Are Panic Attacks Physical, Mental or Spiritual? Yes.

Are Panic Attacks Physical, Mental or Spiritual? Yes.When it comes to anxiety and panic attacks, I’m often asked if it’s a physical experience, a mental struggle or a spiritual battle. In my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, it’s rooted in all three areas.

Think about water for a moment. It can exists in three distinct states — liquid (water), vapor (steam) and solid (ice). Like water, our being consists of three distinct elements–physical, mental and spiritual. Paul closes out his first letter to the Thessalonians with this encouragement, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v5:23, emphasis mine). That is my prayer over you as well, that God would help you find freedom in your spirit and soul and body.

I hear many stories from those struggling, and very few pursue healing in all three areas. Often, people will pursue a bodily solution (like medication and exercise), but neglect the mental and spiritual aspects. Others may combine body and soul (like exercise and counseling), but neglect the spiritual. And, even faithful believers may focus primarily on the spiritual side of freedom (prayer and deliverance) but neglect the physical and mental aspects.

True freedom comes when you address all these areas.

The Body

Panic attacks are a very physical experience. Your body responds with increased adrenaline, rapid heart beat, shallow breathing and increased blood pressure. It’s getting ready to run or fight. Blood is pumped to your arms for fighting and legs for running. (Ever notice your hands tingling or getting cold?) Acid is released in your stomach to quickly digest food for energy. (Ever get butterflies in your stomach?) Your body is responding to a threat, either real or imagined.

There are certain triggers that can escalate that fight or flight mode, like caffeine or sugar. And, there are physical things you can do to reduce the anxiety, like exercise or medication. Early in my struggles, I found some peace with medication, but today I’m medication free by focusing on diet and exercise to help me release that excessive adrenaline. You can read more on my story about medication. (There maybe other medical triggers causing the anxiety and panic attacks. While it’s very rare, you should talk to you doctor.)

The Soul

The soul is your mind, that part of you that makes choices. The soul is where your memories live and your emotions are experienced. It’s an incredibly complex system of thoughts, ideas, choices and perspectives.

It’s also where anxiety and panic attacks are triggered. Just like the body can trigger those terrifying feelings, so can your soul. Maybe it’s a traumatic memory or a painful parental wound, the soul can initiate those experiences with fear.

When I was in college and the “episodes of fear” were rampant in my life, I made an appointment with a counselor who began sharing with me information about a term I had never heard before: “panic attacks”. A few years later, I began meeting regularly with a pastor who had experienced the same thing, but was now free. He began to teach me about my thoughts and choices, and how to renew my mind (Romans 12:2). But, he didn’t stop there. He began to teach me about…

The Spirit

Understanding the spiritual side of panic attacks changed everything for me. I believe it’s what gave me the edge to find true, complete freedom. Sadly, I believe it’s where most people fall short. The more I began to understand the truth, the more freedom I began to experience. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (Romans 8:32).

Regarding the spiritual side of fear and panic attacks, here are a few of the key topics that were incredibly helpful:


Understanding the finished work of Christ and all he has done for us has revolutionized my relationship with God. Here are a few messages I wrote about grace:


Even today, I don’t completely understand all of the authority that we truly have as believers. God has given us amazing authority here on the earth (Luke 10:19), and I believe the enemy’s greatest strategy is to keep us blind to our authority.

If we truly knew how big and powerful we were and just how small and powerless the enemy was, it would change everything.


Combining all that I learned about the spiritual side of freedom, I chronicled my journey in this series of articles:

Prayer: Father, help me understand the importance of all three areas — body, soul and spirit. Teach me to put all my trust in you, and help me to know the truth so that I can walk in true freedom.

  • gcap

    I recently found your site and cannot express how in just two days I have found more relief from panic attacks n anxiety than in 4 months. Thank u thank u for what u do. Regarding meds…I have not been on anything yet but only recently began panic attacks due to something I am struggling w physically (not related to mood disorder) . I’m thinking of starting on ssri while I’m beginning to heal spiritually and emotionally as well as the physical issue thats temporary. I wouldn’t plan to b on anything long term..but am wondering what ur thoughts are. I am praying god would guide me in this decision as well.

    • Russ Pond

      I’m glad you are finding the site helpful and encouraging. I can understand how confusing the situation with meds can be. It’s hard to know what to do and what not to do. If you get a chance, I wrote an extensive article about my experience with medication for anxiety. You can read it here:

  • rodney southern

    Hi Russ,
    Still hanging around and loving your site. Sorry I have not commented but life has kept me busy. Just wanted you to know that this post was one of your best. Love the parallels that you made and they are spot on. God bless you old friend.

    • Russ Pond

      Thanks Rodney! I appreciate the kind comments. I haven’t been writing much, but trying to get back into it more.

  • Anonymous
  • Lori

    Thank you for the post…very timely!

    • Russ Pond

      Thanks Lori.

  • Valerie Luzzi Weisel

    This is such a great post! I’ve been fighting with anxiety for the last 12 years for my life and spent the first 10 on medication. The last 4 months has been so hard I’ve had to resign from my job and basically resign from my life. I am working on all three mind, body, and spirit and I find that it’s been most helpful. I am still struggling, but I know that through Him I will find peace and come out better off than I was before! I can’t wait for 2013….it’s going to be amazing!!!

    • Russ Pond

      Sorry to hear about your job situation. Keep trusting in Him, and you’ll press through!

  • [email protected]

    I have been looking for a post like this that is from a Christian viewpoint. The rest are all so very depressing. I am a 41 year old wife and Mom of 3 who has struggled with anxiety as far back as I can remember. I was on zoloft for the past 12 years but this last year it seems to not be effective. I am a spirit-filled beliver and have been seeking God with all I can and my doc just switched me off zoloft onto cymbalta. My panic is through the roof horrible. Almost incapacitating. I am planning on doing the Daniel fast with my church next week and am praying for the miracle and healing I believe is in me to manifest. Thank you for giving hope. Jennie J from Michigan

    • Russ Pond

      Hello Jennie, thanks for writing and I’m really sorry to hear about all you’re going through. I know how frustrating and discouraging it can be, but I also know that freedom is possible. You can break this cycle of fear and walk in freedom. I know you can! I’ll be praying with you as you start this Daniel fast, that God would reveal himself to you in a way that will break the strongholds of fear and panic in your life, in Christ!

    • David L

      Read the book by Neil Anderson call “Bondage Breaker” It has helped me.
      Also read and memorize bible verses as much as you can. Read about Gods grace!

  • Amanda J

    I’ve just found your website today – and I don’t think by accident. Panic attacks are a new thing for me; I’ve only been experiencing them over the past 3-6 months, though I had a few random flights throughout my mid-twenties. I’ve been through a divorce, remarried, and gave birth to two lovely children who are only 13mos apart… and then the panic set in. Physically, coffee is a trigger. But I know the roots go down deeper. I am grateful for the whole-body approach you have discussed. For me, I believe some of the spiritual triggers have to do with my dad passing away when I was young (and my fear of the same for my children now), as well as some heavy loads of guilt, more lies I’ve bought into over the course of a whirlwind past 5 years. I’ve loved and served Jesus since I was 6 years old, and while I’ve had a cat scan and blood work done at the height of my fears, I have believe from the beginning that most of this attack was spiritual… And I know there is freedom in Christ. But I am SO overwhelmingly grateful tonight for your reminders. I needed them today. -Sincerely, Amanda

    • Russ Pond

      Glad you found the website!

  • wrangler

    I had my first level 9 attack when I was 26. It was after a major geographical, social, economical and career change all at once. Then the attack. I am now in my early 50s and still experience level 10 and sometimes what I think is above that as though surely no one has experienced what I have. I prayed harder than ever along with asking many believers and followers of Christ to pray for me. I cannot wait to order your book and continue to research all on your site. Praise God.

    • Russ Pond

      Thanks for posting. Sorry to hear about your continued experience with the attacks. I know how frustrating, debilitating and confusing they can be. I hope you find the information on this website and in the Season of Grace book helpful. The Season of Grace book is my life story on how I found freedom.

      • wrangler

        Thanks Russ. I plan on ordering the book this evening when I get home from work. I have a very interesting testimonial I believe God would want me to share when the time is right. Merry Christmas.

        • Russ Pond

          I look forward to hearing more!

  • Angie

    This is so true, its focused on 3 Areas, Mental, Physical and Spiritual. For Spiritual side of healing. I know of a great ministry to refer to those in need seeing deliverance:

  • Angie

    This is so true, its focused on 3 Areas, Mental, Physical and Spiritual. For Spiritual side of healing. I know of a great ministry to refer to those in need seeing deliverance:

  • sandra

    I have these terrible panick attack and fear.Its comes from time to time .It has been awile I did not get it ,only a month ago it started again I am a believer in Jesus Christ.THESE ATTCK COMES WITH THE FEAR OF DEATH AND MAKING me feel like I am dying and their hope.I am still trusting the lord and taking my medication.sandra

    • Angie

      Hi Sandra, your post have me in tears for i am batteling exact same thing, you are the first person i heard of that is going though the same thing as me. if you would like to talk more, that would be great,

  • Steve Maples

    Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

    Nobody knows my sorrow

    Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

    Glory hallelujah!

    Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down

    Oh, yes, Lord

    Sometimes I’m almost to the ground

    Oh, yes, Lord

    Although you see me going ‘long so

    Oh, yes, Lord

    I have my trials here below

    Oh, yes, Lord

    If you get there before I do

    Oh, yes, Lord

    Tell all-a my friends I’m coming to Heaven!

    Oh, yes, Lord

    After reading some of the stories/testimonies on this website, I know there are those who do not know the troubles I’ve seen, but there are many who have known the same troubles OF ANXIETY. When my wife became pregnant with our first child – I suffered a lot of apprehension, anxiety and fear of the awesome responsibility of becoming a father – If I would be a good father – If I could take care of my child in the event something were to happen to my wife. I also had massive anxieties about my wife’s overall health during the pregnancy , as well as the actual birthing process. THAN, I read a new parenting magazine and some of the article were about men going through the exact same thing I was experiencing. And when I realized there were many men out there who were going through the same fears, I felt normal again – that I was not some wimp or goof ball for feeling all these weird scary feelings. Just knowing there is somebody else out there who has the same experiences HELPS. When you know you are not strange or abnormal, or as a man – A COWARD, you begin to alleviate a lot of those crippling phobias, and now you can focus your efforts on more important things – YOUR LIFE! Praise the Lord for this website – there is a lot of good stuff written here. I am an ordained minister, and I have suffered crippling and debilitating anxiety for over 19 years. There is help in the Lord, and HE uses people and forums just like this to help and heal, amen!