Causes Of Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Although the exact causes of panic attacks and panic disorder are unclear, the tendency to have panic attacks runs in families. There also appears to be a connection with major life transitions such as graduating from college and entering the workplace, getting married, or having a baby. Severe stress, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss can also trigger panic attacks.
Panic attacks can also be caused by medical conditions and other physical causes. If youre suffering from symptoms of panic, its important to see a doctor to rule out the following possibilities:
Biological Causes Of Anxiety Disorders
Genetics and biology play a role in the creation of anxiety disorders. Not only does anxiety appear to run in families – if you take two people with similar experiences, one may have an anxiety disorder, one may not, and the only difference between them may be genetic, or at least influenced by the body more than the mind. Biological causes include:
Cultural Differences Related To Panic Disorder
It is important to consider a cultural lens to best understand how panic disorder presents. Research has shown that there are cultural differences in the way people view panic attacks and in the way different racial and ethnic groups receive and perceive a diagnosis of panic disorder.
There is evidence for panic disorder-like diagnoses across cultures, such as ataque de nervios in Latin American communities. Research has shown that African Americans experience more functional impairment than non-Latino white Americans. This is not an exhaustive list of cultural factors related to panic disorder, but it does highlight cultural differences that may affect the presentation of panic disorder as well as individual differences in the interpretation of panic symptoms .
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Deregulation Of Brain Chemistry
Several studies have shown that brain chemistry imbalances are a very likely cause of anxiety disorders. This research has shown that those suffering from anxiety often have issues with several neurotransmitters , including serotonin, norepinephrine and gamma-aminobutyric acid .
Its not entirely clear if the imbalance was due to poor coping strategies, or if the imbalances came first and lead to the experience of anxiety. Therapy – without any medicinal intervention – has been shown to improve chemical regulation, indicating that even though there may be a biological component, the mind can overcome them and improve the flow of neurotransmitters throughout the brain.
But in some cases, doctors prescribe medicines for these issues that are specifically designed to improve neurotransmitter regulation, and they often work at least in small doses. This indicates that neurotransmitters are something that can be changed both biologically and environmentally.
Serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA also play a role in sleep, mood, and emotional stability, each of which can affect experiences that lead to anxiety disorders.
For more information, consider the following topics to read:
- Serotonin and Anxiety
- Serotonin Deficiency and All Anxiety
- Chemical Imbalances and Anxiety
What Are The Complications Of Panic Disorder
As the panic gets worse and an attacks last longer, you may find it very tough to cope with everyday life, keep a job, or function in social settings. You may fear going into places where it may be hard to escape or you feel trapped. Some people can’t leave their home for fear that help is not available or that he or she will be forced into a situation that will trigger an attack.
People with this condition may also abuse alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.
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Anxiety Attacks Vs Panic Attacks
Anxiety attacks share many of the same symptoms as a panic attack, including rapid heartbeat, sweating, and racing thoughts. Anxiety attacks are usually slightly less severe than a panic attack, and may not involve a specific trigger or phobia. Anxiety attacks usually also dont involve fear of the specific place where the attack took place, as panic attacks often do.
To be diagnosed with panic disorder, physical ailments like thyroid and respiratory issues need to be ruled out. You usually have to have had multiple panic attacks, and the panic attacks have to had impacted your quality of life and ability to function well.
When Might I Have Panic Attacks
Panic attacks happen at different times for everyone. Some people have one panic attack then don’t ever experience another, or you might find that you have them regularly, or several in a short space of time. You might notice that particular places, situations or activities seem to trigger panic attacks. For example, they might happen before a stressful appointment.
Most panic attacks last between 5 to 20 minutes. They can come on very quickly. Your symptoms will usually be at their worst within 10 minutes. You might also experience symptoms of a panic attack over a longer period of time. This could be because you’re having a second panic attack, or you’re experiencing other symptoms of anxiety.
“My panic attacks seem to come out of the blue now. But in fact, they seem to be triggered mainly at night when I want to go to sleep but cannot stop my mind racing, experiencing worry and panic about anything that may be on my mind.”
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What Is A Panic Attack
A panic attack is a brief episode of intense anxiety, which causes the physical sensations of fear. These can include a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling and muscle tension. Panic attacks occur frequently and unexpectedly and are often not related to any external threat. A panic attack can last from a few minutes to half an hour. However, the physical and emotional effects of the attack may last for a few hours. Panic attacks are common. Up to 35% of the population experience a panic attack at some time in their lives. A panic attack can also be called an anxiety attack. Without treatment, frequent and prolonged panic attacks can be severely disabling. The person may choose to avoid a wide range of situations for fear of experiencing an attack.
Try Visualizing Your Happy Place
During the panic attack, close your eyes and visualize a happy memory or place. It can be anywhere that makes you feel calm and relaxed. For some people its a beach or a park, for others it might be a childhood memory. And theyre not just for kids! Adults can benefit from visualization exercises, too.
When you have a panic attack, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. This means that your heart rate increases and you start to breathe more rapidly. These physical changes can be very frightening and make you feel like youre in danger. In that case, visualization is a great way to calm your body and mind.
So, these are some of the best strategies for panic attack treatment. If youre struggling with panic attacks, give these techniques a try and see what works best for you. Remember, you are not alone and there is help available. With the right treatment, you can overcome panic attacks and live a healthy, happy life.
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Foods To Eat In Anxiety And Pain Attacks
Following are some of the foods that improve anxiety and panic attacks
1. Dark Chocolate
Because of the high content of polyphenols and tryptophan, dark chocolates improves mood and improves blood flow to the brain.
Salmon contains a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. These omega-3 fatty acids improve the concentration of serotonin and dopamine.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of various minerals like zinc and magnesium. These minerals alter the functioning of the brain and manage anxiety.
Yogurt is a powerful probiotic that has a positive effect on brain health. Study indicates that increased use of yogurt in the diet helps in increased happiness.
Chamomile contains various flavonoids. These flavonoids are responsible for the anxiety-reducing effect of chamomile.
Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant and possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in managing anxiety disorder.
7. Green Tea
Green tea contains L-theanine, which reduces stress and anxiety. It also reduces the level of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is related to stress and anxiety.
Avocado contains various B vitamins that relieve stress. It also helps in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters.
Various foods cause anxiety and panic attacks. People experience anxiety after eating some types of food.
Anxiety Caused By Lifestyle Habits
Never underestimate the effect your lifestyle can have on your anxiety levels. For example, some research has shown that those that do not exercise are more prone to developing anxiety, because their body has unused energy, and because they start producing less stress-coping hormones.
Similarly, although diet does not traditionally cause significant anxiety, it can still play a role. Caffeine, for example, can exacerbate mild anxiety symptoms. Unhealthy foods can cause you to feel unhealthy, which in turn causes stress that leads to anxiety. Drug use is frequently a cause of anxiety.
This is why even with therapy and medicine, a change to lifestyle habits is often necessary.
For more information, consider the following topics to read:
- Anxiety and Television
- Anxiety and Dehydration
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Treatment For Panic And Anxiety
For anxiety or panic attacks, luckily there is a treatment that is effective for both. The most common treatment options are prescription medication, therapy and self-help strategies. Many people practice a combination of these methods for relief.
- Prescription medications- help reduce symptoms, and may only be needed for a short period of time
- Therapy- help you better understand your symptoms, develop ways to manage them, help gain a more positive outlook
- Self-help techniques- help with relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, positive affirmations, progressive muscle relaxation, journaling, yoga, positive mantras, physical exercise, nutritional therapy, and meditation
What Do Panic Attacks Feel Like
During a panic attack, physical symptoms can build up very quickly. These can include:
- a pounding or racing heartbeat
- feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- feeling very hot or very cold
- sweating, trembling or shaking
- pain in your chest or abdomen
- struggling to breathe or feeling like you’re choking
- feeling like your legs are shaky or are turning to jelly
- feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings, which are types of dissociation.
During a panic attack you might feel very afraid that you’re:
- losing control
- going to die.
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Keep Lavender Oil Handy
Lavender oil has long been used as a natural remedy for anxiety and panic attacks. When you feel an attack coming on, take a few deep breaths and dab some lavender oil on your wrists or temples. The scent will help you relax and hopefully prevent the attack from happening.
If you dont have lavender oil, you can also try using a diffuser with lavender essential oils. This remedy takes a bit longer to work, but it can be just as effective.
Give Cognitive Behavioural Therapy A Go
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also known as CBT, sounds a lot scarier than it actually is! The medicine-free treatment is designed to make you think and react in a different way when you find yourself feeling anxious or a panic attack coming on.
It gives you coping mechanisms when you get a feeling of unease in everyday situations. Practising these coping mechanisms enables you to tackle challenging moments, and eventually your anxiety is likely to lessen.
CBT is now available for free on the NHS with Talking Therapies. You dont need to be referred by your GP either. You simply fill in a form, and hey presto, youre on your way to receiving therapy. Easy!
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Psychosocial And Environmental Causes
Psychosocial factors refer to how the things and people in your environment affect your thoughts and emotions.
When it comes to the causes of panic disorder, life experiences, childhood observations, and parental influences may all increase what is known as anxiety sensitivity.
A 2018 study showed that anxiety sensitivity is a suspected contributing cause of panic disorder.
When you live with anxiety sensitivity, you tend to believe that any sign or symptom of anxiety poses a serious risk to your health.
For example, if you feel tightness in your chest, you might immediately think youre having a heart attack. If you experience shortness of breath, you might believe youre about to faint.
This fear, in turn, increases your anxiety levels and might lead you to experience recurrent panic attacks.
If you have anxiety sensitivity, youre also more likely to fear panic attacks. This might cause you to experience more of these episodes, and so a vicious cycle begins.
Other possible environmental causes of panic disorder include:
- sexual and physical abuse
- trauma during childhood or adulthood
- significant childhood or adult losses
- use of prescription or illicit substances
- chronic physical illnesses
Panic Attacks Quiz: Do I Have Panic Disorder
In order to manage threatening situations, humans have evolved to experience a “fight or flight” response. As part of this response, when humans are confronted with a dangerous situation, their body mobilizes by sending blood away from their extremities and into the major muscles, producing adrenaline, and increasing heart rate so that we are better equipped to fight off danger.
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Can Medication Help
Antidepressants have been shown to reduce symptoms of panic attacks and can provide assistance in reducing the physical symptoms that come with an attack.
Both selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants have been found to be equally effective at reducing panic severity and the number of attacks .
While neither medication has been proven to be more effective than the other at treating panic attacks, it is important to understand the chemicals in the brain that are targeted by both medication groups.
The aim of SSRIs is to increase the brainâs production of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are believed to improve mood.
The choice of medication should be based on the individualâs medical history and individual temperament. A consultation with your primary healthcare provider is always recommended before taking medication, as different medications will be more or less effective for different people.
When To Get Help
See a GP if you’ve been experiencing symptoms of panic disorder.
They’ll ask you to describe your symptoms, how often you get them, and how long you have had them.
They may also carry out a physical examination to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
It can sometimes be difficult to talk about your feelings, emotions and personal life, but try not to feel anxious or embarrassed.
You may be diagnosed with panic disorder if you have regular and unexpected panic attacks followed by at least a month of continuous worry or concern about having further attacks.
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When Are Panic Attacks Most Likely To Occur
There is no timetable for panic attack. They can arise any time, and theyre even known to awaken people from sleep. Studies show that up to one quarter of the population experience an isolated panic attack at some point in life. However, their very unpredictability gives them great power to shape subsequent behavior attacks are so distressing that people sometimes restrict their activity to avoid the possibility of having another attack. When fear of further panic attacks drives behavior, panic disorder is said to exist. It is often accompanied by agoraphobia, a fear of enclosed spaces or crowded open spaces from which there may seem to be no escapeor a fear of traveling by oneself or leaving home altogether. The median age of onset of panic attacks is 24. Women are twice as likely as men to have panic attacks. They are common in many other mental health disorders besides anxiety. Panic attacks are rare in people over 60.
What These Factors Have In Common
What causes panic attacks to invade a person’s life? Genetic predisposition, early childhood experience with anxiety and risk, and challenging changes on becoming an independent adult.
What these three factors have in common is that none of them were under your own control. These are all developmental events in life which happen to some people. The factors which cause panic attacks are not something you could have controlled.
There is therefore no reason to feel guilty, ashamed, or apologetic about having panic attacks. They are not the result of living badly or of making bad choices or of being “stupid”, or cowardly.
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Panic Attacks Vs Anxiety Attacks
You may wonder, do I have anxiety attacks? Or do I have panic attacks?
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks have different features although it is common for people to use them interchangeably. This is somewhat understandable given they do share some common symptoms.Panic attacks are a surge of intense discomfort or fear that have other physical and mental symptoms.
Anxiety attacks are protective and is a part of the emotional response that is integrated with the human body. When anxiety becomes overwhelming where it impedes your everyday life, that is when it becomes concerning.
When a person experience panic attacks or anxiety attacks they may be tempted to use drugs or alcohol to cope. This often leads to substance abuse and dual diagnosis, a combination of substance abuse and mental health concerns.
What Causes Panic Attacks
Experts dont know why some people experience panic attacks or develop panic disorder. The brain and nervous system play key roles in how you perceive and handle fear and anxiety. Your risk of having panic attacks increases if you have:
- Family history:Anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, often run in families. Experts arent sure why.
- Mental health issues: People who have anxiety disorders, depression or other mental illness are more prone to panic attacks.
- Substance abuse problems:Alcoholism and drug addiction can increase the risk of panic attacks.
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