Panic Attacks and Your Basic Human Needs

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As you will know if you have ever suffered from panic attacks, they can make many everyday activities very difficult. Social occasions, shopping, even just going outside can feel impossible.

Unfortunately, this ‘side-effect’ of panic attacks can make the attacks themselves worse.

Firstly, avoidance of an anxiety-provoking situation tends to make it even harder to go back into that situation in the future.

Secondly, as you participate less in these activites, your basic needs are not being met, which often further exacerbates the situation.

The good news is that is most situations, panic attacks can be brought under control and eventually disappear. That might sound like an impossibility to you just now, but subscribe to our free course and then see what you think.

Here are a list of basic needs that people need to fulfil in order to continue with a healthy and happy life.

1. The need to give and receive attention

As you participate less in social occasions, this can be affected. Also, many people find that once they start having panic attacks, they tend to talk about them to friends and family, hoping to find a solution. While of course it is good to talk about problems to an extent, too much focus on them can put others off talking with you.

2. Taking care of the mind-body connection

This means, basically, to look after yourself. To eat regular, healthy meals, to exercise appropriately, to get enough rest and relaxation. As you will know if you have completed the free course, many peoples’ panic attacks start when they are stressed or very tired.

3. The need for meaning, purpose and goals

In the larger context, it is important that you have something to focus on outside of yourself. When a person starts having panic attacks, their sole goal can become to ‘get rid of the panic attacks’. They might say things like, “Once I’ve got rid of my panic attacks, then I’ll do X, Y or Z.” This is perfectly understandable, but can worsen the situation as the person focuses on the attacks more and more, to the detriment of their wider life.

4. The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves

People have been shown to be healthier generally when they feel comitted to some cause, idea or group that involves more than just their own well-being.

5. The need for creativity and stimulation

The human brain seems to have an innate need to create, and to absorb new information. Without an external source, the imagination can turn to creating all sorts of unpleasant scenarios, often increasing anxiety, rumination and worry, all bad for panic attacks.

6. The need for intimacy and connection

We all need to feel that we are connected to something or someone else. For some people, this can be fulfilled be a pet, but more often this needs to be another person or people. If a person cuts themselves off, this basic need can suffer.

7. The need for a sense of control

This is a key need, and it is obvious what happens when a person’s life is controlled by others. Torture, imprisonment, violence and psychological abuse all remove control to varying degrees.

And of course, the place where we are used to having control is our own body and mind. Panic attacks remove some of this control, or at least it feels that way.

In fact, you are still in control, it is just your unconscious brain doing the controlling. In the same way that it controls your body temperature without your knowing how, during a panic attack it is controlling levels of adrenalin and so forth. It has just got it wrong. The same response when being chased by a wild animal would be wholly appropriate!

8. The need for a sense of status.

It’s important to feel important. And we all know some people for whom this need is too important! However, if someone feels recognised for being a grandmother or parent or good son or daughter, this may be enough. Young people finding their feet can have improved self-esteem if they feel they have attained a position of trust and recognition.

Young boys in Birmingham, UK who were at risk of exclusion because of behavioural problems were trained as mentors and paid for helping younger kids who were also at risk of exclusion. Not only did the mentors’ own behaviour improve, they also reported greater levels of happiness, contentment and self-esteem. Much disruptive, problematic behaviour may be a misapplied attempt to meet this need for recognition.

9. The need for a sense safety and security.

We need to feel our environment is basically secure and reasonably predictable. Financial security, physical safety and health, and the fulfilment of other basic needs all contribute to the completion of this need. As with all of the following needs we can take it too far and become obsessive about it – you will see this sometimes if the need for creativity is not met.

If you haven’t read through the panic attacks course yet, please do so. If you would like it emailed to you in bite-sized chunks over the next week, click here.

About the author

Mark Tyrrell is a therapist, trainer and author and is the co-founder of
Hypnosis Downloads, the web's most popular hypnosis site
where you can get a cutting-edge hypnosis session for almost any situation.