3 Main Causes of Anxiety Attacks

If you suffer from anxiety you are probably wondering what are the causes of anxiety attacks so that you can figure out how to prevent them.

There is fundamentally no difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks. Some people prefer one name and others prefer the other. The word ‘anxiety’ is often used to describe a less overwhelming, longer-lasting feeling of worry, while ‘panic’ is something short-term and very intense. But when you have a real anxiety attack, it is not a low-level feeling. It is very intense.

The causes of anxiety attacks are very closely related to stress levels. An anxiety or panic attack is simply an inappropriately strong reaction to a stressful situation.

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Panic attacks tend to run in families, although it is not known whether this is genetic or whether we pick up fearful attitudes toward the world by being around parents who feel the same way. Whichever view is correct, it is not your fault and not your parents’ fault either. And just because it runs in families doesn’t mean that it is inevitable. You can prevent attacks by getting help, by applying stress reduction techniques, and by avoiding some of the other contributory causes of anxiety attacks.

Contributory Causes of Anxiety Attacks

Life Stresses:

Stressful situations such as the loss of a loved one, moving home, a new job, etc can provoke panic attacks in people who have not had them before. While you may not be able to avoid these situations, it often helps just to know that the stress is a factor and you can work on reducing it.

Medications and Substances:

Some medications, including Ritalin, SSRI anti-depressants, and even some antibiotics can cause panic attacks in some people. Caffeine, alcohol and some recreational drugs can also cause attacks.

On the other hand, if you stop having some substances very suddenly, the change can provoke attacks. This is especially true of things that act as tranquilizers, such as alcohol and benzodiazepine. So cut down slowly, with advice from your doctor.


If your attacks appear to be triggered by certain normal life situations (such as being in a crowd), and you withdraw from normal human activities to avoid those situations, you will actually increase your general ‘fear of life’ and this will make attacks more likely to occur.

This is a very important point because anybody suffering from panic attacks has a natural wish to avoid triggering situations. But all that happens if you do that, is that you will start to have attacks in situations that did not cause you anxiety before. Your world slowly becomes more and more restricted until attacks are happening for no clear reason, even if you stay home 24/7.

Another thing that happens if you start to avoid certain situations is that you will unconsciously come to believe that those situations will always cause panic attacks – and then that belief will actually cause an attack.

So for example, if the first time you have a panic attack is on a bus, and then you avoid buses because you are afraid that you will have another attack, you will be programming your mind to associate buses with panic attacks. Then you will probably start to have an attack every time you go anywhere near a bus. But if you truly understand that it was not the bus that was responsible for your first attack, but the stress that was affecting your whole life at that time, you can probably get right back on a bus and not have another attack.

Of course, it helps to have some assistance or training to work through these issues, so do not hesitate to look for a therapist or self-help program. A program can help you deal with the negative thinking and fearful attitude to life that is probably more important than any of the other causes of anxiety attacks.


Did you suffer with Anxiety Attacks? Did you find a treatment that worked? If so please help others by sharing below!

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