Why do panic attacks occur?


20% of Spaniards between the ages of 15 and 29 believe they suffer from symptoms of depression. 2% of them display repeated panic attacks that, in many occasions, can lead to other types of health issues, such as agoraphobia or generalized anxiety. But do we really know what a panic attack is and why it occurs?

What is a panic attack?

Panic attacks are sudden anxiety attacks that appear suddenly and at any time of day, causing intense physical sensations accompanied by fear.

What symptoms identify a panic attack?

Increased heart rate, feeling of suffocation, dizziness, intestinal pain, waves of heat and cold, feeling of unreality or being outside one’s body and fear of going crazy or dying.

When would it be necessary to see a doctor?

If one suffers the above symptoms, the first thing to do is to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to rule out other health issues. This is because panic attack symptoms can be similar to those of a heart attack or thyroid problems.

It is important to understand that a panic attack, however scary, is not dangerous. However, if left untreated, a repeated panic attacks may lead to a ‘panic disorder’ or phobia.

What triggers a panic attack?

Currently, the causes of a panic attack are unknown. In some cases, emotional circumstances or stressful situations may be an influence, but in many other instances there appear to be no obvious reasons.

Are there any risk factors?

Yes. Factors that increase the risk of panic attacks include:

  • Family history.
  • Major traumatic and stressful situations
  • Excessive consumption of tobacco, alcohol and caffeine

Can they be prevented?

Not entirely. However, it is advisable to visit a professional where an adequate treatment can be developed to reduce the frequency of the attacks and better manage them when they occur.

What difficulties can these attacks bring about?

Panic attacks can lead to notable difficulties in quality of life, such as living in a state of permanent fear. They can lead to depression, anxiety, phobias, and a tendency to use alcohol and drugs, among other problems.

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