Panic disorders can be difficult to manage for people who don’t understand what causes the attacks to occur. For some, there are specific environmental triggers which can lead to a panic attack. For others, the cause of the uncontrolled panic is not always readily apparent.
Link between Weather and Panic Attacks
One factor that may contribute to increased panic attacks is fluctuating weather conditions. A study conducted by . in Japan examines patterns in behavioral changes among a group of patients with panic disorder. Interestingly enough, the majority of the participants were found to experience more panic attacks in the summer time than in the winter time.
About half of the people in the study saw an increase in attacks when weather conditions were cloudy. Many of the participants also noted more frequent panic attacks in hot weather. Because summer is generally characterized by a combination of high temperatures and heavy rainstorms, it may be an especially difficult season for people with panic disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
The study also considers the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression which emerges in the cooler, darker months and subsides with regular exposure to sunlight or bright light. A diagnosis of SAD in conjunction with panic disorder can result in an increased sensitivity to changes in weather.
Patients in the Ohtani study who had SAD and panic disorder were additionally affected by winter weather. The majority of these participants experienced feelings of depression in the winter and had more frequent panic attacks in hot weather.
What You Can Do
If possible, you should keep a log of the number of panic attacks you have in the summer and in the winter. It is also advisable to share your observations with your therapist if you’re being treated for anxiety so you can discuss ways to lessen the impact of seasonality on your attacks. If you find that your condition is sensitive to weather changes, you should consider the effect your location could be having on the frequency of the panic attacks you experience.
Try to be mindful of stressors in your life that lead to upset and an eventual panic attack. While panic attacks are shown to be caused by hereditary factors and stressful situations, there are some common triggers that are likely to make your attacks worse. Stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine are known to trigger panic attacks and should be avoided.
If you have SAD as well as panic disorder, you should consult with a licensed mental health professional about specific treatment options.