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What Causes Anxiety Attacks?

At some point in our life or another, we have all suffered from anxiety. Be it related to family stress, upcoming exams, work related deadlines, or bad news related to health, the feeling of sweating, panicking, headache, chest tightness and constant worry is all too familiar. But sometimes you may just sit back one day and ask yourself - ‘Why do I suffer from anxiety attacks? Is there a reason behind it?’

Typically, anxiety attacks are commoner in women. Attacks can start at an early age (early 20’s) though older individuals may also be affected.

In this article, we shall briefly explore the reason behind anxiety attacks, concentrating mostly on generalised anxiety disorder.

What causes anxiety?

A typical anxiety attack presents with a myriad of symptoms, ranging from shaking, breathing difficulty, headaches, blurred vision, chest pains and sweating. While these symptoms are easily recognisable, there does not appear to be a clear reason as to why anxiety attacks occur.

Most cases of an anxiety attack are precipitated by the receipt of bad news. This can be related to a person’s or their child’s health, their grades or poor performance in school, deadlines at work, bereavement in the family or loss of a long term companion or any form or major trauma.

To some extent, there exists a genetic link to anxiety attacks, and children of parents who are constantly anxious also tend to become anxiety prone in the future, and can have multiple anxiety attacks during the course of their lifetime. But some schools of thought believe this link to be non-existent, and so far there does not appear to be any scientific evidence supporting this fact. The reason why anxiety attacks run in families is instead believed to be due to environmental factors, meaning exposure to similar sort of behaviour, rather than it being linked to genes.

Another reason why patients may develop anxiety attacks is the experience of some form of trauma in life. Some patients may have suffered a degree of abuse as a child, which could be emotional, physical or even sexual. Many times these feelings are buried within, and are expressed as anxiety as the patient gets older.

Anxiety attacks however can be self limiting. What this means is that there may be certain triggers in life that can lead to the development of an anxiety attack, but once that particular trigger has disappeared, the frequency of the anxiety episodes reduces to a point where it can completely disappear. Often this occurs with time, though sometimes patients may seek professional help to speed up the process.

Anxiety attacks can be due to a number of causes, but it appears that the primary reasons they occur are due to behavioural and environmental factors. These factors can be modified through treatment to reduce the occurrence and even stop the attacks in the future.

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