The release of certain chemicals by the brain when it perceives danger is the most basic cause of panic attacks. But what causes the release of these chemicals is not completely understood by medical professionals. Why do some people respond to a particular situation with anxiety or panic, while others take the situation in stride? What critical differences are there in the brain's biochemistry and function? These questions remain largely unanswered.
There are factors apart from biochemistry that seem to play a role in triggering panic attacks. Just being aware of them can help a panic sufferer to get proper diagnosis and treatment.
Panic and anxiety disorders tend to run in families. But the presence of the disorder in the family tree is not a sure indicator. Certainly, not all children of sufferers will develop panic disorders, and some who suffer from the disorder have no family history of it. In other words, there is definitely a greater chance of having panic attacks if someone else in your family does, but there's no guarantee one way or the other. It's also not clear whether anxiety is a genetic or learned trait.
It's common and understandable when you have had a panic attack to try to avoid the same situation in the future. The problem is that the avoidance itself can add to the feeling of anxiety or panic. In a way, the problem compounds itself and can become even worse. You begin to avoid more and more situations, and your life may become quite limited. That's why a pattern of avoidance behaviors indicates that a panic disorder may be present.
Certain life events can have extreme psychological consequences. The death of someone close, a serious accident, or a major disease are a few examples of traumatic events. These can lead to imagined fears and heightened anxiety. Or they can make you more aware of your breathing, heart rate, and other bodily reactions - even in situations when they are normal.
The possible triggers and causes of panic disorder are numerous and go beyond this short list. Of course, knowing where your intense anxiety came from is fine, but that knowledge is only useful if it leads to effective treatment. Just as it may be a combination of things causing the problem, you may need a combination of treatments to get your panic attacks under control.
Because anxiety is caused by chemical reactions in the brain, there are effective medications available to help resolve the problem. Among the better known are Zoloft, Paxil and Klonopin. Your doctor or health care professional must prescribe these for you. Be sure to talk about any concerns you have and possible side effects of the drug. You may only need to take these medications for a short while.
Another useful method of treatment for panic disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This is just a fancy way of saying that you will discover how to change your thinking and behavior to reduce or eliminate your anxiety. This therapy needs to be administered by a trained and licensed professional, or it may make the problem worse.
The cause of panic disorder may not be completely understood, but you can still find effective treatments for the condition. The key is to recognize what is going on and to seek help before things get too bad.
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