Panic attacks are terrifying episodes in which the patient might become overwhelmed by feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety. There can also be a range of physical symptoms including trembling, sweating, heart palpitations, and nausea. Some people will only suffer from a single isolated panic attack, and they will not be affected by the problem again. However, other people may suffer from recurring attacks, and this leads to a condition known as panic disorder.

When it comes to understanding what causes panic disorder and how is it treated, it's worth remembering that a panic attack is different from a panic disorder. Panic disorders have attacks as a symptom, but having an attack doesn't mean that you have a panic disorder.

What Causes Panic Attack Disorders?

When examining what causes panic disorder and how is it treated, it's worth noting that we don't always know why a person develops the symptoms of a panic disorder. Most medical experts believe that the issue is caused by a combination of different factors, including inherited genes and tendencies, such as close relatives who experience panic attacks, changes to chemical balances in the brain, past traumatic experiences, and sensitivity to certain chemicals. Some panic attacks can also be caused by too much focus on minor symptoms.

Diagnosis of a panic disorder is based on a person's symptoms, including the presence of panic attacks. Doctors will examine your medical history and carry out a physical examination too. They may also arrange for tests to rule out other problems that might be causing the symptoms.

What Are the Treatments for Panic Disorders?

When looking at what causes panic disorder and how is it treated, we may find that treatment often includes a range of self-help techniques and treatment through mental health professionals or GPs. Usually, self-help for panic attack disorders can include the use of breathing techniques and positive visualization. Patients are also encouraged to learn relaxation techniques, exercise frequently, eat a balanced diet, limit their intake of alcohol and caffeine, and quit smoking.

There are also psychological and medical treatments that can be used to assist people who are suffering from frequent panic attacks or the symptoms of panic disorder. Usually, psychological treatment will include some manner of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a form of talking therapy that's designed to help patients find the root cause of their problems and potentially think differently about their situation.

Alongside cognitive behavioral therapy or psychotherapy, medications can be used to help reduce the symptoms of panic disorder. For instance, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a type of antidepressants that can help to produce more positive chemicals in the brain, thus counteracting the negative feelings. Low doses of these medications are often recommended to begin with, and if side effects caused by the medication lead to discomfort an alternative drug might be tried. Additionally, some doctors will suggest using tricyclic antidepressants which work on serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain. Anti-convulsant medications may also help.