However, when we stop to think biblically, there are many things that come to light. Following is a brief description of the most common causes for panic attacks, as well as some biblical solutions.
PERFECTIONISM – Being a perfectionist or a “performance-based” person (e.g., believing your value comes from your performance and what others think of you and your performance)
NEGATIVE FOCUS – A strong tendency to focus on the negative things in life (cp Lam 3:19ff), which results in missing out on the many blessings (cp Phil 4:6-8; Col 3:1-4)
UNHEALTHY SELF-TALK – Engaging in patterns of negative self-talk (e.g., beating yourself up; focusing on your sin or failures and not on truth and grace; living in shame and guilt)
LACK OF TRUST – Difficulty truly trusting God and trusting His Word (cp Is 26:3; Rom 15:13; Ps 55:22)
DIFFICULTY LIVING IN GRACE – Great difficulty in understanding grace and living in grace (cp Gal 3:1-5; 5:1ff; 2 Cor 3:5ff)
CONTROL ISSUES – Being controlling (depending on yourself, your abilities, and your ways, not depending on God and His Word; the need to do things yourself, and not entrusting it to others)
FEAR – Often motivated by fear, controlled or restricted by fear, and demotivated by the fear of failure
FEAR OF MAN – Struggling with the “fear of man” (e.g., the “need” for approval, to be liked, etc.)
MISDIRECTED FOCUS -Tendency to focus on what you do not control (which produces worry/anxiety)
CONDEMNATION – Prevailing feelings of condemnation over real or perceived sin or failure (e.g. “guilt”)
OTHER CONTRIBUTING FACTORS – Potential contributing factors to panic attacks can also include: food and drinks (e.g., caffeine; unhealthy food; drugs); challenging circumstances, stress, or pressure in life; closed or restrictive spaces (elevators; planes; small rooms; theaters; feeling a need to escape)
Most people who struggle with panic attacks are very likable and usually have many great qualities about them. They are people who most would want to be friends with, to hire, and to have as neighbors. Yet, those around them usually don’t know that they also struggle with anxiety, depression, a lack of joy and peace, anger, resentment, and even doubts about their salvation. [Note: Even if we do not experience panic attacks, any of the potential causes above can produce depression, anxiety, etc.]
What Can Be Done?
So what can we do? If we or someone we know struggles with panic attacks, how can we help or overcome this?
Other than certain circumstances in life that we do not control, all of these problems can change and even be resolved. While the solutions are easier said than done, they can be done—but only through grace, truth, and a growing trust in and dependency upon God and His Word.
There are a few behavioral things anyone can do to improve (e.g., changing our focus). But, in order to truly overcome, we must experience genuine change in the depths of our hearts (cp Prov 4:23).
When it comes to getting to the heart of the issue and overcoming panic attacks, the main solutions include:
BELIEVING THE TRUTH – Growing in believing the truth about God’s character (not just knowing the truth), and then truly trusting Him and entrusting our concerns to Him (Is 26:3; Rom 15:13; cp Gen 3:1-6)
LIVING IN GRACE – Growing in our understanding of grace and living in grace (and not in our performance or “works”)
LOVE FOR GOD’S WORD – Growing in how we actively delight in, meditate on, and truly believe God’s Word (1 Thess 2:13; Ps 1:1-3; 19:7-11; 119; 2 Tim 3:15-17), and doing this proactively, not just reactively
KNOWING HE IS SUFFICIENT – Growing in truly believing the all-sufficiency of God and His Word (2 Pet 1:3-4; 2 Cor 9:8), which produces increasing security, peace, and contentment (Phil 4:4-13)
CHECKING OUR MOTIVES – Consistently correcting and refining our motives (i.e., why we do what we do): is it out of fear and/or merely a desire to complete tasks; or are we motivated by love and faithfulness with our responsibilities?
LIFESTYLE CHOICES – Making any necessary changes in our “lifestyle choices” (food and drink; circumstances; sinful behaviors)
IDENTIFYING LIES – Uprooting any lies that we have believed (e.g., perfectionism; our worth being based on our performance or on what others think of us), and replacing them with the truth and grace of God
RESPONSES TO FAILURE – Learning how to handle our sin or failure in the biblical way (not with condemnation and beating ourselves up, but with both truth and genuine grace)
FOCUS – Learning how to proactively and reactively direct our focus on to the right things (e.g., Lam 3:21ff; Phil 4:6-8; Col 3:1-4)
At the heart of every solution is accurately focusing on what we do control (and not on what we cannot control); to lovingly, accurately, and faithfully fulfill our responsibilities; to truly trust God and His ways; and to entrust everything to Him. If we grow in this, we will grow in everything.
Finally, if panic attacks are something that you struggle with, it may be helpful to find one or more biblically equipped people to help you grow in these areas. Our overall motivation and goal should not be merely to avoid painful panic attacks, but to live as God would have us to live, and to resolve the problems that possibly reside in our hearts and hinder our relationship with God and others.