Panic Attack Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Panic Attack? A sudden onset of apprehension or intense fear lasting for a brief duration is known as a panic attack. The first panic attack can be a scary experience with a lot of people thinking that they are having a nervous breakdown or heart attack. Panic attacks may be symptoms of an anxiety disorder. The peak age at which people have their first panic attack (onset) is 15-19 years. Another fact about panic is that this symptom is strikingly different from other types of anxiety; panic attacks are so very sudden and often unexpected, appear to be unprovoked, and are often disabling.

Panic Attack Causes are various:



  1. Heredity
  2. Biological causes of panic disorder – Obsessive compulsive disorder, hypoglycemia, post traumatic stress disorder, hyperthyroidism, Wilson’s disease, mitral valve prolapse, pheochromocytoma, labyrinthitis and vitamin B deficiency.
  3. Phobias
  4. Short-term triggers of panic disorder- Emotional attachment, personal loss, significant changes in life
  5. Un-assertive communication
  6. Medications
  7. Alcohol, drug or medication withdrawal
  8. Hyperventilation syndrome
  9. Pharmacological triggers
  10. Illnesses

Even though the victim of a panic attack may think that his/her body is dying, it is in reality trying to protect itself. A sudden sense of fear releases adrenalin that prepares the body for intense physical activity. This causes an increase in the heart rate, rapid breathing and sweating. Because no physical activity actually happens, the carbon dioxide levels reduce resulting in dizziness, burning, lightheartedness and numbness. When adrenaline is released, the blood flowing to the head decreases and this can also cause dizziness.

Although the duration of a panic attack can vary greatly

It typically lasts for more than 10 minutes, is one of the most distressing conditions that a person can experience, and its symptoms can closely mimic those of a heart attack. Typically, most people who have one attack will have others, and when someone has repeated attacks with no other apparent physical or emotional cause, or feels severe anxiety about having another attack, he or she is said to have panic disorder. A number of other emotional problems can have panic attacks as a symptom. Some of these illnesses include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and intoxication or withdrawal from certain drugs of abuse.

Behavior therapy, psychological therapies and medication have been found effective in treating panic attacks.  Psychotherapy– A combination of behavioral and cognitive therapy that emphasizes on helping the patient to understand panic disorders have been found most appropriate and useful. Paper bag breathing- Breathing into a paper bag can help to balance the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. This is however dangerous if hyperventilation is because of lack of oxygen rather than carbon dioxide.

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