Anxiety is something that millions of people live with every day. Everyday life can cause even the most relaxed person to feel just a bit over-anxious. Work, family and a number of other issues can contribute to anxiety, which could result in a full-blown panic attack. While some people are perfectly calm under normal stress, some are naturally prone to be a bit more anxious than others.
“But some people, no matter how robust their stock portfolios or how healthy their children, are always mentally preparing for doom. They are just born worriers, their brains forever anticipating the dropping of some dreaded other shoe”
Scientists believe that mental illnesses such as anxiety orders are complex and that many of them result from a combination of many different factors. Just like diabetes and heart disease, many anxiety disorders could stem from genetics in addition to psychological, environmental and developmental factors. Many anxiety disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD are triggered entirely by trauma although there are genetic studies that explain why certain people are more prone to experience PTSD than others, even when those people are exposed to the exact same trauma.
Many areas of the brain have to be considered when dealing with anxiety and fear. The amygdala section of the brain is believed to be the communication hub between other areas. It is the region that processes and interprets incoming sensory signals. It alerts the brain whenever there is a threat present and is also the area that triggers responses of anxiety or panic. The hippocampus encodes events that are threatening or those that cause panic and turns them into memories.
“The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories. Studies have shown that the hippocampus appears to be smaller in some people who were victims of child abuse or who served in military combat”.
More research can help scientists to determine why there is a reduced hippocampus in those that seem more prone to some anxiety issues such as PTSD. By learning how the brain creates anxiety and panic, scientists may also be able to determine better treatments for those who suffer from panic attacks. If certain neurotransmitters for instance are found to cause higher levels of panic, certain medications can be developed that block those neurotransmitters and help to decrease the chances of panic attacks in people who experience them often.
How Panic Attacks May Feel …
During a typical panic attack, the sufferer may instantly feel an overwhelming sense of fear or imminent danger, even when no real danger is present. They may feel as if they are having a heart attack or dying from their fear. Some people may only experience a panic attack once in their lifetime while others may have them regularly. Once the initial reason for the panic attack has ended, the attack typically subsides. In some cases, people are plagued with recurrent attacks that can be very unexpected which often makes them afraid of subsequent attacks in the future.
Panic attacks can strike without any warning and can happen at any time, particularly in those who are prone to them. Symptoms typically reside after about 10 minutes but after an attack, the sufferer may feel overwhelmingly tired and depressed. People who experience frequent and recurring panic attacks may choose to avoid situations that could seem stressful or anything that reminds them of a past attack. Some may even avoid the outside world altogether for fear of having a panic attack.
“In extreme cases, panic attack sufferers stop leaving the house”
People with a history of many recurring panic attacks and who fear attacks in the future are typically diagnosed with panic disorder and may have difficulties in interacting with the outside world.
The symptoms of a panic attack include a rapid heart rate, often combined with chest pain. Some may also experience trembling, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing as well as headache, dizziness and nausea. Most people suffering from panic attacks experience an impending feeling of danger or the fear of death.
It is still not known exactly what causes some to have panic attacks but not others. Most scientists do believe that a combination of genetic makeup, stress and changes in how the brain functions can cause severe panic attacks. These disorders are the most commonly reported mental disorders in the United States with more than 40 million people over the age of 18 affected. General anxiety disorders are commonly treatable but many choose not to seek treatment. Studies show that those who suffer from anxiety disorders are much more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders, mostly because they wait to receive treatment until their situation has worsened.
It Can Be Freightening
Panic attacks are not uncommon although they can be very frightening. While studies are still being done to see what exactly causes some people to be more prone to panic attacks, scientists believe that they are close in assuming that certain brain functions as well as genetics play key roles in the development of these attacks.
What people suffering from panic attacks need to know is that they are certainly not alone. Studies show that millions of people in the United States alone suffer from panic attacks. There are medications to help prevent future attacks and many programs that are designed to help reduce stress and to help the sufferer to live a less-anxious life. Programs are available for those who have recurrent attacks as well as those who have only had one panic attack in their lives. The programs are designed to help sufferers to better identify what may be indirectly causing their anxiety and to help them to learn to better control factors that could lead to an attack in the future.
Some medications have shown to be very effective in helping people to live their lives a bit less anxious although there are constant changes to medications and how they are developed. Scientists believe that in the future, medication will be available that will target the specific cause of the anxiety, making it much more effective for treating panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.