Why Do I Get Random Panic Attacks For No Reason?

It can be confusing, frustrating and even terrifying to experience random panic attacks that appear to occur for no reason.

You may feel completely calm one moment before experiencing a range of physical and psychological symptoms that leave you feeling as though you are going crazy or having a heart attack.

There are two main types of panic attacks, labelled as expected and unexpected. An expected panic attack has an identifiable trigger – for example, if you are afraid of flying then an expected panic attack would likely occur on the plane.

In comparison, unexpected panic attacks appear to happen out of the blue and seemingly for no reason.

Why do panic attacks happen out of the blue?

Panic attacks often happen without warning, and it’s even possible to experience a panic attack in your sleep.

They occur due to the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response during which the body produces a rush of adrenaline, increases the heart rate and sharpens the senses in preparation to run away from danger or successfully fight off the threat.

This response is useful during potentially dangerous situations such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster but can be confusing and scary when there is no immediate threat.

Some studies show that people who experience frequent panic attacks often begin to show signs of the ‘fight or flight’ response building a few hours before the episode, which may indicate that random panic attacks occur due to a build-up of stress and other emotions. [1]

Many people also misinterpret the signs of anxiety as a heart attack or other serious illness, triggering a panic attack.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

Panic attacks usually present with a number of common symptoms. Some people mistake these symptoms for a heart attack or other serious illness, which can make the panic attack feel like a terrifying experience. [2]

In most cases, a panic attack will last for around 10 minutes, although it may take longer to calm down after the experience.

If a panic attack feels as though it is going on for a long time, you may be experiencing a string of panic attacks in a row.

Common symptoms of a panic attack include:

  • An increased heart rate that feels like it’s pounding or racing
  • Feeling faint and dizzy
  • Tingling in the lips and fingers
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Extreme fear and anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Hyperventilation
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Sense of impending doom, feeling as though something bad is about to happen
  • Feeling disconnected from yourself and/or the situation
  • Finding it difficult to breathe
  • Experiencing hot flushes or feeling very cold
  • The sensation of choking or a lump in your throat
  • Chest or abdomen pain

The above symptoms can feel extremely intense and scary, and this is due to the body’s ‘flight or flight’ response being activated due to a real or perceived threat. In most cases, a panic attack is an extreme reaction to a minor or even imaginary danger and will usually pass fairly quickly.

What to do during a panic attack

You may feel as though you are helpless during a panic attack and that your best option is to ride it out and wait until it passes.

Thankfully, there are a number of techniques that you can try while you are experiencing a panic attack that can help the episode pass faster or even stop completely.

It’s important to remember that panic attacks are not inherently dangerous and that the unpleasant sensations are merely temporary.

This knowledge alone can help you to get through a panic attack without becoming overwhelmingly frightened or anxious:

1. Focus on your breathing

When you hyperventilate, you begin to lose control of your response to the situation and increase the likelihood of experiencing other panic attack symptoms such as lightheadedness and tingling in the lips and fingers.

It can be helpful to focus on taking slow, deep breaths as you breathe in for three seconds, hold for two and then release the breath for another three seconds. This will calm your mind and can often stop a panic attack in its tracks as well as reducing the chances of experiencing additional symptoms.

2. Practice mindfulness

A common symptom of a panic attack is the feeling of being disconnected from yourself or the situation, and you may even feel as though you are simply observing the experience as opposed to actually living it. This can feel extremely disconcerting and may cause you to feel even more panicked and anxious.

To counteract this symptom, try practising mindfulness techniques such as relaxing each muscle individually or counting to a certain number. These actions help to ground you and bring you back to the present moment and allow you to focus on something that feels real and intentional.

3. Remind yourself that it will pass

For most people, the scariest aspect of a panic attack is the fear that it signifies something dangerous or that it will never end. Next time you notice a panic attack building, try repeating to yourself,’I am experiencing a panic attack. I am safe and this feeling will pass.’

If you continue to repeat this phrase each time you have a panic attack, you will slowly begin to realise that each episode passed with no lasting ill effects.

As a result, the phrase will act as a reminder that you are in no immediate danger and will allow the panic attack to pass more quickly.

4. Picture a relaxing place

Create an image in your mind of the most tranquil, relaxing place you can imagine. It may be a little cabin out in the forest, a hammock on a sandy beach or a garden filled with fresh flowers.

Try to picture every small detail, from the sound of the bees buzzing to the smell of the wood-burning on the campfire.

Focusing on this image can help to calm your mind and allow you to relax. It teaches your body and brain that there is no immediate threat and that it is safe to come down from high alert.

5. Use natural remedies

Smelling fresh lavender or diffusing non-toxic lavender essential oil can help you to feel calmer and more relaxed during a panic attack due to the natural compounds that are released by this purple plant. [3]

Dilute lavender oil with water and dab it on your wrists, or spray it on your pillows and bedsheets to create a serene and safe environment.

It’s important to note that you should check with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before attempting natural home remedies that include essential oils.


[1] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110727122651.htm

[2] https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/mental-wellbeing/anxiety-and-panic/how-to-deal-with-panic-attacks

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/