Causes of panic attacks

The various symptoms of a panic attack can be understood as follows. First, there is the sudden onset of fear with little or no provoking stimulus. This leads to a release of adrenaline (epinephrine) which brings about the so-called fight-or-flight response where the person's body prepares for major physical activity. This leads to an increased heart rate (tachycardia), rapid breathing (hyperventilation), and sweating (which increases grip and aids heat loss). Because strenuous activity rarely ensues, the hyperventilation leads to a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the lungs and then in the blood. This leads to shifts in blood pH which in turn can lead to many other symptoms, such as tingling or numbness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. It is also possible for the person experiencing such an attack to feel as though they are unable to catch their breath, and they begin to take deeper breaths, which also acts to decrease carbon dioxide levels in the blood.



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