The Science Behind Panic Attacks

Almost 1% of people in the U.S. have agoraphobia, a condition or panic disorder that causes panic attacks due to fear of open places or any situation where escape would be difficult. Symptoms of agoraphobia include fear of being in a place or situation where a panic attack might occur, where you feel you can't escape, or can't get help.

On the other hand, panic attack symptoms include sudden attacks of terror that may include rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, light-headedness, tingling hands, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, feeling detached or unreal, and fear of going crazy, having a heart attack, or dying.

Patients with panic disorder can experience this without any warning, which leads to them trying to avoid situations or places they associate with feelings of panic. It can actually make it difficult for patients to hold a job and also inhibits everyday activities. Often patients can develop depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse. No one knows what causes panic disorders, but they tend to have a very real genetic root. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and therapy help treat panic disorder and agoraphobia.


Panic attacks also come on suddenly without any warning and they last about 10 minutes, but the lingering worry and dread can stay with you much longer than that. Because the attacks can happen at any time without any warning, it can cause a huge amount of worry in patients. The location of where a panic attack occurs can cause the patient to not return to that place. An example could be the grocery store or doctors office. An incredible amount of paranoia comes along with panic disorders. 

Generally doctors approach this with medications such as anti-anxiety and antidepressant, beta blocker sand even cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Patients can focus on eating healthy foods, regular physical activity, healthy amounts of sleep and practicing relaxation. Excessive amounts of over-the-counter medications, drugs, caffeine and lack of exercise can worsen this condition.  

Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and practicing relaxation techniques help make it easier to treat panic disorders. Generally, physicians will evaluate a patient's medical history and may order other tests to rule out physical causes.