Causes of Panic Attacks – General
Causes of panic attacks are not fully understood but there are some common characteristics of the disorder. A panic attack is generally described as the sudden arrival of powerful anxiety, accompanied by feelings of deep fear and extreme angst, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating and a number of other symptoms. While it is not understood what the panic attack causes are it is thought that several things could play a role including a mix of factors such as environmental and biological.
Causes of Panic Attacks – Some Factors
Panic disorder has also been shown to run in families and so experts have looked at genetics for panic attacks as being a possible cause for some people. In the same way that hair or eye color is passed down by one or both parents, it might be that a person is predisposed to having these attacks by family history. A family member who has or had a panic disorder or some other emotional disorder like depression has been shown to be part of history of some panic attack sufferers.
Abnormalities in the brain are another possible biological source triggering panic attacks. Certain changes in the way that parts of the brain function could result in a panic disorder. Psychotic disorders like schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder are suggested by recent studies to often co-occur with panic attacks. It is also possible that panic attacks may result from psychotic symptoms. Post-traumatic stress disorder or specific anxiety disorders may predict or precede the onset of psychotic episodes as well. Your body’s natural fight-or-flight response to danger may also be involved in panic attacks as suggested by some research. The body’s will often respond to a threat using natural alarm system composed of a set of mental and physical mechanisms. These send messages around the body that says fight or run but which ever way it causes the body to respond with a faster heart rate and rapid breathing. During a panic attack, when there is no real danger, only perceived danger these feelings are unnecessarily triggered. It is still unclear why a panic attack occurs then the danger is not real and illogical.
Causes of Panic Attacks – Major Life Stresses
Panic attacks may also be caused in some cases by some major life stress as well. Stress may be stimulated by a major life transition like the separation or death of a loved one or by a stressful event. When stresses lower your resistance in these situations, some researchers have found that the underlying physical predisposition to fight or flight response is triggered and this may prompt an attack.
Addiction as an environmental factor may cause panic attacks. Panic disorder in an individual may also be caused either by the withdrawal of or the intoxication of alcohol or drugs. Thus the attack is essentially due to substance abuse. Sometimes environmental and biological sources of a panic disorder might work together. Generally, attacks happen unexpectedly. However, eventually the sufferer may be responding to physical symptoms associated with an attack and therefore might be bringing these attacks onto themselves. For example, a person suffering from a panic disorder might interpret as a symptom of an attack a racing heartbeat. The racing heart rate could be caused by something like taking a certain medication which is completely unrelated to any situational stimulus. The sufferer might therefore be self-inducing an attack due to their anxiety of that very attack occurring since the fear of having another panic attack is a lot of the fear associated with an attack in the first place. It is important to seek treatment through several different forms of therapy, since the exact cause of panic disorders are not fully understood.
An overview of the topic from here