Learn about the causes of Panic Attacks & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Panic Attacks within New Zealand.
Panic attacks are episodes of severe psychological distress & intense anxiety which typically occur with little warning. Large amounts of adrenaline are released into the blood & this can result in chest pains, hyperventilation, sweating & dizziness.
Causes of panic attacks
Panic attacks are caused by an exaggerated response by the body's
internal 'warning system'. During a stressful or dangerous situation,
the body attempts to cope by releasing the adrenaline hormone. Enough
adrenaline is usually released to trigger various physical reactions
such as muscle tension, heightened senses, rapid breathing (to increase
oxygen intake for energy) and increased heart rate (to pump blood to
areas of the body that need it). These physical reactions prepare the
body to 'fight or flight' - an ancestral throw-back to prepare for
life-threatening danger. Today, the response isn't just triggered by
fear but also by overexcitement and excessive stress.
Panic attacks occur when the body is flooded with the adrenaline hormone and the individual is unable to deal with the response. Factors that may trigger a panic attack can be physical or psychological and recurrent panic attacks lead to panic disorder. Psychological triggers of panic attacks can come from fear of a situation (such as visiting the dentist or getting on a plane). Emotional traumas (such as bereavement) and life stress can also trigger an attack. Childhood influences or incidents of separation anxiety or abuse can lead to panic disorder developing later in life. Family history can also increase the risk of developing panic disorder through inherited genes or a chemical imbalance in the brain may lead to panic disorder too.
Physical factors that cause, or contribute to, panic attacks include hypoglycaemia (unstable blood sugar levels), hyperventilation, digestion disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, drug withdrawal and side-effects from prescription medicine. An increase in panic attacks has also been linked to pregnancy due to a change in hormone levels.
Panic attack symptoms develop rapidly and sometimes with little reason.
Common symptoms of a panic attack include palpitations, chest pain,
breathlessness, light headedness, fainting, tingling, numbness,
hot/cold flushes and nausea. Panic attack sufferers often feel that
they are having a heart attack as the symptoms are similar.
Another common symptom of panic attacks is a feeling of being detached from the situation. This detachment is referred to as 'depersonalisation' and makes the sufferer feel as though they are an observer to their own attack. This depersonalisation creates a confusing and disorientating experience and does little to relieve the attack.
The majority of panic attacks last from 5-30 minutes and reach their peak after 10 minutes. There are no specific times of day that panic attacks occur and many people suffer them as much at night as during the day.
Experiencing a panic attack does not mean that it will develop into
panic disorder. However, being diagnosed with panic disorder means the
individual will experience panic attacks. If a phobia triggers panic
attacks then people will avoid what makes them fearful and therefore
not have an attack. People with panic disorder will experience frequent
panic attacks for no obvious reason.
A visit to the GP to talk about the symptoms and feelings associated with panic attacks can lead to a diagnosis. A GP will also carry out a physical examination to rule out any underlying conditions that may be causing the attacks such as an overactive thyroid problem.
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