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What Causes Anxiety Attacks

What Causes Anxiety Attacks

The causes of anxiety attack range from something as simple as stage fear or the fear of elevators, to something much more serious, such as some underlying medical condition.
PsycholoGenie Staff
The discomfort and fear associated with anxiety attacks have given them a bad reputation. Not many people actually know what causes them, and this ignorance makes these people live in constant fear of suffering from such attacks, which, in turn, makes them more vulnerable to severe anxiety.

What is an Anxiety Attack?

Anxiety attacks, often referred to as 'panic attacks' in medical terminology, are episodes of intense panic or fear that occur without any sort of warning. On an average, the duration of these attacks ranges between a few seconds to about half an hour, with symptoms reaching their peak in a span of 10 minutes or so. The distressful condition to which the person is subjected to, can turn out to be a frightening and uncomfortable experience. A person suffering from anxiety attack is likely to feel as if he is suffering from a heart attack or nervous breakdown. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include increased heartbeat, profuse sweating, feeling numb, weakness in knees, fear of dying, etc.

Causes of Anxiety Attacks

It is very difficult to determine the exact causes of this condition, as they tend to differ from person to person. An individual is likely to suffer from such attack when he doesn't know how to react to a certain situation. The situation here can be anything ... being stuck in an elevator, making a presentation, or performing on a stage. In fact, fear is one of the most prominent triggers when it comes to anxiety attacks in children. Similarly, a person becomes vulnerable to them when an important occurrence, such as losing a job, or divorce, alters the course of life. Major incidents, like death in the family or heavy financial loss, also act as triggers for such attacks. Anxiety attacks are also common in people suffering from psychological disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Other than the psychological causes mentioned above, some physical factors also act as triggers. Antidepressants and other prescribed medication, which can interfere with normal functioning of the brain, can also cause panic in some people. At times, anxiety attack episodes are closely associated with withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse. That's not quite surprising, as people are so involved in their addiction that they just can't visualize life without these substances. There also exist some medical conditions, such as catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) and Long QT syndrome, which act as triggers in some individuals.

Such attacks while sleeping are attributed to conditions such as hyperthyroidism and Vitamin B deficiency. Even some sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and pavor nocturnus, can trigger anxiety attacks at night. In fact, anxiety is considered to be a symptom for these medical conditions, and a person experiencing such attacks should also get himself diagnosed for them. Some people are more vulnerable to this condition than others, such that they tend to panic about every small occurrence in life. It is very difficult to ascertain what causes anxiety attacks in such people. Even though it is considered a hereditary problem, individuals with no family history of anxiety disorders can also suffer from the same.

Anxiety attacks come all of sudden and thus, you have a very short time to react. Controlled breathing and distraction can help ease the situation, thus giving you enough time to ask for help by calling emergency services. If you are prone to such attacks, you can carry a paper bag with you. Breathing into it, is one of the most effective method of tackling the problem. While that gives you temporary relief, it is important to diagnose the underlying condition and treat it at the earliest by resorting to psychological therapies and medication. In fact, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the best among various anxiety cures. Taking into consideration the seriousness of this issue, it's more than obvious that your ability to deal with anxiety attacks on your own can turn out to be a boon in itself.