Anxiety Attacks Triggers: What Causes an Attack?

what causes anxiety attacks

If you want to know anxiety attack triggers, then it is important to first understand anxiety. Anxiety involves feelings of worry, apprehension, and concern about present, future, or past events. Anxiety also manifests as a feeling of fear, terror, or hyper-vigilance (feeling anxiously alert to your surroundings) without a clear focus of what the fear is about.

Anxiety attacks, or panic attacks, are among the most frequently diagnosed psychological condition of adults and children in the US, with approximately 20 million people affected each year.

Anxiety attacks causes are vast, and anxiety can be a symptom of multiple underlying physical and mental health conditions.

Diagnosing the trigger of anxiety in an individual often takes time and patience. Finding the cause or causes of a person’s anxiety symptoms is crucial for recommending the most effective treatment options.

Anxiety Attacks Triggers

Since anxiety has many potential causes, a clinician must be careful to assess the person’s overall physical and mental health condition when making a diagnosis.

The patient’s age, health history, prescription and non-prescription drug use, and other mental health diagnoses are all important for finding the cause or causes of a person’s anxiety attacks.

Some of the most common conditions with anxiety attacks as a symptom include:

Separation anxiety disorder is most common in children. It is characterized by excessive distress when leaving the presence of parents or other caregivers, such as when being dropped off at daycare or school.

Selective mutism is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by a child or adult refusing to speak in particular settings.

Social phobias include anxiety attacks caused by social situations. The person often has fears of being judged or embarrassed in the presence of others.

Panic disorders come on suddenly and involve intense physical symptoms such as elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and hyper-ventilation. The panic episodes can lead to further worry about, and avoidance of, trigger situations.

Generalized anxiety disorder involves on-going excessive worry and concern about everyday events and situations. Physical fatigue often accompanies this disorder, and it can also co-occur with other mental health conditions such as depression.

Drug side-effects often cause anxiety attacks. Feelings of anxiety can result from the directed use of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, recreational drugs, and alcohol use.

Medical conditions should always be ruled out as a cause of anxiety attacks. Many different medical conditions can cause anxiety, and the sudden onset of anxiety symptoms may indicate a medical cause.

Robert Hedeya, MD from Georgetown University, developed a mnemonic device called THINC MED to help people recall the most common medical reasons for anxiety attacks.

THINC stands for Tumors, Hormones, Infectious diseases, Nutrition, and CNS or Central Nervous System, which includes injuries like head trauma and conditions like Guillain-Barre syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.

MED stands for Miscellaneous, Electrolytes, and Drugs.

Among the medical conditions known to cause anxiety attacks are cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, COPD, asthma, thyroid disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and drug withdrawal.

To understand anxiety attack triggers, you also have to know other risk factors and possible causes of anxiety attacks including experiencing or witnessing trauma, stress from a recent accident, illness, or life event, and having relatives who are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

If you have symptoms that are concerning for anxiety attacks, please make an appointment to see a physician. Dr. Sean Paul, MD sees patients both in his office in Sarasota and via Online Psychiatry from your phone or computer.



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