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How to Stop Anxiety

Updated on December 17, 2017
Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

My passion is to inspire and coach people to achieve what they want to get out of life.


It is all in the perception

Do you experience what you think (or have been told) is a panic attacks? Are you a survivor of abuse, bullying, catastrophic, combat, domestic violence, harassment, rape, trauma, or indoctrination situations in your life? If you have, you are probably feeling some degree of Post-traumatic Stress from your experience. Then knowingly or unknowingly, you’re carrying buried memory or known as dissociative memory.

Many times a panic attack is not a panic attack because it is really the result of being triggered by a past abusive or traumatic experience. After studying the two the physiological reactions, they both produce very similar symptoms, emotionally, mentally and physically. It appears that the only difference between a panic attack reaction and being triggered by a flashback is perception. How a person is evaluated or medicated (or not) depends on how the person reports his or her symptoms. Unfortunately, panic attacks have become a catch-all diagnosis and very overused.

Which is which?

At some point in time even years later after experiencing an abusive or traumatic situation, portions (flashbacks) or complete episodes of your dissociated memories will get triggered whether you like them to or not. They will surface out of dissociated storage, through the subconscious mind and begin to replay in your consciousness mind without your awareness. All you will feel is the emotional, mental, and physical reactions. Such common experiences are reported to helping professionals and diagnosed as a panic attack.

After close investigation of both panic attacks symptoms and symptoms of being triggered, there are not many differences. Notice when you are experiencing a sudden onset of emotional, mental and physical reactions and that they seem to come out of nowhere or for no reason.

How do you know which is which? Unfortunately, many times you only know after the fact. You will know when taking your prescribed medication for panic attacks and nothing happens. No relief is experienced.

Panic Attack and Triggers


What is a trigger?

By definition a trigger is a sensory stimuli from the outside such as an emotion, a physical pain, a visual cue, a sound, a smell, a location or a touch which causes a recollection from the experience of the outside stimuli that connects to a complete memory or portion of a memory (flashback) and results in the surfacing of that recollection. The surfacing memory or flashback may have been held in the subconscious at a dissociated memory storage area in the brain. A trigger can be connected to a good or positive experience as well as a bad, negative or life-threatening experience.

How many times have you been able to recall an event by simply smelling something familiar or a feeling? Studies have found that an emotion or a smell has been said to be "the biggest triggers of memory."

8 (Eight) Types of Triggers

The niner types of triggers are:

  • Auditory trigger
  • Date trigger
  • Emotional trigger
  • Environmental trigger
  • Mental trigger
  • Physical trigger
  • Relationship trigger
  • Visual trigger
  • Verbal trigger

How do you feel when you are triggered?

  • Your heart feels like it is going to beat out of your chest
  • Your heart rate becomes rapid
  • Sweating in every part of your body
  • Cold hands and feet but hot body core
  • Unusual smells for no reason
  • Tightening of your throat
  • Dry mouth and unable to say anything
  • Physically frozen and unable to do anything
  • Decrease in your visual field
  • Quick onset of fear or terror for no apparent reason
  • Emotional numbness
  • Can’t think clearly or concentrate
  • Quick onset of intense confusion
  • Episodes of dissociating
  • Very anxious
  • Hypervigilant
  • Hyper-aware
  • Hypersensitive
  • Quick onset of irritability

If you are honest with yourself and review all the aforementioned reactions, you will see that you are really experiencing a subconscious triggered flashback rather than going through a panic attack.

Any hope?

What can I do, you ask?

Do not instantly dissociate. Focus on the moment and stay in the present for a while to see if it is a flashback or a real panic attack. Learn to use a visual cue, deep breathing or meditation to stay present.

Moderate your fear by not attempting to predict what may happen that has not yet happened.

Do not immediately take anti-anxiety (anti-anxiety) medication … rather develop a skill or a cue that keeps you in the moment. If the aforementioned reactions are a triggered flashback, then in 5 to 10 minutes, the reactions should dissipate.

Then stop, reflect and determine whether you are having a flashback or a panic attack. If the reactions do not dissipate, then utilize your anti-panic medication for relief.

Inner Power

Overall, recognition and self-determination bring you inner power. If you face your inner demons head on then there is a good chance your triggers will disappear.

A traumatic memory can be rendered harmless and emotional charge can be reduced to insignificant. Face what you fear and you will become stronger.

It is possible to overcome your bad memories and be fulfilled.

How to Heal Flashbacks

© 2015 Bill Tollefson


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    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 2 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Dear Nadine May,

      Thank you for your comment. For so many people they do not understand that they are being emotionally trigger on unresolved issues in their past by situations in the present or what is about to show up in their future rather than experiencing a panic attack.

      Thanks for taking time to read.

      Blessings, Dr Bill

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thanks for your excellent hub. I seem to deal with a panic attack through having a nightmare. It might have been triggered my a movie, or something I read somewhere, who knows. For some reasons my soul must then have a need to clear out what I call disinformation. What I can do it change my dream while awaken into a lucid dream stage. Or I wake up and go and read.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

      Bill Tollefson 2 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Dear Matty2014

      Thank you for your comment. Hope you follow me and read more of my HUBS.

      On simple terms -

      The experience of abuse or trauma is overwhelming emotional pain that threatens the Soul and avoids all rationalization.

      The measure is when you recollect the incident it hurts.

    • Matty2014 profile image

      Matty2014 2 years ago

      I would be interesting to know what is abusive or traumatise experience?

      I am not asking about the definition, but the abusive or traumatise experience itself. I don't really know how ask this question, but something like how to identify it, and how to measure it, and else