What Causes Panic and Panic Attacks?


The causation, or etiology, of panic, anxiety, and panic attacks is still being studied, but this is what we know.  There is likely a large genetic inheritance involved, because neuroscientists can trace anxiety and panic through multiple generations of families when they have complete and corroborative data.  The exact impact of biology in causing panic disorder is still not settled, however.   Brain imaging methods (i.e., brain scans) to show which parts of the brain are involved with anxiety and panic may help find the neurobiological region of activity in the human brain and DNA analysis, when available, may help build a correlation between people in families through different generations.  Correlation does not prove causation, but it is a stepping stone toward understanding.

Another line of study has led researchers to find that people with panic disorder, when compared to people without panic, may misinterpret bodily symptoms and find them scary, anxiety-causing, and worrisome.  Because of this tendency to misinterpret bodily symptoms, the person with panic feels threatened and exhibits anxiety and fear when these bodily symptoms occur.  A person without panic typically ignores or dismisses the symptoms as something normal that happens to everyone, and therefore does not interpret them as scary.

Stress and situations in which stress is induced isanother main area that researchers are studying.  For example, does a stressful situation affect people with panic in the the same way as people without panic?   Does this stressful situation cause people with panic to have panic attacks?  Is there a difference between these two groups of people?   Research is being done to pinpoint the role of stress in causing anxiety, panic, and panic attacks.  It should be noted that stressful situations and misinterpretations of bodily symptoms are results of the environment around us.  

The answer to this etiological question is multi-faceted and will not have an easy answer.  As with most questions of causation, the answer will lie in multiplicity and the various ways it interacts.  We are currently looking at the component variables that go into the answer.   

We should not get stuck at this point, however, because we do not need to know the exact cause of anxiety and panic in order to get better ourselves.   Cognitive-behavioral therapy takes us from where we are and gives us the strategies to use so that we can overcome anxiety and panic.  You do not have to suffer with panic disorder the rest of your life, and you do not need to dull your life with pills and endure the awful side effects they bring.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy has freed tens of thousands of people (estimate from research) from panic and anxiety so they can go on to live a panic-free life.   You can do it, too. 

Take our test on panic disorder.  We are almost finished with a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral audio therapy program which is explained here.   By following this cognitive-behavioral program, you can overcome panic disorder, too.


Our History and Our Mission

The Anxiety Network began in 1995 due to growing demand from people around the world wanting help in understanding and overcoming their anxiety disorder.  The Anxiety Clinic of Arizona and its website, The Anxiety Network, received so much traffic and requests for help that we found ourselves spending much of our time in international communication and outreach.  Our in-person anxiety clinic has grown tremendously, and our principal internet tool, The Anxiety Network, has been re-written and re-designed with focus on the three major anxiety disorders: panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder.  

The Anxiety Network  focuses on three of the major anxiety disorders:  panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

In 1997, The Social Anxiety Association, a non-profit organization, was formed and now has its own website.

The Social Anxiety Institute, the largest site on the internet for information and treatment of social anxiety, has maintained an active website since 1998.  Continuous, ongoing therapy groups have helped hundreds of people overcome social anxiety since 1994.  

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