What Causes Anxiety and Panic Attacks?

If you or a loved one suffers from anxiety attacks or panic attacks you may wonder what causes them. It’s important to know that anxiety disorders are real disorders. They are real health problems with real treatments and cures.

Unfortunately, scientists and doctors are not certain what causes an anxiety disorder for any particular person. There are actually several theories on what causes anxiety and panic attacks.

1. Heredity. While panic and anxiety disorders themselves are not hereditary, it’s theorized that a person can be predisposed to an anxiety disorder based on some genetic factors. As we’ll discuss next, brain chemistry tends to be different for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks.

Scientists theorize that genetics may play a role in some of the factors that determine brain chemistry. If someone has a few genetic markers that make their brain chemistry more susceptible to an anxiety disorder and their environment also supports anxiety they may suffer from panic attacks.

However, the same brain chemistry markers in a different environment may never experience an anxiety attack in their life.

2. Brain chemistry. Our brains are complicated organs. A run around the block can produce enough endorphins for one person to stay happy and positive for days, while another person may not experience any endorphin release.

Alcohol, caffeine, nutrition, genetics and exercise all play a role in brain chemistry. When the right combination of events coupled with a primed brain chemistry can provoke a panic attack. They can come right out of nowhere and render a person helpless. The good news is that diet and nutrition are easier to control than genetics. And medication can control brain chemistry.

3. Nutritional gaps. Some scientists have drawn a link between magnesium deficiency and anxiety disorders. And we know that vitamin D plays an important role in emotion and mood.

4. Stress. Stress can wear down a person’s systems. And while stress cannot be avoided, it can be managed through lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques. Too much stress can lead to an anxiety disorder and panic attacks.

5. Habits. Negative self talk and an overactive imagination can turn into a serious anxiety disorder. It’s very easy to allow yourself to imagine a worst case scenario for anything. Once you’ve embraced that worst case scenario inside your mind, your body begins to react. You can make your heart pound, your palms sweat and your stomach clench just thinking about all the awful things that can happen to you and your loved ones.

Conversely, you can choose to think about positive experiences, silver linings and best case scenarios. Sometimes the mindset habits we adopt can cause us to sink into serious anxiety.

There’s no doubt that the causes for anxiety and panic attacks are still largely unknown. However, doctors do know that with behavioral therapy and/or psychotherapy many people are able to overcome anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes all it takes is a few lifestyle changes and a few learned coping mechanisms to live panic and anxiety free.

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