Anxiety Home > Cause of Panic Attack
The cause of a panic attack is not fully understood. However, it is believed that genetics, stressful life events, and even a person's basic temperament can all contribute to the development of the condition (also known as panic disorder).
What Causes a Panic Attack?Heredity, other biological factors, stressful life events, and thinking in a way that exaggerates relatively normal bodily reactions are all believed to be linked to panic attacks. However, the exact cause or causes are unknown and are the subject of intense scientific investigation.
Research evidence points to genetics as a factor in panic attacks. Scientists have recently discovered a gene that influences fearfulness in mice. Other studies in twins have found that genes play a role in the development of panic disorder. Finally, studies suggest that people are more likely to have panic disorder if they have a parent with the condition. However, the studies do not prove whether panic attacks are caused by biology, environment, or both. More data is needed to clarify whether panic disorder can be inherited.
Studies in animals and humans have focused on pinpointing the specific brain areas and circuits involved in anxiety and fear, which underlie anxiety disorders such as panic disorder. Fear, an emotion that evolved to deal with danger, causes an automatic, rapid protective response that occurs without the need for conscious thought. It has been found that the body's fear response is coordinated by a small structure deep inside the brain, called the amygdala.
The amygdala, although relatively small, is a highly complicated structure, and recent research suggests that anxiety disorders may be associated with abnormal activity in it. One aim of research is to use such basic scientific knowledge to develop new therapies to treat the condition.