictions, and tinnitus. There is no need to be alarmed by this list: eating sensibly prevents unstable blood sugar levels.


home Health