Know the Cause of Panic Attack



What are the causes?


Heredity, other biological factors, stressful life events, and thinking in a way that exagerates relatively normal bodily reactions in catastrophic evens are all believed to plan a role in the onset of panic disorder.  Some research suggests panic attacks occur when a “suffocation alarm mechanism” in the brain erroneously fires, falsely reporting that death is imminent.  Some feel suffocated by stress.  There is a free on-line test at you can take BUT this is NOT a substitute for seeking professional advice if that is needed.

Many people with panic disorder develop intense anxiety between episodes, worrying when and where the next one will strike.  About 30% of people with panic disorder use alcohol and 17% use drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, in unsuccessful attempts to alleviate the anguish and distress caused by their condition.  Other stimulants such as cigarettes and caffeine found in coffee or soft drinks can also be a source of panic symptoms.

Sleep deprivation can make attacks much more likely.  When you have panic attacks, make sure you get a full night’s sleep. When you aren’t sleeping properly, you are more likely to suffer an attack, and less likely to handle it well. Try to get 8 hours of sleep each night. You need to maintain a good sleep schedule if you are prone to panic attacks.

It is not unusual for a person with social anxiety disorder to develop phobias about places or situations where panic attacks have occurred, such as in supermarkets or other everyday situations.  As the frequency of panic attacks increases, the person often begins to avoid situations where they fear another attack may occur or where help would not be immediately available.  this avoidance may eventually develop into agoraphobia, an inability to go beyond known and safe surroundings because of intense fear and anxiety.

NIMH has a great book that provides a brief overview of the symptoms and treatment options of the major anxiety disorders:

  • panic disorder
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • spcial phobia
  • specific phobias
  • generalized anxiety disorder

and lists organizations to contact for further information.  See:


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Page last updated August 27, 2017