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What are the Symptoms and Causes of a Panic Attack?

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By: Dr. Amit Mehta

A panic attack is a symptom of an anxiety disorder that has emotional and physical symptoms. Emotional symptoms associated with a panic attack include intense feelings of unreasonable and unexplainable fear. Physical symptoms associated with a panic attack include dizziness, a feeling of choking, feelings of faintness, clammy hands, racing heart, and severe shaking.

Millions of people each year all over the world suffer from panic attacks. The majority of these people are more likely to experience a panic attack because their bodies carry the gene for anxiety disorders. Some statistics show that a person who has a parent who has ever suffered from a panic attack is seven times more likely to also experience a panic attack than the general population.

Scientific research into the reasons for a panic attack show that a large percentage of those who are likely to experience a panic attack carry the gene dubbed DUP25.

Scientists have discovered that this panic attack gene creates proteins that play an important role in the way the nervous system cells communicate with each other. They suspect that this imbalance is what makes the brain so oversensitive that it brings on a panic attack is those that carry the gene.

That said, studies have also shown that not every single person who carries the panic attack gene DUP25 is guaranteed to suffer from a panic attack or any other anxiety disorder.

A panic attack can also be brought on for reasons other then hereditary reasons. A panic attack - or numerous, repeated panic attacks -- can be brought on by a traumatic life event or drug misuse. There are statistics that show that eight percent of those who have experienced a panic attack have had one or more because of drug misuse.

Other statistics suggest that those more likely to experience a panic attack are people who suppress their emotions.

Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack explains that it can happen anytime or anywhere. A panic attack can happen when the person is alone or with others. It can happen at home or in public. A panic attack can even happen when a person is waking up from a sound, restful sleep.

Those most likely to experience a panic attack are women in their young adult years. About half of those who experience panic attacks do so before the age of 24.

People who seek treatment of panic attacks will find relief from them within a few weeks. And although experiencing a panic attack is highly unpleasant, there are no long-term side effects once treatment has been completed and if it is maintained.

Even with treatment, it is still possible for the occasional relapse. This means that it is possible for a person to experience another panic attack or two if he or she is undergoing treatment. But possible relapses can further be reduced by adding stress-relieving activities like yoga to your daily schedule.

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About the Contributor

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