What Causes Panic Disorders?

Panic attacks are short and sudden episodes of feeling terror despite no real danger. You may feel like you have no control and exhibit physical signs like trembling and sweating.

Many people experience panic attacks perhaps once or twice in their lives. However, when these attacks are recurrent, you may have a panic disorder. Like other mental health conditions, if left undiagnosed and untreated, you may experience worse symptoms and a decrease in quality of life.

Signs and Symptoms

Panic attacks or sudden feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety are the main symptoms to look out for with panic disorders. These are often unforeseen, happen with or without triggers, and are recurrent.

Panic attacks are often accompanied by physical signs such as a racing heart, trembling, sweating, dizziness, abdominal & chest pain, ringing in your ears, and vomiting. You may also feel faint or detached. Individuals with panic disorder may also find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of impending danger.

Causes of Panic Disorders

There is no clear cause behind panic attacks and panic disorders. But according to experts, there are several factors that make you vulnerable and susceptible to the condition.

Family History and Environment

Family history plays a vital role in many medical conditions. Some illnesses are hereditary, and research suggests that panic disorders sometimes run in families. Aside from genetic makeup, your family environment can become a significant stressor, as well.

Studies also show that genetics play a role in certain conditions like alcohol use, which also increases an individual’s risk for panic attacks.

Substance Abuse

Alcohol, recreational drugs, nicotine, and excessive caffeine are linked to an increase in anxiety and panic disorders in many people. People who have substance abuse problems can develop panic disorders, too. Research indicates that 20% of patients with panic disorder also struggle with substance abuse.

Likewise, individuals diagnosed with panic disorders often turn to substances such as alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms.

Existing Health Conditions

If you have an existing medical condition, you are also more likely to experience panic attacks or develop a panic disorder. Patients who are battling other mental health problems, heart disease, hormonal imbalances, and other illnesses that require long-term medications are also prone to panic attacks. Some prescription drugs often come with side effects, and anxiety can be one of them.

Recent studies have also shown that medication withdrawal may also trigger panic attacks. It is important you talk with your physician about the repercussions of stopping or changing medications.


Distressing situations and traumatic experiences can also trigger panic attacks. These encounters include any form of abuse, accidents, or death of a loved one. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a primary example of an anxiety disorder wherein an individual may exhibit symptoms of a panic attack.

People who carry trauma every day are also more likely to develop panic disorders because they are often followed by feelings of fear, panic, and worry. Certain situations, places, or things can remind them of their experience, which can trigger panic attacks.


Another significant cause of panic disorders is stress. Stress can stem from various environmental, educational, societal, or financial factors. These events or matters may include something as big as massive debt to smaller concerns like missing a deadline or getting stuck in a traffic jam. Major life changes can also cause significant stress.

Treatments for Panic Disorders

Fortunately, help is available to those who need it. Panic attacks and panic disorders are challenging to manage on your own, so it is best to seek a professional’s help and advice when you experience symptoms.

Psychotherapy or talk therapy is the most common form of treatment for several mental health conditions. It involves a trusted psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed mental health professional overseeing your progress through discussions of your feelings. Psychotherapy aims to help you understand your triggers, organize your thoughts, learn how to control your behavior, and cope when the attack happens.

Therapy may also be accompanied by short-term or long-term prescription medications to minimize your symptoms. Examples of these include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like paroxetine and fluoxetine, as well as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine.

Your doctors can also recommend lifestyle changes to help panic disorder more manageable. These may include avoiding substances that can influence your mood, such as caffeine and alcohol. Physical activities, like exercise and sports, are also positively encouraged. Sleeping habits should also be improved.

Panic Disorder Treatment in New York, NY and Southbury, CT

Panic attacks can be very uncomfortable. It’s even more terrifying to have a panic disorder, having to deal with recurrent panic attacks and a constant feeling of impending danger. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms, please do not hesitate to contact a mental health professional to help you.

Here at Psy-Visions, we aim to provide quality patient-centered care that you need to live life the way you want. Our team is led by Dr. Mark Stracks who has extensive experience in therapy and psychopharmacological interventions.

To make an appointment, please call (718) 887-2918 for our New York office and (203) 405-1745 for our Southbury office. Alternatively, you can send a message to Dr. Stracks or take advantage of our telepsychiatry services. We look forward to helping you!

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