You are here: Home » Blog » panic disorder » Causes of Panic Disorder; Stop Holiday Panic Attacks

Causes of Panic Disorder; Stop Holiday Panic Attacks

by Dr. Blumberg on November 20, 2010

People Pleaser Panic Attacks

Are you wondering about how to accommodate the requests from family and friends to visit and schedule time together during the holiday season?  You are not alone.  Thousands of panic attack sufferers spend considerable time planning and coordinating schedules with both family and friends to make sure everyone is happy.  The fear of hurting a loved one’s feeling and prompting disapproval can generate tremendous apprehension and uneasiness.  What should you do when both your family and your in-laws request that you arrive at their home at the same time?  You can be put in an impossible position, where you can’t win.  Agreeing to visit one set of family and relatives will inevitably prompt hurt feelings and disappointment in the other.  Over accommodation to others needs and the denial of your own feelings can lead to chronic resentment over time.  Unexpressed chronic resentment can build and, then one more seemingly minor request can trigger hot flashes, shakiness, and dizzy spells “Out of the Blue.”  Unexpressed resentment is one of the leading causes of panic disorder.

The Over Accommodating Interpersonal Style

One common complaint from my patients is “There is no time for me!” So much time and energy is spent making sure other’s needs are met that your needs can get stuffed and minimized.   Many panic disorder sufferers display an over accommodating, people pleasing interpersonal style and try very hard to avoid “Someone being mad at me.” To avoid a conflict and prevent disagreements become an interpersonal mission.  “Don’t upset the apple cart.”

Excessive Guilt; Saying No Without Feeling Guilty Is the Key to Stress Reduction

The idea of saying no to a friend or family request can provoke strong feelings of the Big G (Excessive Guilt). Excessive guilt is based on a belief of over responsibility for the other person’s feelings.  “If I say no to a request, and the other person is upset, I caused the other person’s upset.” Recognizing that each of us is individually responsible for managing disappointments from others is critical to reducing the Big G. Understanding “It is not my fault, if the other person has unrealistic expectation of me and is upset” can reduce the excessive guilt and the “I am sorry syndrome.” Guilt reduction can then free you to consider options that might include your own needs.  Saying No without feeling guilty is the key to stress reduction during the holiday season.  Naturally, you want to consider the risks and benefits of saying no in each interpersonal request situation.

The People Pleaser in Action

*Judy, a 37 year old married accountant and mother of three children, was feeling stretched as the holidays were approaching. Her employer was expecting her to work extra hours to cover for other employees taking extended vacation time. Her mother-in-law, a somewhat over controlling critical person, was arriving on December 18.  She planned to stay with the family for ten days.  Her husband, a hard driving self-employed business owner, was working long hours to take advantage of the holiday business opportunities.  Judy was desperately trying to manage heightened work demands, readying the house for company, and picking up the slack with childcare while her husband worked late hours.  When dizzy spells and head pressure hit her “Out of the Blue”, she did not connect her underlying resentment to the onset of stress-related symptoms.  She was convinced she was sick and scheduled a visit with her family doctor.

The First Panic Attack; a Signal for Change

When Judy visited her family doctor, he conducted a thorough physical examination.  The doctor was very confident and reassured her that she was in good physical health.  Then, he asked her to complete The Panic Checklist, a brief self-diagnostic screening instrument for panic disorder.

Judy said, “I can’t believe it! I checked off everything.”  Early diagnosis of panic disorder, gave Judy a great opportunity to link the build-up of chronic holiday stressors to the onset of panic attack symptoms. With a brief course of communication skills training, Judy learned how to say no without excessive guilt.  She created more time for her own needs. In this way, she was able to prevent the build-up of chronic stress.  This more balanced interpersonal style helped her stop holiday panic attacks and now she could enjoy the holiday season.

*References to real persons, places and events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended in any way to be libelous, defamatory or in any way factual.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: