It’s not exactly clear as to what triggers a panic attack . Sure, a panic attack is the result of a heightened state of anxiety, but what makes anxiety levels peak? By understanding anxiety, one can learn to an unpleasant feeling, but it’s not life threatening. Though it often seem so! Some theories that might explain what leads to panic attack disorders are:

Biological reasons – Panic Attacks can be a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain and can run in families. If a member of a family suffers from panic attacks, chances are that other family members will develop it. It has been seen that panic attack sufferers are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, undergo a depression or try to commit suicide, as compared to non-sufferers.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – A major life stress or change can lead to panic attacks. The stressor that triggers panic could be an illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, financial problems or a miscarriage. These events usually precede the first panic attack. Some women experience an increase in the frequency of panic attacks during pregnancy.

Behavioral theory – You can learn certain negative behaviors or thought patterns that ‘teach’ you to become terrified of panic attacks. This is the beginning of a vicious cycle – as the number and intensity of fears grow, they feed on each other and severely affect the quality of your life. 

Flight or fight - Your body’s natural response to danger is to increase your heart rate and breathing, tense your muscles and sweat, as itreadies itself to face a life threatening situation. Similar reactions take place during a panic attack.

Though why the body’s self preservation system gets triggered when there’s no evident threat or danger, is not clear. During the fight and flight response, hormones are released through the body to prepare you to either fight the danger or run from it! 

Now, when you think in a certain way during a panic attack, your body responds to your thoughts and activates the ‘fight and flight’ response. You see, your body can’t tell the difference between your thoughts and reality. While panicking, you keep fearing the worst and wonder what if this were to happen, what if that were to happen, and this turns the fight and flight response on.

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