What Are the Most Common Causes of Panic Attacks?

Panic Attacks: What Causes Them?

A panic attack is a sudden, intense fear, followed by a severe physical reaction when there is no obvious or apparent cause. They can be extremely frightening and make a person feel like they are having a heart attack or even dying. Panic attacks can make you feel like you are losing control.

Panic attacks are sudden feelings of terror when there is no real danger. You may feel as if you are losing control. You may also have physical symptoms, such as:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill
  • Tingly or numb hands

Panic attacks can happen anytime, anywhere, and without warning. You may live in fear of another attack and may avoid places where you have had an attack. For some people, fear takes over their lives and they cannot leave their homes.

Panic attacks can occur occasionally, or some people have them frequently. They can cause extreme fatigue and make a person feel worn out once the attack is over.

Most Common Causes of Panic Attacks

No one knows exactly what causes panic attacks. Some of the factors that may play a role can include:

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Genetics
  • Someone more sensitive to stress or prone to negative emotions
  • Certain changes in the way parts of the brain functions

Panic attacks are usually triggered by certain situations. Research suggests that the body’s fight-or-flight response plays a role when it detects danger, but the exact cause is not known. And as stated above, panic attacks occur when there is no obvious cause.

Risk Factors For Panic Attacks

Some factors may increase the risk of a person developing panic attacks or a panic disorder. (A panic disorder is a condition that causes recurrent, unexpected panic attacks; panic disorders can cause a person to live in constant fear of another attack). Some of these factors can include:

  • Excessive caffeine or nicotine intake
  • History of childhood abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual)
  • Major life stressors such as a death of a friend or family member
  • Family history of panic attacks or panic disorder
  • Trauma such as a serious accident or sexual assault
  • Major life changes like a divorce, separation, or birth of a baby

Panic disorders usually start in the late teens or early adulthood, and they affect more women than men.

Complications of Panic Attacks

There is no way to prevent a panic attack or disorder from occurring. And panic attacks/panic disorders can cause major complications in a person’s life if they are left untreated, and they can dramatically ruin your quality of life. If left untreated, panic disorders can increase the risk of a person developing an alcohol or substance abuse issue. They can also cause problems with work and school, depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric disorders, increased risk of suicide, and avoidance of social situations.

It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible so the condition doesn’t get worse. Getting regular exercise or physical activity and sticking with a treatment plan can help to prevent future attacks.

Treatment for Mental Illness

If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, panic disorder, or any other mental health issue, our mental health experts are available to assist you around the clock. Voices of Mental Health has a standing passion for helping others achieve peace, serenity, and fulfillment. We will help you access top treatment centers with caring and supportive assistance. You don’t have to suffer any longer, call us today.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Cayla Clark, BA

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.