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What Causes Panic Attacks When I Am Home Alone With My Children?

by Dr. Blumberg on June 19, 2011

Home Alone Panic Attacks

*Ever since the birth of her second child, Susan, a 34 year old married accountant, has been experiencing severe panic attacks “Out of the Blue.” Her first panic attack hit suddenly when she was home alone with her two children while her husband was away on a business trip.  Susan still remembers the sudden surge of weakness and lightheaded that swept over here late that night. She felt so weak and lightheaded that she became convinced she would collapse and be unable to take care of her children.  She called her mother at 2:00AM to come over and stay with her, just in case she needed immediate help.

Phobic Companion If I Need Help

From that time on, Susan has avoided staying home alone overnight with her two children.  When her husband announces plans for business travel, a surge of adrenaline flashes through her body.  Immediately, she starts to plan to make arrangements for a friend or family member to stay over.  If that is not possible, she actually moves out of her home into the home of a Phobic Companion, friend or family member while her husband is out of town. Avoidance of being home alone with her children is the only way Susan has been able to find peace of mind and comfort that help is available when panic strikes at night. Susan is so sick and tired of worrying about unexpected panic attacks and arranging her life to avoid being alone.  She says “I can’t stand one more minute of living in fear.”

Home Alone Thoughts Trigger Panic Attack Symptoms

The following is a sample of Susan’s thoughts when she thinks of staying home alone with her children overnight;

  • What if I feel so dizzy and lightheaded that I faint? Who will be there to take care of my children?
  • What if my husband has an unexpected business trip and I cannot find anyone to stay with me overnight?
  • What can I do to stop these dreadful attacks at night? I try to stay busy and distract myself, but the fear of the panic attacks always pops into my mind?

The Cause of Home Alone Panic Attacks; Guilt by Association

That first panic attack “Out of the Blue” can be so terrifying, it can stick in your mind.  If you leave or escape the situation where you encounter panic, in the height of terror, and find relief when you reach a place of perceived safety, the escaped situation can become connected to panic attacks. The place where you had your first panic attack, where ever it is, can become emotionally associated with panic attacks.  In essence, for Susan, the Situation, Home Alone, has become a secondary panic attack trigger. Just the thought of staying home alone overnight with her two children triggers anticipatory anxiety, the fear of panic and panic attack symptoms.

How To Eliminate Situational Home Alone Panic?

Four Essential Elements Necessary to Eliminate Situational Panic

  • First, Susan must prove to herself that her False Catastrophic Thought “Faint when I am home alone with my children” will never come true.
  • Then, Susan must re-enter and remain in the feared home alone situation while continuing to challenge her dreaded fear of fainting and not being able to take care of her children.
  • The panic –anxiety must subside while Susan stays in the triggering situation.
  • The reduction in the panic anxiety while staying home alone with her children must occur because Susan is convinced her anxiety attack symptoms will not cause fainting.

The above are essential elements in eliminating panic attacks in triggering situations.

Situational Panic vs. Core Panic

Situational panic attacks like being home alone with your children are secondary triggers.  Even when you conquer panic attacks in your situational triggers, you can still be hit with a surprise attack.  Identifying and understanding the emotional causes of panic disorder is essential to eliminating surprise attacks and staying panic-free for life.

*This educational information should always be used in consultation with your doctor to confirm a diagnosis and review available treatments for panic disorder. References to real persons, places and events are made in a fictional context, and are not intended to be in any way libelous, defamatory or in any way factual.

The ideas in this blog are developed from Dr. Blumberg’s panicLINK Program.  PanicLINK is a comprehensive, twelve session, four phase, multi-media educational program on panic disorder. The material in this Blog and the panicLINK Program are copyright protected by Out of the Blue Network, LLC. No permission is granted to reproduce this blog for commercial purposes. For more information about the panicLINK Program connect at







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