Panic attack disorder (causes and treatment)

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

What is a panic attack Disorder

A Panic attack is a state of overwhelming fear and intense anxiety that occurs when the person is exposed to some kind of a trigger.

The panic attack symptoms have many similarities to anxiety symptoms but the difference is that the symptoms occur in a much more intense form. for example during the panic attack the person may feel that he is going to suffocate, that he is having a heart attack or even think that he is going to die.

what causes a panic attack?

A panic attack may be triggered when someone who suffers from a certain type of phobia gets exposed to his feared object. For example if a person who has acrophobia(fear of heights) suddenly found himself in a tall building he might get a panic attack.

In other cases the person might get the panic attack without any apparent reason or trigger. For example some people wake up during their sleep as a result of getting a panic attack. In such a case usually some unconscious trigger might have been responsible for the attack and that's why the person never noticed it.

The difference between panic attacks and panic disorders

It’s normal to experience a panic attack once or twice throughout your life but when the panic attack becomes a frequently occurring event then this means that its a panic disorder that requires proper treatment.

Researcher have not reached a clear evidence for the causes of panic disorders and some of them believe that its inherited especially if there is a history of panic disorder going thought the family.

panic Attack treatment

In my opinion a person can't just inherit the panic attack but he can inherit the improper anxiety handling strategies that his parents use and as a result develop a panic disorder instead of living a normal life. If the person were to improve his coping strategies and to learn how to handle undesired emotions he will certainly get over the panic attack even if there was a history of people with panic attacks in his family. (see Do we inherit characteristics from our parents)

The following are methods that can help you deal with panic attacks:

  • Learn relaxation techniques: Since the symptoms experienced are an exaggerated form of anxiety using relaxation techniques such as breath control or muscle relaxation techniques is a highly effective method in making the panic attack less intense
  • Fix your irrational beliefs about panic attacks: What makes the panic attack problem worse are the false beliefs people have about the panic attack itself. For example thinking that you are going to die because of the panic attack makes the situation worse while in fact that's just a myth. Using a method of therapy like cognitive behavior therapy to change your beliefs about the panic attack can help you make the next panic attack much less intense.
  • Treat your phobias to heal the panic disorder: If your panic attack occurs as a result of a another phobia then you should deal with that specific phobia. Doing this might help you heal the panic disorder completely

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