Posted by: Anne | 2009-01-10

What causes Panic Attacks?

Dear Doc,

Seasons Greetings and all best wishes to you for 2009!

I am just curious to know the cause(s) of panic attacks that are NOT a symptom of PTSD or the result of any known precipitating event, and which are also NOT related to caffeine intake, drug or alcohol abuse or thyroid disease. In specific, I am curious to know what causes those that are triggered by factors such as hot weather, too much laughter, too much sugar, menstuation, etc.

Are panic attacks classified as a neuropsychiatric disorder or are they classified as a neurological disorder (like epilepsy, which has both known as well as unknown causes)?

Does this condition point to a neurotransmitter imbalance? Are people who suffer from panic attacks more susceptible to other neurological conditions (like MS, for example)?



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Our expert says:
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Thanks, Anne. Someone has boobed, and has opened this forum prematurely --- it was agreed it would stay closed until January 12th, and I have only discovered your message by accident.
Thanks for your good wishes, which are reflected back to you, too. OK, to work. Firstly, the exact cause of panic atacks is not yet known, And they don't usually have any specific precipitating event --- that's what makes them a panic attack --- to feel the same symptoms when a man-eating tiger walks into your office and licks it's lips, would be a normal response, and not a panic attack.
Now, if one hunts for apparent precipitating factors ( and we are creatures who really want to find clear reasons for everything ) we are likely to identify possible triggers which may not actually be what they seem. When attacks occur essentially at random, we will tend to identify something noticeable within our environment, as a potential trigger. In turn, when we again encounter such factors, we may without realizing it, prime ourselves, with growing anxiety, expecting another panic, and perhaps make it more likely to occur.
Panic attacks would definitely be classified as a psychiatric or neuropsychiatric disorder, and are best treated by a good psychiatrist, with medication and with Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy. CBT Neurotransmitters, being the ultimate currency of the brain ce3lls, are surely involved in such disorders, just as they are in all normal life.
There is no recognized association between disorders like Panic Disorder and neurological disorders or diseases like MS

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