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Panic disorder can be caused by many factors such as lifestyles, genetics, and medical conditions. However, you may find it hard to believe that even the smallest or weirdest habits can cause severe anxiety or panic attacks in the long run.
Managing your panic attacks is a journey. You will learn as you go. So, to help fight it successfully just like we did we have collected a list of 25 patterns or habits that can trigger them.
Before we share them we will discuss how bad habits can affect your panic attacks and later on, you will learn how to break them to help you defeat panic attacks.
How bad habits affect panic disorder and make it worse
Whatever we do or think, will affect panic attacks positively or negatively. Habits are part of life! We follow certain patterns that can be good such as eating healthy, praying, or even exercising.
Also, there are bad habits which can be harmful in the long term and the worse part is they can be hard to break. For example, drinking excessively, eating junk, or even sleeping late.
Keep in mind that as part of defeating your panic attacks, breaking bad habits are part of an effective solution. You may think that you will not be able to do it. However, if we could manage and defeat panic disorder so can you!
How can bad habits cause panic attacks or anxiety
Either good and bad, we all have many habits. Many of them will help improve your lifestyle while others can affect your health. Treating our panic attack at home helped us to understand more about our bodies and especially our patterns or tendencies.
In my experience, excessive worries always lead to negative thinking. On the other hand, my husband used to eat sugary stuff. Besides, our diet was not that healthy so we had to make adjustments and in turn make positive changes. Also, we became more active and started hiking more.
See, you may have your habits and contrary to what you may think, the bad ones can be broken and replaced with good ones! Even the smallest changes can transform your life and we will show you how.
25 bad habits and how you can break them
If you are wondering why your panic attacks symptoms have not improved, this list of habits can give an insight into many patterns or tendencies. Sometimes we are not completely aware that our bad habits can occur subconsciously.
For example, you may be used to sit on the couch after work or during the weekends. In my case, years ago I developed a tendency of lying on the bed to watch a show with my tablet. I stopped exercising and going for a walk. Months later my back was in pain and my panic attacks worsened.
I went for long walks and got out of my comfort zone to break this bad habit. Whether these bad habits are repeated either before or after you suffered your first panic attacks they can trigger the symptoms. However, they can be broken or replaced with healthy ones.
Keep in mind that breaking a habit will take time and patience. To help you defeat panic attacks successfully, replacing the following habits for positive ones will definitely transform your life:
We all have had worrying thoughts once in a while. They are part of our lives and can help us focus on our difficult situations to find solutions. However, when they are turned into a habit or tendency they can affect our lives in general and especially worsen your panic attacks symptoms.
Our article “Can you overcome panic disorder? We can help you!” explains how to replace excessive worries for positive ones. Learn more here.
Thinking positively takes time but it is a great stress reliever and will help overcome the symptoms. Whenever a negative thought pops up in your mind just believe that you will be fine.
Waking up too late
Who doesn’t want to spend extra minutes in bed especially during the weekends? However, when this constantly happens you will need to find out the root cause. Do you get enough sleep? Going to bed too late? Constantly worrying? Sleeping problems can trigger panic attacks.
Have some camomile tea or a hot bath before going to sleep. Another way of falling asleep faster is to put your smartphone or electronic device away. Also, wake up early so you can function better.
If it is possible do not have any naps during the day. In my case, I nap no more than 40 minutes in the early afternoon. Otherwise, I will not be able to fall asleep during the night, at all!
Another way to promote great sleep is by doing light exercising before going to sleep. For example, stretching, yoga, or breathing exercises can help you relax.
This effective tip can even improve your sleep pattern:
We used to go to bed at around 11:30 pm. But we decided to get ready to sleep at 9:30 pm. Make this your rule of thumb! You will feel energized and happier. I do not nap as much as I used to and I feel more inspired to exercise.
Overthinking about your panic disorder
For most of us, wondering or anticipating when the next panic attack will happen can turn into a habit. However, know that panic attacks can be defeated.
It is best to look forward to new hope every day. That’s why you need to take it one day at a time. Our article “How to stop thinking about panic attacks the right way” is a great way to start. You will learn how to relax, how to deal with your most intense fears, and more.
Watching horror or violent movies
I used to watch scary movies from the age of 7 and went to bed late. Years later, I developed the habit of watching them all the time and eventually made my panic attack worse.
Although it was hard to switch horror movies for lighter ones, I sleep better now. It is best to stick to PG13 or family-friendly ones which have no much violence. Keep in mind that gore movies can trigger panic attacks. I still watch horror movies but I make sure they are not too violent.
Eating junk food
We all love unhealthy stuff once in a while. However, eating excessively sweet, salty, oily, and processed foods can trigger panic attacks. Instead add veggies, whole grains, and fruits along with lean proteins to replenish your body with essential vitamins and minerals. Besides, eating a balanced diet can strengthen your immune system, help your body recover effectively from stress, and promote better body function.
Thinking about the past
We are all been hurt at some point in our lives. And, for the sake of your mental health, it is best to move on. It is not easy but it is worth the try. Depending on the situation you may need to get help from a mental health specialist to help you heal and recover.
Hang around toxic people
Interacting with a manipulative, bully and a negative person can affect your mental health. It is important to set boundaries, do not let them intimidate you, and be firm.
However, please note that some people may behave negatively due to depression. So, it is very important to support them. Now, if the person is toxic, just stay away.
Keep in mind that focusing on your mental wellbeing is part of an effective panic attack recovery.
Jumping to conclusions
It can happen all the time especially with people suffering from panic attacks. At times, we make negative assumptions that have nothing to do with reality. That’s how some negative thinking happens. We tend to predict what happens next or to believe what someone is thinking.
For example, you invite a friend to eat lunch but she/he declines. You may be thinking that this individual doesn’t like you but they may be busy.
Another one can be that you had an interview but you have not been contacted yet. It does not necessarily mean you did not get the job.
A better way to avoid jumping to conclusions is to analyze the situation and go to the facts. Also, don’t allow negative thoughts to discourage you. Also, expect the unexpected. Be prepared for any outcome. If you did not get that job, you will find other great opportunities. Remember that when a door closes another will open!
Thinking you are not good enough
We all want to be better and sometimes think we didn’t do good enough. However, when this kind of thought turns into a pattern, this habit can be self-destructive which can trigger your panic attacks.
Use your past experiences as valuable lessons and shift these worrying thoughts for positive and enlighting ones.
Using illegal drugs
Many people will use all kinds of substances to help alleviate panic attack symptoms. However, according to Dual Diagnosis “Unfortunately, because alcohol and drugs can trigger panic attacks, this attempt at self-medication often makes the disorder worse.”
Cocaine and LSD also trigger panic attacks. If you, a relative or a friend need help contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. It is confidential, 24 hours/7 days a week information system. More information can be found here.
If you are in the United Kingdom contact Recovery at 0203 553 0324. They can provide confidential help and advice. For other countries, you can access the International Centers here.
Consuming caffeine products
Caffeine is a stimulant drug that can trigger panic attacks and anxiety besides stress-related symptoms such as palpitations, nervousness, and insomnia.
Consuming products that contain caffeine can worsen them. The best option would be to quit. Keep in mind that the more stressed you get the more stress hormones will be released to your body. Also, combining prescribed medication and caffeine will make your panic attacks and anxiety intense.
In addition, because caffeine is a diuretic it can deplete important vitamins and minerals in your body such as magnesium which helps regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, and nerve function.
If you are addicted to caffeine limit your daily consumption. For example, if you have 4 cups of coffee a day decrease your intake to 3 cups a day or buy a smaller coffee.
According to the American Addiction Centers “because alcohol is a depressant and has a sedative effect, people often use the substance to unwind.”
According to their website, although alcohol can relax you temporarily, it can trigger anxiety within a couple of hours of consumption even if you are drinking moderately and the effects can last into the following day.
If you are unable to make changes and need help visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for more alternatives and alcohol treatment
If you are in the United Kingdom visit Alcohol Change to find support and options available. Also, you can access the International Treatment Locators here.
Always in a hurry
This is a bad habit that can trigger panic attacks or severe anxiety.
It is great to meet deadlines and be on time. However, this can turn into a bad habit that can take a toll on your physical and mental wellbeing. Do you know that many of our illnesses are stress-related? So, it is time to slow down and keep things simple.
Plan your day ahead to help you organize, save time, and help you manage severe stress. Also, do not eat at your desk. I used to do that and it made me feel stressed. Practice your breathing, find time to chill and rest.
We all try to find comfort while we sit slouched. However, poor posture can affect your spine’s alineation and your whole body.
The spine consists of 33 small bones -called vertebrae- stacked on top of the other. It supports our body and connected to the internal organs and muscle-skeletal system.
For example, your breathing pattern changes to a shallow one and will cause digestive problems. Also, your neck, shoulders, and back will become stiff and in pain.
That’s why it is important to sit straight to improve blood circulation, feel relaxed, and keep your back aligned.
Holding your breath
Breathing is a natural process. Our bodies just move the air in and out from our lungs to bring in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
However, when we are under stress our breathing can lose the natural pattern and will become heavy. When we involuntarily hold our breath we tend to bring the air to our chest instead of filling our bellies with air.
This incorrect form of breathing that can turn into a bad habit, can trigger panic attacks or worsen them. You can learn how to breathe correctly in our article.
Not being organized
There are hectic days that seem not to end. Insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, irritability, and panic attack symptoms are some of the consequences of overwhelming stress. Staying organized at work will help manage your stress.
Writing a to-do list or using a diary planner will help you organize your tasks so you know what to expect, be more productive and give you time to relax.
Always anticipating the worse
It is normal to worry about what-ifs or worse case scenarios once in a while. But when we keep assuming something really bad may happen this can turn into a bad habit that not only can trigger panic attacks but also may affect your mental wellbeing and quality of life.
This way of thinking may be part of your personality or simply when you become stressed out. However, the most important thing do not let it control your life.
The first step is to recognize that you need to make a change. It is not easy but it can be done. Try to stop assuming the worse by asking yourself “is it really bad or am I exaggerating?” That’s how I started to realize that I was being overly dramatic or exaggerating.
Another way to help you to change this thinking pattern is to analyze your situation more realistically instead of generalizing. Can your situation be resolved?
For example, you had a fight with a friend or relative. You may think they do not want to see you again. In this particular case, there must be some hard feeling but the relationship is not necessarily broken.
Also, think about a possible solution, for example, call them to apologize depending on the nature of the argument. If a break up becomes inevitable, think “what could be worse? Staying in a toxic relationship or starting over again?” It is not an easy situation but you would have released a heavy burden from your shoulders.
Stick to positive thinking and believe that all the problems have a solution.
We all work hard to achieve our fitness goals. However, everything in excess affects our body and mind. Why we tend to feel a bit anxious during or after exercise sometimes?
When we workout, the stress hormone cortisol is released which can make you feel nervous especially if you experienced anxiety or a panic attack recently. I have experienced panic attacks while exercising when I pushed too much.
If you are a first-time sufferer you may need a couple of weeks to release the stress depending on the reasons and the triggers. It took me around three weeks to continue with my normal routine after one of my intense panic attacks.
However, it may take you less time depending on the intensity and stress levels. During that time, it is best not to engage in any vigorous exercise. Stick to low impact workout such as walking or do yoga while your symptoms go away.
A fitness watch or pedometer will help you track your progress and will allow you to adjust your workout routine accordingly.
Staying indoors all the time
We all want to stay at home and chill to recharge our batteries. However, the habit of not spending enough time outside can trigger and even worsen your panic attacks.
I remember wanting to stay home all the weekends but I made the attempt to go out. It is quite difficult especially if you have experienced severe anxiety or panic attacks.
When you experience one you will feel drained physically and mentally to go shopping or even see-sighting. You may anticipate the symptoms coming back while you are outdoors. That’s how panic attacks can be related to agoraphobia which is the fear of places or situations that may cause panic attacks.
Practice your breathing and shift your worrying thoughts for positive ones. For example, if you are going to a party or walking focus on the fun and having a great time.
However, if you have experienced very intense panic attacks enjoy the tranquility of a botanic garden, a walk in a park, or light hiking. The bottom line is going outdoors can help you manage your panic attacks. Natural sunlight, physical activity, and enjoying the outdoors can help improve your quality of life which helps fight panic attacks.
Working without taking a rest break can intensify your panic attacks at work. Don’t take your break at your desk. Eat your meal and go for a walk depending on the duration of your break.
Depending on your job you may take a rest break which is different from your lunch break. Go to the bathroom or drink water every time you need it.
Also, you can use a fitness tracker or smartwatch to alert you to move. This will help release stress and become more productive.
Not taking vacations or days off
I have known lots of people who have skipped vacations. Are you one of them? The reasons are diverse; from selling their time-off days to being so busy. No matter the reason you may be putting your mental and physical health in danger.
Working hard with no play? Think twice. Being a workaholic is a bad habit that can trigger not only panic attacks but also depression, severe stress, and physical illnesses.
Your job may be very important but your health and your family are irreplaceable.
Skipping your meals
We may not be hungry and decide to eat later. Eating an hour late can be ok depending on how you feel. However, letting yourself feel extreme hunger will make you feel irritable, tired, and severely anxious.
It is said that skipping meals can slow down your metabolism which can be harder to lose weight. Remaining a long time without eating can cause you to eat too much. In addition, it can drop your sugar levels also called hypoglycemia.
If you are not hungry, just eat a small meal. Also, if your schedule is to blame just plan your meals ahead to make sure you meet deadlines without sacrificing your mealtime.
Also, try to have small snacks between meals such as fruit or yogurt. Eating too much will fill you up which will cause you to skip your meal.
People smoke just to relax or even socially. No matter the reason, smoking cigarettes will not alleviate severe stress.
It is a habit that can trigger or worsen anxiety or panic attack symptoms. Nicotine is a drug that not only affects your mood but also can cause cardiovascular diseases, cancer, emphysema, affect the gastrointestinal system and other health problems in the long run.
In addition, second-hand smoking which is when you inhale cigarette smoke also can equally affect someone’s health. Do you want to quit smoking? This source of information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can you or a dear one to stop smoking.
You may wonder if vaping or using electronic cigarettes can be a smart way to replace it… Vaping is less harmful but it is not safe. There are 54 confirmed deaths by the CDC in patients who used vaping which is inhaling and exhaling aerosol from an e-cigarette. A vape pen or e-cigarette may not contain tar or carbon monoxide but according to CDC, they can be made of liquid nicotine, ultrafine particles, lead, nickel, cancerogenic chemicals, and a flavoring chemical, diacetyl which is linked to serious lung disease.
Overusing your electronic device
We all use our smartphones or tablet to search almost everything from food recipes to social media to self-improvement tips. However, smartphone addiction or dependence can lead to isolation, depression, and anxiety. Also, this habit can trigger severe anxiety which can lead to panic attacks.
Changing settings to turn off alerts, removing unnecessary applications, and turning off your phone can help you stay away from your device.
Explore different hobbies such as drawing, dancing, hiking or practicing any sports to help you distract.
Bad habits caused by anxiety… Is that even possible?
For many, tendencies or patterns can trigger panic attacks but in some cases, they can be the cause of your binge eating or excessive negative thinking.
Bad habits can be formed for many reasons such as stress, boredom, or simply because. They start gradually until it turns into a hard habit to break in the long run and they may interfere with your normal lifestyle.
Whether bad habits are formed before or after experiencing your panic attacks, know they are breakable. The above list of habits will help deal with them and your panic symptoms will eventually go away.
It takes determination, patience, and optimism to break a habit. the best way is to replace it with a healthy one as previously explained. Hang around with people who are inspiring and encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle.
We hope that our article “25 breakable habits that can trigger panic attacks” have been a great help to your or a relative. Remember that once you are able to control your panic attacks or severe anxiety it will be easier to quit these bad habits permanently.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
B.L.A. is a web developer/designer and writer who enjoys country life in western Pennsylvania, USA along with her husband C.C.A, who is also a contributor, co-author, and editor.
Check out their other blog SmartAroundyourWrist.com.