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What causes panic attacks?

As with most mental health conditions, research suggests that there are a number of factors that can increase an individual’s susceptibility to struggling with panic attacks, and the impact of these factors can differ from person to person.

At Priory, our expert panic attack treatment experts can help you to identify the underlying causes and triggers for your panic attacks, empower you to develop healthy coping strategies for the future, and take steps towards a full and sustainable recovery.

Genetics has been found to play an important role in determining the likelihood of a person experiencing panic attacks. Research suggests that having a first degree relative such as a parent or sibling who suffers from panic attacks, makes it more likely that you will also develop panic attacks at some point in your life. Other causes of panic attacks can be broken down into psychological, pharmacological (relating to the uses and effects of drugs) and environmental factors.

Psychological causes of panic attacks may include:

Pharmacological causes of panic attacks may include:

  • Alcohol, drugs or medication withdrawal
  • Medication side effects
  • Excessive caffeine intake

Environmental causes of panic attacks may include:

  • Chronic physical illnesses such as cancer
  • Experiencing a significant personal loss, including bereavement, or the breakdown of a relationship with a romantic partner
  • Significant life changes such as losing a job, becoming a parent, and moving house
  • ‘Maintaining’ behaviour such as avoiding panic-provoking situations or environments, anxious/negative self-talk, dysfunctional beliefs, and withheld feelings

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Ed Burns (MBChB, MRCPsych, MSc) in May 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in May 2020. To view all Priory panic attack specialists, please click here.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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